Nov 11 2016

Gianni Schicchi

Class Two and Three enjoyed their visit to the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe on Friday. They had a fantastic opportunity to take part in a singing workshop with Opera singers. After that, they watched a brilliant comical Opera performance called ‘Gianni Schicchi’ on screen.



Gianni Schicchi


Buoso Donati, has died. He left behind a small fortune and no children to inherit it. His family have heard a rumour that his money and land has been left to monks.

Simone, the eldest relative, is consulted by the rest of the family. They realise that if they can find his will, then they have hope of holding onto his money, but if it has already left the building, they may lose the money to the monks.

Rinuccio finds the missing will. He says he will hand it over if his Aunt Zita will agree to his marriage to Lauretta, the daughter of a peasant named Gianni Schicchi. The family hate the idea. Schichi is a peasant, and his daughter could never join the family. Rinuccio sends a message telling Lauretta and Gianni Schicchi to come to the house. Rinuccio believes he will be able to come up with a way to help.

The will is read and the family’s worst fears are confirmed: the dead man’s money belongs to the monks.

When he arrives, Schicchi reads the will. As they are discussing it, Buoso’s doctor arrives. No one but the family know that Buoso Donati is dead and the desperate family come up with a plan. What if Gianni Schicchi pretends to be the dead man? He could change the will and make sure the family get Buoso Donati’s riches!

The doctor is delighted to hear the man he believes is Buoso (but is really Schicchi) tell him he has got better. The doctor leaves and Schicchi suggests they continue to pretend that he is Buoso so that they can change the will.

Outside they hear a bell ring solemnly. Could this mean that news of Buoso’s death has travelled? The family panic and agree that Schicchi should have the final say about who gets what from Buoso’s new forged will.

Schicchi puts on a disguise and gets into Buoso’s bed. The lawyer is called to change the will. Before he arrives he warns the family that the punishment for altering a will is to have their hand chopped off and to be banished! But the greedy family is determined and the lawyer and witnesses are brought into the room.

The family wait for their fortune. Schicchi, however, has his own plans for Buoso’s money and for his daughter Lauretta and her fiancé Rinuccio’s future…

■Will the family get their way?
■Will sneaky Gianni Schicchi manage to fool the lawyer?
■What will happen to Lauretta and Rinuccio?

Terms in opera

We will also be able to find many examples of characters being expressed in music in our second opera – Gianni Schicchi.

Operas contain different kinds of music which help composers to express different situations.

Several of the major types are:

Aria An aria is a solo song. Arias tend to be the famous melodies which people recognize in an opera. An aria tends to be used by a composer to express a character’s feelings at a certain point in the story. Because the text often repeats in an aria (like in a pop song), they tend to be about a specific situation, and don’t tend to move the story forward

Recitative Recitative is like a sung conversation. There is often less accompaniment in order to make the text very clear for the audience, as these places tend to be where the actual action of the story takes place.

Ensemble These musical sections involve a group of singers singing at the same time. Often the singers will each have a chance to sing their text alone – so that the audience has a chance to understand! – and then they all sing together, often leading to an exciting musical climax.

Listening Exercise: Gianni Schicchi

In this excerpt the family have just been told that they will not be receiving a huge amount of money from a relative who has just died.

Excerpt One | Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini from ROH School Matinees on Vimeo.

■What can you hear in the music which might suggest how the family feel about this situation?

Listen to the aria ‘O mio babbino’

This is Lauretta’s aria O mio babbino caro (Oh my dear papa). In this aria, Lauretta is trying to manipulate her father into doing something which she wants, but he does not think is a good idea. In order to do this, she tries to melt his heart.

Excerpt Two | Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini from ROH School Matinees on Vimeo.

■How does the music help her do this? Talk specifically about the tune, the way she sings, and the volume.

Storytelling Through Music

One of the advantages of opera over other art forms is the ability to include musical quotes into a story to help the characters on stage, and the audience, remember a previous event at a time in the story when it is important that we are all thinking about that previous event. This technique is used very clearly by Puccini in Gianni Schicchi.

When Schicchi has decided to commit fraud in relation to Buoso Donati’s will, there is still a danger that the angry family members could turn on him and hand him in to he authorities.

In order to safeguard himself against this he teaches the whole family an easy-to-remember melody reminding them of the law in Florence – anyone caught committing fraud in Florence has a hand chopped off, and is then thrown out of the city in exile!

This is an important tune that Schicchi and the family sing before the lawyers arrival.
The text translates as:

Farewell, Florence, Farewell divine sky,

I wave goodbye with this stump (handless arm)

And I go straying like a Ghibelline

(Ghibelline = a faction in Italy in the 1200s, finally driven out by 1270).

Excerpt Three | Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini from ROH School Matinees on Vimeo.

The family know it is important that none of them get caught in their plan. But when the lawyer arrives and Schicchi starts stealing all of their inheritance for himself, some of the members of the family start to threaten to expose the plot. All Schicchi now has to do is sing snippets of his melody, which reminds the whole family and the audience about the punishment if they were to do so, without him ever having to say anything to the family which might expose their plot!

Listen to this excerpt, you can hear how Puccini brings back the tune in a different form.

Excerpt Four | Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini from ROH School Matinees on Vimeo.

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