PUBLISHED: 5:25 PM on Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Opera to Go pulls out all the stops with 'Il Trittico'
JUNEAU - What do the three operas of "Il Trittico" have in common? Nothing, but that's what makes the trio by Giacomo Puccini so powerful.

Opera to Go will kick off its 2008-2009 season with the "Il Trittico" operas - which include "Il Tabarro," "Suor Angelica" and "Gianni Schicci" - with performances Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 10-12 at the Juneau-Douglas High School Auditorium.

photo courtesy of Wade Rogers
  Opera to Go musicians practice pieces for the upcoming performance of Giacomo Puccini's "Il Trittico." Performances begin Oct. 4
The three operas are unrelated and thematically distinct. "Il Tabarro" tells the story of a love triangle that leads to murder and "aims for psychological realism," said stage director Ronald Simonson.

Then, the emotional "Suor Angelica" explores the secrets of a nun in a convent. Setting an opera in one of the few places where singing is a way of real life ads an abstract, almost postmodern quality to the play, Simonson said.

"Gianna Schicci" is the "desert" of the trio. After the heightened emotions and drama of the first two operas, the audience can relax for the light-hearted finale.

"(Gianni Schicci) is not real at all," Simonson said. "It's akin to a sitcom."

The production celebrates 150 years since Puccini's birth. Although it was Puccini's intention to have the three operas performed together, it is rare these days to see all of them performed together.

"(Il Trittico) is an enormous thing to do," Simonson said. "It runs quite a gamut."

Performance Schedule

All three operas will be performed on the same day only once on Oct. 11. The other performances are split between two days. Each ticket is good for admission into any and all of the performances.

Saturday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. - Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica

Sunday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m. - Gianni Schicci

Friday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. - Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica

Saturday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. - Il Trittico (all three operas performed together)

Sunday, Oct. 12 at 3 p.m. - Gianni Schicci

• Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for seniors and college students and $5 for high school age and younger.

• On Oct. 7, visiting mezzo-soprano Beth Madsen Bradford, who plays Angelica's aunt in "Suor Angelica," will be offering a master class open to the public at 7 p.m. at UAS's Hendrickson Hall, room 113. The class is $20 for participants and $10 for auditors. For more information visit

Todd Hunt, artistic director of Opera to Go and musical director of "Il Trittico," chose this "impossible" production mainly to be able to showcase as much of Juneau's talent as possible. He doesn't think anyone in Juneau who wanted to be in the production is left out.

"The biggest reason I wanted to do this opera is we have so much talent in this town and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get absolutely everybody involved," Hunt said.

There are 35 performers - or roughly one out of every 1,000 people in Juneau will be on stage, Hunt realized - and nobody is hidden in a chorus. Everyone in the production has a least one or two solo lines.

There are 50 roles in the three operas, so some performers appear in two operas and a few roles have been compacted. The orchestra score, which calls for 55 or 60 musicians, has also been condensed to what Hunt calls a "piano-centric ensemble."

Otherwise, little has been changed in the operas, which will be performed in the original Italian with supertitles

The three sets will be designed by Akiko Nishijima Rotch, and will be relatively minimalist, with striking lighting effects.

Although Hunt sees nothing to link the operas dramatically (aside from deaths, but what opera doesn't have a death?), he has found some chordal harmonies that tie the three scores together. Musically, the three "Trittico" operas have more in common with each other than with Puccini's other works, Hunt said.

The resonances in sets and music may be subtle, but much of "Il Trittico" power for audiences is likely to be found in the contrasts among the operas.

"(Puccini) was right," Simonson said. "When you perform them together, they play off each other."