Running slightly late to On Site Opera’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s Il Tabarro — on opening night on Sunday, May 14 — I feared that I might “miss the boat.”
That’s because the opera took place on an actual boat: the Lightship Ambrose in the South Street Seaport.
Il Tabarro (or “The Cloak”) is part of Il Tritico, Puccini’s trio of one-act operas that also include Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. This is the second installment of On Site Opera’s multi-year Il Tritico cycle.
Sunday was a beautiful, balmy day — the air fragrant with pollen, seawater, and hot dogs. The opera, which started at 6:30 p.m., was finished before the sun set at 8 p.m.
The audience was seated on the dock, as the action unfolded on and around the boat. The staging made perfect sense, as Puccini’s opera takes place on a barge on the banks of the Seine.
At the bar, you could order an Il Tabarro, which is an actual Negroni-esque cocktail. It was all very thematic, as the opera opens with the sailors’ “heave hos” and “drink up boys!”
The stumbling Tinca was sung by tenor Jose Heredia.
Sharmay Musacchio was hilarious as La Frugola, singing an aria about her purring cat: “hrun hrun hrun.”
In one dizzying waltz, the horns actually sounded drunk. At other moments, the orchestra played close, warm, hurdy gurdy-like harmonies.
However, the musicians sounded over-mic’d, with singers in headsets. And the subtitles on my iPhone didn’t quite work, as they kept dividing my attention from “stage” to lap.
Guiseppe Adami’s plot, though not without convolutedness, is relatively airtight by operatic standards. (It helps that it’s only one hour.)
It centers on a love triangle between barge owner Michele, his wife Giorgetta, and the barge hand Luigi.
Perhaps stealing the show was the powerful tenor Yi Li as Luigi, singing “Keep your head bowed and your back bent.”
But just as heartbreaking was Ashley Milanese as Giorgetta, singing, “We cannot live on the water!” with a stellar high note on “This anxiety, this strange nostalgia.”
As Michele, the “pardone,” was the deep, rolling baritone Eric McKeever.
Pipe-smoking Michele’s shadowy “cloak” becomes a recurring symbol in Il Tabarro, as he talks of wrapping it around Giorgetta.
Sometimes Il Tabarro reaches such emotional intensity it’s almost too much. And so, tenor Dane Suarez — as a young, uncomplicated lover — was much appreciated as the foil to all of that.
Luigi threatens to carve a “jewel of blood” out of anyone who gets in the way of his love. “Why is it so hard to be happy?” sings Giorgetta.
Discovering the affair, Michele calls his wife a “sgualdrina” or slut.
But the climax is when — to the sound of bugle over ominous strings — Michele discovers Luigi trying to rendezvous with Giorgetta. “It’s you!” he exclaims.
Strangling the barge hand on the ship’s deck, he covers him with the cloak. When Giorgetta discovers her lover, the scream she emits is raw and disturbing.
Unfortunately, the opera’s final note was overpowered by microphone feedback.
Photos: Dan Wright Photography