Il tabarro/Gianni Schicchi ETO/Hackney Empire 11 March

****

Upon entering the auditorium I thought not for the first time what a good theatre the Hackney Empire is:  it seems like the crumbling fabric is held together by sheer glamour.

The performances certainly lived up to the setting, and both of them were characterised (already!) by seamless teamwork.  I thought with some disgust at my own optimism–as though I’d never seen the thing before–that Il tabarro might actually turn into that rarity, an opera about people who work for a living.  But of course instead of that you have to have the plot, the body falling out of the cloak, and the point made by spectacle, not music.

Then Gianni Scicchi confirmed its standing as the only funny opera in the repertoire.  Funny as in makes people laugh.  It also revealed a rare level of precise direction and split-second timing.  Again very much a team effort, though of course it belonged to Richard Mosley-Evans as Schicchi.  And the orchestra played beautifully in both pieces.

On the pavement outside I ran into an ex-colleague who remarked with an air of some disapproval that Gianni Scicchi had been played for laughs.  I had to concede that it was indeed so…

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