Regina logo

Il Tabarro

by Giacomo Puccini
(1858-1924)

Libretto by Giuseppe Adami

Based on the play La Houppelande, by Didier Gold

The Puccini Cycle
March 4, 5, 11, 12, 2023 at 3 PM
FREE
sneak-peek Feb. 28, 2023 at 7 PM

Conducted by Gregory Ortega
Staged by Linda Lehr

Performed in Italian with English supertitles


The Cast

 

TBA


The Story

A barge on the Seine in Paris.

At sunset, Michele is at the helm of his barge, an unlit pipe in his mouth, as his wife, Giorgetta, performs some household chores. Stevedores are moving goods out of the barge and onto the dock. Giorgetta asks Michele whether he thinks the setting sun is such a grand spectacle that he can stare at it and let his pipe go out. He asks her if the stevedores have finished. When she eagerly offers to go down and look, he says he will go himself. She points out that they’ve worked very hard and deserve a glass of wine, and he agrees, praising her generosity. He puts his arm around her and kisses her, but she turns away. Annoyed, he goes down into the hold as Luigi, one of the stevedores, comes from the dock onto the barge. Giorgetta looks at him meaningfully. Two more stevedores, Tinca and Talpa, come up from the hold complaining of the heat. Giorgetta gives the three men wine. Luigi spots a passing hurdy-gurdy man and invites him to play for them. Giorgetta hints to Luigi that she’d like to dance, but Tinca gets to her first. They laugh and dance, but Tinca can’t keep up, so Luigi cuts in.

Michele appears and they break it up. As a nearby song peddler hawks his wares, Giorgetta asks if they’re leaving the following week and whether Tinca and Talpa will stay on. Michele tells her that Luigi will stay on, too, even though he had previously said he wouldn’t. Giorgetta bristles when he criticizes Luigi’s work. Then she points out La Frugola (The Rummager), who is looking for her husband Talpa. Michele remarks that Talpa drinks too much. Giorgetta, noticing his short tone, asks him what’s wrong. As the song peddler sings of springtime and tragic love, Giorgetta tells Michele that she rather endure a beating than his silence.

Michele goes into the cabin as La Frugola arrives on the barge complaining about Talpa’s drunkenness. She gives Giorgetta a comb she had found in her scavengings and shows her the items in her sack, including a beef heart for her tabby cat, who keeps her company when Talpa is out carousing. Michele returns and asks Luigi to come and load some iron the next day, then goes down into the hold. When La Frugola criticizes Tinca for his drinking, he observes that wine drowns thoughts of revolt. Luigi bitterly agrees and bemoans the life of back-breaking work and having to steal an hour of love amid the suffering. Tinca urges him to drink; Giorgetta shuts him down and he leaves. Talpa tells La Frugola that they should leave, too. She tells Giorgetta of her dream of moving to the country. Giorgetta’s dream is to go back to Belleville, the suburb of Paris where she was born - and where Luigi was born as well. Lost in their nostalgic imaginings, Giorgetta and Luigi clasp hands, but they come to themselves and break apart. Talpa and La Frugola leave.

Luigi approaches Giorgetta, but she warns him to be careful, as Michele could come up at any moment. She passionately recalls Luigi’s kisses of the night before, but is terrified that Michele will find out. Luigi replies that he would rather die than see her remain bound to Michele. She pleads with him not to fail her and to be careful. Michele appears from the hold. Luigi asks him to take him to Rouen and let him go ashore there. Michele asks him if he’s mad, as there is only poverty there. Luigi says he’ll stay on. When Michele goes into the cabin, Giorgetta asks Luigi why he wants to go to Rouen. He replies that he cannot share her with Michele. She agrees that it is torture, but that it makes the pleasure of being together more intense. She makes him promise to come back in an hour. She’ll leave the gangplank down and will signal him with a lighted match. They recall their passionate lovemaking, but Giorgetta stops him and sends him away.

Michele arrives with lighted lanterns. Giorgetta remarks that he is right to keep Luigi on. Michele wonders if he really needs Luigi there. She suggests that he fire Tinca. Her nervous manner prompts him to ask why she doesn’t love him anymore. She answers shortly that she does and suggests that they go to sleep. He points out that she doesn’t sleep. He mentions their baby, but she becomes distraught. He continues to reminisce about how he used to gather her and the baby into his cloak in a caress. But the baby is gone now and Michele feels he is too old for Giorgetta. When she again tries to get him to go to bed, he harshly accuses her of not sleeping. She is terrified and asks why he’s saying this. He urges her to stay near him and love him again. She cuts him off and says she must go to sleep. He tells her he’ll join her later and tries to kiss her, but she avoids him and goes off.

Michele, alone, calls Giorgetta a slut. Two lovers pass along the quay singing of their passion. He peers into the cabin and sees that Giorgetta has not yet gotten undressed - she is waiting. He wonders what or who has come between them. He dismisses the idea of it being Tinca or Talpa, and eliminates Luigi because he had asked to go to Rouen. He wants to catch and kills whoever it is.

Michele slumps, exhausted, and lights his pipe. Luigi, who has been waiting on the quay, mistakes the light for Giorgetta’s all-clear signal and jumps onto the barge. Michele, startled, leaps on him and grabs him by the throat. He demands that Luigi confess that he has come for his mistress. Luigi pulls a knife, but Michele disarms him. Michele offers to let him go if he confesses, and when Luigi does, Michele makes him repeat it several times as he strangles Luigi to death. Hearing Giorgetta call for him, Michele wraps Luigi’s body in his cloak.

Giorgetta comes out anxiously and says she is sorry for causing him pain. She asks his forgiveness. She wants to be near him, in his cloak. She recalls that he used to say, “All of us wear a cloak that sometimes hides joy and sometimes hides sorrow.” He replies, “Sometimes a crime!” He then opens the cloak and Luigi’s body falls out at Giorgetta’s feet. She screams in horror as Michele forces her face down into Luigi’s dead face. Then he urges the river to give him death.

Copyright 2022 Linda Cantoni