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Watch: Antonio Pappano explores the music of Il tabarro and Suor Angelica

The Music Director of the Royal Opera digs deeper into the scores of two of the three operas that make up Il trittico.

By Ottilie Thornhill (Winner of the Kings Cultural Challenge)

28 January 2016 at 12.15pm | 6 Comments

In 2011, prior to the premiere of Richard Jones’ subsequently acclaimed production of Puccini's Il TritticoConductor and Music Director of The Royal Opera Antonio Pappano presented an Insight event focused around two of the three operas, Il tabarro and Suor Angelica.

‘He was always searching for a reason to create a different canvas with each opera', says Pappano. 'Tosca sounds completely different from La bohème; La bohème sounds completely different from Manon Lescaut.'

Antonio Pappano on Il tabarro

Inspired by Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Puccini employed two distinct techniques in the first opera of his triptych, the first of these being repetition:

‘The idea of repeated bits of music, is akin to a groove in pop music or a riff in jazz music', says Pappano.

The second of these techniques is parallelism - the parallel movement of two or more chords. 'It is one of the most important devices Debussy created', says Pappano. The harmonic variation this creates is one of the ways in which the music depicts the 'seedy' dock-side setting of Il tabarro. Throughout the one-act opera, there's a sense of undulation, the feeling of water, there’s even sounds of a tugboat.'

Antonio Pappano on Suor Angelica

In Suor Angelica, Puccini builds the anticipation of seeing the lead characters through off-stage singing and bell-like melodies, a device regularly employed by the composer thoughout his works:

'It's almost a zen feel', said Pappano. 'You hear this voice from off-stage, from afar. You also hear [music like] bird-song using piccolo off-stage. It's such a tender and sweet atmosphere'.

For Pappano it is not simply the musical techniques that hypnotise the audience but Puccini’s ability to employ them around the stage and draw the audience in. 'Puccini was a fantastic theatre man', says the conductor.

For more films like this, subscribe to the Royal Opera House YouTube channel:

Il trittico runs 25th February - 15th March. Tickets are still available

This article has 6 comments

  1. Stevie responded on 31 January 2016 at 11:08am Reply

    No response, as yet to Poppano's article. It appears we have a public who, not surprisingly, would rather have Puccini than Poppano.
    So now you have at least one response.

  2. Vicki Kaye responded on 7 February 2016 at 11:42pm Reply

    I absolutely love these occasional investigations into the musical background of selected operas and only hope that you continue to do them. Thank you. Personally, I have limited musical knowledge but I found the information about parrallelism and the connections with Debussy's music so helpful in developing my appreciation of these works.

  3. W J Owen responded on 9 February 2016 at 4:56pm Reply

    Finally managed to catch up on this. Pappano is an excellent teacher. Please show him doing more of this - on the cinema presentations too. There is so much dumming down nowadays and Pappano never insults his audience by doing that. He's brilliant. W

  4. Alfons responded on 26 February 2016 at 10:06pm Reply

    Antonio Pappano, is so much immersed in the creation of his wonderful sound picture, whilst allowing the audience to be absorbed by his passion und musical knowledge. Antonio, what a wonderful ambassador of the Italien Opera.

  5. F Feather responded on 4 March 2016 at 10:23am Reply

    Pappano is a wonderful communicator. I agree with W J Owen's comment about the way he credits his audience. I am not knowledgeable about opera and always learn from his commentaries. He is often putting into words things I have noticed about an opera but don't have the experience to voice coherently. I really enjoy seeing him working alongside musicians too. This tells you a lot about him as a conductor.

  6. Hubrecht Brody responded on 31 May 2016 at 9:20pm Reply

    Most informative. And enjoyable... Papano an excellent conveyer of the purpose of Puccinni .
    Just too short !!
    Hubrecht Brody

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