T as in Il Tabarro – Puccini A to Z
What’s the story?
1910, Paris, sunset On the Seine is an old cargo barge, owned by the mature Michele; he has married Giorgetta, a Parisian much younger than himself, but feels that their marriage is shaking and suspects that his wife, who grows every day more impatient and surly, is cheating on him with another man.
The suspect is founded: Giorgetta is in love with Luigi, a young unloader who every evening, recalled by the faint glow of a lit match, reaches her shielded by darkness.
Michele, who sees his illusions gradually getting shattered, tries to awaken in his wife’s soul the passion of the past reminding her of that child whose brief existence had accompanied their love: these were the happy days when Giorgetta and her son sought refuge in his cloak.
But when he tries to hold her in his arms, his wife retracts with a pretext. Then she retires to her room waiting for her husband to follow her and fall asleep, in order for her to be able to then meet with Luigi.
Michele lingers, thinking about who might be his wife’s lover and meditating revenge, then lights his pipe. Attracted by the light signal, Luigi leaps to the barge; but Michele jumps on top of him, immobilizing him; when he recognizes him, he grabs him by the throat, forces him to confess his love and strangles him.
Then he wraps the lifeless body inside his cloak. Giorgetta returns to the deck as if caught by a strange presentiment, but when she approaches Michele, he opens the cloak, letting Luigi’s body fall to the ground.
Michele – a barge owner (baritone)
Giorgetta – his wife (soprano)
Luigi – a dockworker (tenor)
Il “Tinca” – a dockworker (tenor)
Il “Talpa” – a dockworker (bass)
La Frugola – Talpa’s wife (mezzo-soprano)
Did you know?
Puccini and Toscanini (who conducted so many composer’s operas) had a life-long love-hate relationship: at the time of the Trittico there was some bad blood between them and Toscanini’s harsh criticism of Il Tabarro was not taken lightly by Puccini who tried to make sure Toscanini would not conduct the Trittico at Covent Garden.
In a letter to his close friend Sybil Seligman, Puccini wrote: “[…] I don’t want that ‘pig’ of Toscanini; he spoke ill of my works and tried to influence some reporters to do the same. A friend of his wrote a very nasty article and I don’t want this kind of diva. I don’t care for it and I think that when a conductor does not have a good opinion of the operas he conducts, he cannot be a good interpreter.”
One Christmas Puccini sent a panettone to Toscanini, temporarily forgetting that they were not talking to each other. Right after he sent a telegram: “Panettone sent by mistake“. Toscanini promptly answered: “Panettone eaten by mistake“…
Although Il Tabarro never reached the popularity of some other Puccini’s operas, it managed to fully enter the repertoire. One of my favorite recordings dates back to 1962 with Robert Merrill, Renata Tebaldi and Mario Del Monaco led by Lamberto Gardelli with the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
Another excellent recording sees Eva-Maria Westbroek as Giorgetta and Lucio Gallo as Michele with the Royal Opera House and Antonio Pappano on the podium.