Il Parlatore eterno / Il Tabarro
At Teatro Filarmonico in Verona, a special evening of two one-act operas awaits: Il Parlatore eterno by Amilcare Ponchielli and Il Tabarro by Giacomo Puccini. The former, a comedy, starts out the programme on a light note, while the latter, a drama with a sinister twist, expertly brings the mood down in a bone-chilling fashion. As a double feature, the works fit together splendidly and exemplify the variety and charms of Italian opera of the late 19th and early 20th century.
Amilcare Ponchielli premiered Il parlatore eterno on 18 October 1873 at Teatro Sociale in Lecco, Lombardy. Its librettist, the famous Antonio Ghislanzoni, used the French play Le Parleur éternel (1805) by Charles-Maurice Descombes as his source text. Ponchielli was initially uneasy about doing a comedy since he had no experience in the genre, but the result was something for the history books. Not only do the melodies of Il Parlatore eterno flow with charm and ease, but the main character of the opera is unparalleled in the repertoire. Lelio, the protagonist and the ‘eternal talker’ from the piece’s title, lives up to his nickname by literally singing throughout the whole one-act work. The rest of the characters are mute until the final number. It is an experience that needs to be lived to be believed!
After the oddly intriguing comedy, Giacomo Puccini’s Il Tabarro, first performed at New York's Metropolitan Opera House on 14 December 1918, quickly shifts gears and sinks the audience in the grim reality of the Parisian working class of the early 20th century. The action centres on a love triangle between Michele, the owner of a barge on the Seine, his unfaithful wife Giorgetta, and Luigi, her lover and an employee of Michele’s. Times are hard, which make business even more meagre than usual, so Luigi is liable to get fired, but Giorgetta intervenes to defend him, raising Michele’s suspicions. As he comes to terms with his wife’s infidelity, he reminisces about their happier times when he would fit both Giorgetta and their son under his massive cloak (or ‘tabarro’, from whence the opera’s title comes). The child has tragically passed away, but the cloak is still around, and it is about to hide a shocking and gruesome surprise.
The double feature of Ponchielli and Puccini one-act wonders at Teatro Filarmonico will make audiences laugh, gasp, and cry in a thoroughly entertaining evening in Verona.