Il tabarro (The cloak) is the first opera in Puccini’s Il trittico, which also comprises of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. The story is set on a barge on the river Seine in Paris.
The scene is Michele's barge on the Seine, in a corner of Paris. Giorgetta, Michele's young wife, is in love with Luigi, a longshoreman hired by her husband during the loading of the barge. Michele, by mere accident, guesses the truth. Having overheard his wife giving a rendezvous to Luigi by night, Michele waits for the man, surprises him as he jumps on the barge, seizes him by the neck, compels him to admit he is his wife's lover and strangles him.
Then he hides the body under his cloak, and when Giorgetta, in mortal fear, comes on deck and asks Michele if he does not wish her to come and rest near him under his cloak — for, according to the text, “every man carries a cloak, hiding sometimes a great joy, sometimes a terrible sorrow” — her wronged husband throws it open and Giorgetta utters a shriek of horror as her lover's body rolls at her feet.
Opera in one act
Sung in Italian
About 55 min
1910, a barge on the Seine in Paris.
It is close to sunset in Paris, and the stevedores work unloading Michele's barge. Giorgetta, Michele's wife, asks her husband if she can bring wine to the workers. He agrees but does not join them because she refuses his kiss. The stevedores start dancing to the music of a nearby organ grinder and one of them steps on Giorgetta's foot. Luigi, a stevedore, dances with her, and it is evident that there is something between them. Upon hearing of Michele's return the stevedores' gathering breaks up.
Work is getting scarce and Giorgetta and Michele discuss which of the stevedores should be dismissed; she prefers that it be anyone other than Luigi despite him being Michele's first choice. Soon the conversation turns into a fight. La Frugola enters, looking for Talpa, her husband and one of the stevedores. She shows everyone the fruits of her scavenging in Paris and scolds the men for their drinking. Luigi laments his lot in life, and La Frugola sings of her wish to one day buy a house in the country where she and her husband can retire. Giorgetta and Luigi sing a duet about the town where they were both born.
The stevedores depart except for Luigi, who asks Michele to dismiss him and let him off in Rouen, but Michele convinces him against this, saying there is not enough work in Rouen. When they are alone, Giorgetta asks Luigi why he requested to be dismissed; the pair acknowledge their love. They plan to meet later that evening upon the signal of a match being lit on board. By now Luigi seems determined to kill Michele and flee with Giorgetta.
Michele later reminisces with Giorgetta of the days before their child died and how he could cover the two of them under his cloak. He is distressed about being twice her age; she comforts him but she still will not kiss him, and goes off.
Michele wonders aloud if Giorgetta is still faithful to him and ponders who might have changed her so much. He reviews the list of men who have shared in their lives but dismisses each of them as improbable. Michele lights his pipe and Luigi, seeing it from afar, thinks that it is Giorgetta's signal. He returns to the barge and is confronted by Michele. In the ensuing fight, Michele gets the upper hand and forces Luigi to confess his affair before killing him and hiding the body under his cloak. Giorgetta returns to the barge, feigning remorse, and Michele opens wide the cloak to reveal her dead lover.
Michele – Baritone (dramatic)
A barge-owner, Giorgetta's husband
Giorgetta – Soprano (spinto)
Luigi – Tenor (Helden/dramatic)
A stevedore (dockworker)
Tinca (Tench) – Tenor
A stevedore (dockworker)
Talpa (Mole) - Bass (buffo)
A stevedore (dockworker)
La Frugola (The rummager) - Mezzo-soprano
Song Seller - Tenor
Lover - Soprano
Place of birth: Lucca, Italy
Place of death: Brussels, Belgium
Giacomo Puccini was an Italian Late Romantic opera composer. He came from a musical family with organists and composers in five generations. However, as a child Puccini was neither a keen student or particularly interested in music. That was not sparked until he attended a performance of Verdi’s Aida in Pisa 1876.
His operas are written in the realistic Verismo style, with La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly being his most popular.
Although his operas were hugely praised, on a personal level Puccini was struggling. He was in a near fatal auto accident in his 40s, his love life was full of jealousy and drama and he later died from throat cancer a week after having received experimental radiation treatment in Brussels. At the time of Puccini’s death, he was the most commercially successful opera composer of all time.
“Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man's faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements.“
He loved motor cars and speedboats. He was good friends with the inventor Thomas Edison.
Most prominent operas
Manon Lescaut 1893
La bohème 1896
Madama Butterfly 1904
La fanciulla del West 1910
La rondine 1917
Il tabarro 1918 (Il trittico)
Suor Angelica 1918 (Il trittico)
Gianni Schicchi 1918 (Il trittico)
Giuseppe Adami was an Italian librettist, playwright and music critic. He is best known for his collaboration with Giacomo Puccini on the operas La rondine, Il tabarro and Turandot.
3, 3, 3, 2 - 4, 3, 3, 1
timp, perc, celesta, bells, harp, organ, strings
Il tabarro is the first of the trio of operas known as Il trittico. Il trittico premiered in New York at The Metropolitan Opera in 1918. Although Il tabarro is most often performed as part of Il trittico, it is also played on its own or with other short operas by other composers such as I pagliacci by Leoncavalli.
Aria - È ben altro il mio sogno (Giorgetta)
Aria – Nulla, silenzio (Michele)