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As with all Puccini, passions run high in Gianni Schicchi. This 1918 opera depicts the life of a scheming yet ingenious peasant, who tries to cash in on an old man’s vulnerability by changing his will and securing a pay-off for his daughter’s wedding.
And, while it would be easy to blame the peasant entirely, Puccini uses the opera’s most famous aria to make it abundantly clear that his daughter should arguably shoulder some of the responsibility, too.
The glorious ‘O mio babbino caro’ (‘O my beloved papa’) is sung by the young Lauretta as she pleads with her father to enable her to get hitched to Rinuccio, the love of her life. This isn’t just any old request, though: Lauretta makes it perfectly clear that if dad doesn’t come up trumps, she’ll commit suicide.
Unlike earlier operas – most notably, Madama Butterfly – Puccini chose not to set Gianni Schicchi in contemporary society but instead to base it in Florence at the turn of the thirteenth century. It’s also a one-act opera, a form that was quite the rage at the time, Pietro Mascagni having received great critical acclaim for his Cavalleria Rusticana.
Angela Gheorghiu (soprano) as Lauretta; José Van Dam (bass-baritone) as Gianni Schicchi; Roberto Alagna (tenor) as Rinuccio; London Symphony Orchestra; Antonio Pappano (conductor). EMI Classics: CDS 5565872.
Chart Position 185
Illustration: Mark Millington