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Music review: Woody Allen’s zany ‘Gianni Schicchi’ on DVD

By RONALD BLUMSeptember 22, 2016

Placido Domingo, Andriana Chuchman, Arturo-Chacon Cruz, “Gianni Schicchi” (Sony Classical)

Woody Allen brings his comedic touch and sense of movie history to Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” in this video recorded last fall during live performances by the Los Angeles Opera at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Allen’s only opera production, first performed in 2008 and revived last year, will delight newcomers with opening credits as if it were an early film, one with nonsensical Italianate names. His concept treats the opera as a black-and-white movie taking place in the 20th century-style sets and costumes designed by Santo Loquasto. In the zany blocking, Buoso Donati’s will is discovered in a pot of pasta.

Domingo, the company’s 75-year-old general director, wears a double-breasted, striped suit and lends a burly gravitas to Schicchi, yet another baritone character he has sung in recent years. Churchman labors to find Lauretta’s sweetness, and Chacon-Cruz has an earnest, frantic tenor as Rinusccio. Grant Gershon leads a bouncy, color-filled account from the LA Opera orchestra.

Allen did not attend rehearsals for the revival. The humor in Kathleen Smith Belcher’s stage direction does not seem as sharp as in the original run, which starred the elegant Thomas Allen with slick-backed hair and thin mustache, Laura Tatulescu and Saimir Pirgu, with music director James Conlon in the pit.

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