It's the year 1299, in Italy. Poor Buoso Donati. He's dead! And all
his "grieving" relatives dry their tears, and look for the will. It's
rumored that Buoso left all his money to the church. The relatives,
including Buoso's cousin Zita, and her son Rinuccio, tear the house apart
looking for the will. As luck would have it, Rinuccio finds the parchment,
and before he reads it aloud, he asks his mother Zita, to allow him to
marry his beloved Lauretta, if the will's distributions are favorable. Of
course the relatives will agree to anything, if only he'll read the will.
Unfortunately, the rumors are true.....Buoso has left all his money to the
church. Except his house, his mule (the finest in Tuscany), and the
sawmills at Signa. The relatives are shocked, unhappy to say the least,
and then begin to debate who should get the house, the mule, and the mills.
They can't agree, and begin to bicker back and forth. Rinuccio, thinking
aloud, says there may be a way out. There is one man who might be able to
help them.......Gianni Schicchi, a very shrewd Tuscan peasant, who has
beaten the finest lawyers before. He sends word to Schicchi, to come to
Buoso's house. The relatives are up in arms. Schicchi is only a peasant
after all, and a Donati (which Rinuccio is), does not marry the daughter of
a peasant.....even if he has money. You can't mix old money with the
nouveau riche. Rinuccio sings the lovely aria "Firenze è Come Un Albero
Fiorito", in which he says Schicchi is a smart man, knows all the tricks
that lawyers play, and what difference do your ancestors make? It's
present deeds that count. Florence is like a big, strong tree, but its
roots get more strength from the new streams which flow from everywhere.
And men of art and science make Florence even more wonderful. Dismiss all
hateful thoughts of snobbishness. Long live nouveau riche, and Gianni
When Gianni Schicchi enters with his daughter Lauretta, the lovers run
to each others' arms. Meanwhile the relatives explain their situation to
Schicchi, who at first says there's no way out, and he won't help them.
But Lauretta sings her beautiful aria "O Mio Babbino Caro" (Oh, My Dear
Father), and tells her father how much she loves Rinuccio, and if they
can't be together, she'll throw herself off the Ponte Vecchio. Schicchi
softens, and tells the relatives to let him see the will. After perusing
it for a few minutes, he says he may have a plan. Since no one knows Buoso
is dead yet, he will impersonate the dead man, and have the notary prepare
a new will. The relatives each tell him what they want to be left, in the
will. He reminds the relatives of the penalty of falsifying a will. They
will lose a hand, and be thrown out of the country. To shorten this
tale.......the notary is called to draft a will, and Gianni Schicchi, under
many bedcovers, pretends to be Buoso. And in the voice of the dying Buoso
Donati, he leaves everything to his good and devoted friend.......Gianni
Schicchi! The relatives are stunned, but can't say anything to the notary,
in fear of losing a hand and a country. As soon as the notary leaves, the
relatives turn the house upside down, looting everything they can carry.
Gianni Schicchi, in his nightshirt runs out after them. The lovers,
meanwhile, stand at the open window, looking out at Florence, bathed in
light. Schicchi has of course given them the house. Lauretta reminds
Rinuccio that he promised her eternal love, and he reminds her that he
begged for a kiss from her, and she turned her face to him, pale and
trembling. They embrace, and sing together "And Florence looked like
Paradise." Gianni Schicchi returns to the stage carrying what he could
get back from the thieving relatives, and sees the lovers kissing. He
turns to the audience and says "Ladies & Gentlemen. Could you imagine a
better use for Buoso's money? Amen. If you have enjoyed yourselves this
evening, I hope you will applaud.........and find me NOT GUILTY."
