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Opera: Il Trittico

Royal Opera House, London WC2

    The ROH's new Il Trittico - a triple bill of Puccini operas - is not perfect. But the Richard Jones productions have one linking thread which make the evening a must.

    The opening Il Tabarro starts off ponderously but then becomes a gripping story of murderous passion. Eva-Maria Westbroek was feted for her title role in the awful Nicole. Here she has something worthwhile to get her teeth into, and she delivers alongside one of the world's leading baritones, Lucio Gallo, as her about-to-be-cuckolded husband.

    Suor Angelica, the story of a nun who kills herself after being confronted with the full reality of her illegitimate child's death, is a taste which I have never acquired and this new production did nothing to change that. Written by a Catholic for Catholics, it is difficult for anyone not suffused with Catholicism to be emotionally involved. And the Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho's performance was curiously distant.

    Gianni Schicchi, on the other hand, is a fully-fledged masterpiece and Jones's production a joy. Gallo has his second role of the night as Schicchi at the head of a flawless ensemble cast which has this comedy of greed off to a tee.

    But the performance which turns the night into gold dust is Antonio Pappano's conducting of the ROH orchestra. It is a masterclass in Puccini style and worth the price of a ticket alone.

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