“We are starting in the middle of a huge family fight,” conductor Grant Gershon says as he directs the orchestra during a rehearsal for Gianni Schicchi. They are reviewing the overture and the opening scene of the opera, where family members gather at the deathbed of Buoso Donati. There are moments when Gershon perfectly describes how the music changes to reflect the action on the stage. A section they rehearse contains a large crescendo reminiscent of classic Hollywood-era films (very fitting connection for a Woody Allen production) that lightens towards the end. Gershon says this is the moment where the music “switches to decaff.” Orchestra members laugh at this and play the music accordingly, completely understanding the charming analogy.
Witnessing an orchestra rehearsal underneath the glittering chandeliers in the Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall is like gaining access into another world. There are no sets or operatic voices, but the emotion of the music remains. It’s hidden in the way the orchestra will lovingly lean into accented notes in the score and lightly touch upon the unaccented ones. It’s in that moment when happier melodies turn into dissonant sounds, expressing just how much the Donati family is on pins and needles after their patriarch’s death. Most of all, the emotion exists in how often Puccini’s score makes the mind wander into a different path, transporting the audience into a world of a family where tragedy is the height of comedy.
To hear Puccini’s music live, click here for tickets to LA Opera’s upcoming production of Gianni Schicchi – double billed this season with Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.
For today’s Music Monday, hear a taste of Puccini’s lovely overture for Gianni Schicchi in the for our upcoming production.
Also, click here to listen to Plácido Domingo sing Rinuccio’s aria from Gianni Schicchi.