Puccini's comic masterpiece, Gianni Schicchi, was composed as the third
opera of a "tryptich", or trilogy, meant to show the various events and
emotions in peoples' lives. The tryptich had its world premiere at the
Metropolitan Opera on December 14, 1918. The premiere was in New York,
because most of the Italian opera singers were in military service. Even
Puccini was absent, because flying was dangerous. The other 2 operas are
very dramatic. The first opera of the trilogy, "Il Tabarro" (The Cloak) is
a heavy hitter about jealousy and death. The second opera, "Suor Angelica"
(Sister Angelica), is a tearjerker about a nun who had given up her
illegitimite son to enter the convent. Her extremely wealthy aunt, the
Principessa, pays a visit to the convent, to tell Suor Angelica that her
son has died. This opera contains one of the most exquisite soprano
arias ever written -"Senza Mamma". Angelica sobs that her son has died without ever knowing the loving caresses of his mother. The stony
Principessa, however, is unmoved by Angelica's grief. Angelica dies,
after the Virgin Mary forgives her sin. It's no wonder that Puccini felt
he needed a little pick-me-up after all that sadness! It has been the
practice in more recent years to move the operas around, and pair them with
other than the original operas, probably to avoid such unrelenting emotion
in one evening. Although it can be a killing experience, I have seen 2
performances, where the same soprano sang in all three operas. Since the
role of Giorgetta in Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Lauretta require 3
altogether different types of sopranos, such an undertaking would generate
a lot of publicity, but would not be a smart vocal move, in my opinion.
FIRENZE è COME UN ALBERO FIORITO
© All information copyrighted ......... Berta Calechman
Anthony will be singing the role of Rinuccio in Puccini's Gianni
Schicchi, in Dublin on April 3, 5, 7 and 9. Berta presents us with not
only a synopsis, but with background information and a translation of one
of the world's most loved arias.
è fine! Astuto
Ogni malizia di leggi e
codici conosce e sa.
C'è da fare una beffa nuova
È Gianni Schicchi che la prepara!
Vien dal contado? Ebbene?
Eche vuol dire?
Basta con queste ubbie grette
Firenze è come un albero fiorito
che in piazza dei Signori ha tronco
Ma le radici forze nuove apportano
dalle cavalli limpide e feconde
e Firenze germoglia ad alle stelle
salgon palagi saldi e torri snelle.
L'Arno prima di correre all foce
canta, baciando piazza Santa Croce
e il suo canto è si dolce e si sonoro
chè a lui son scesi i ruscelletti in coro
Cosi scendano i dotti in arti e scienze
a far più ricca e splendida Firenze!
E di Val d'Elsa giu dalle castella
ben venga Arnolfo a far la torre bella!
E venga Giotto del Mugel selvoso
E il Medici mercante coraggioso.
Basta con gli odi gretti e coi ripicchi!
Viva la genta nuova e Gianni Schicchi!
You are wrong!
He's smart. Astute
All the evil laws and codicils
Looking for a new and rare joke?
It's Gianni Schicchi who is prepared!
Do you come from peasants?
And what does that mean?
Enough of these small and
Florence is like a flowering tree
that has its trunk and leaves in
But its strong, new roots belong
to the limpid, prolific streams
And Florence shoots forth,
to the stars
with slender, joined towers.
The Arno, before reaching its
sings, kissing the Santa Croce
And its song is so sweet and so
that its streams flow through the
heart to it.
It is thus that knowledgeable
men of art and science
make Florence richer and
And from Val d'Elsa's hills
Let another builder come to
make the towers beautiful
And the Medicis, courageous
merchants that they are.
Enough of hateful,
Long live the nouveau riche,
and Gianni Schicchi
The aria "Firenze è Come Un Albero Fiorito", is much loved and often sung,
by tenors as diverse as Carlo Bergonzi, Luigi Alva, and Richard Tucker. It
has a beautiful vocal line, some stentorian tones, and caressing legato.
And the duets between Rinuccio and Lauretta, such as "Addio, Speranza
Bella" (Good-Bye, beautiful hope), are as heartfelt as the young lovers
themselves. (Rinuccio is 24 years old, and Lauretta is 21.)