All in the family

By By Christie Franke

By Christie Franke

Picture this: a family in false mourning for a dying relative with a massive fortune. Each relative wants said fortune. But when the relative in question dies, the family finds he has willed his money–all of it–to a monastery.

Good-for-nothing friars.

So, enter a cunning man who successfully impersonates the dead man in order to change the will, ensuring everyone the land and money they want-except for the city house and its fittings, which he unrepentantly bequeaths to himself.

Sound like a movie? Guess again.

Gianni Schicchi may be one of the first scammers to make the books. His story is mentioned in eight lines of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” and was successfully made into an opera by Giacomo Puccini. But don’t think that it’s boring just because Schicchi’s story comes from Renaissance literature.

“Gianni Schicchi” is one of the funniest operas out there. It has everything: the “mourning” family, the cunning middleclass man, the young lovers–and let’s not forget the dead guy.

Perhaps the funniest thing, however, is the way in which Schicchi totally owns the Donati family: The penalty for forgery is the loss of one’s fingers and permanent exile.


So while the family freaks out because Schicchi is giving himself the valuable house and sawmills they want, he salutes them with severed fingers, effectively forcing them to give in.

In the end, he throws them out of the house as they scramble to steal the furniture.

Two different casts are performing “Gianni Schicchi” the weekend of April 20 in Kingsbury Hall.

And after attending a rehearsal Saturday, even in rough form, I can say it is hilarious. Both casts own their characters, and I guarantee you already know the most famous aria in the show.

“O Mio Babbino Caro” is one of the most exquisite love songs in existence, played repeatedly in movies and on TV. Both actresses playing Lauretta sing it in a way that gives the chills, even translated into English. The opera can be difficult to stage, but in the capable hands of director Larry West, I don’t think we’re going to have a problem.

“I’m very competitive,” West said, jokingly adding that the production is going to kick the backside of “Suor Angelica,” which rehearses next week.

We’ll see about that, but for now I think that the other opera is going to have a run for its money. This is one opera that you won’t want to miss.

“Gianni Schicchi” and “Suor Angelica” run the weekend of April 20 in Kingsbury Hall.