top of page

Giacomo Puccini

The Triptych

The Cloak - Sister Angelica - Gianni Schicci


Il Trittico

Il trittico (The Triptych) is the title of a collection of three one-act operas, Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi, by Giacomo Puccini. The work received its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera on 14 December 1918.

Il tabarro
Place: A barge on the Seine in Paris.
Time: 1910.
The opera is very dark and brooding, full of the violence and grit associated with verismo opera.

Suor Angelica
Place: A convent near Siena.
Time: The latter part of the 17th century.
This second opera, Puccini's personal favorite, is an uplifting tale of religious redemption.

Gianni Schicchi
Place: Florence.
Time: 1299.
The third opera is the most popular, a farce full of greed and conniving.

Giacomo Puccini

The Cloak

Puccini - Il Tabarro
by Antonio Pappano

Il Tabarro
Lucio Gallo, Barbara Frittoli, Thiago Arancam,
Ekaterina Semenchuck; Daniel Harding

Il tabarro is the first of three one-acters that Puccini intended to have produced as one evening’s entertainment under the title of Il trittico (“The Triptych"). The other two, in order, were Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi; but only the last of the three is often performed these days, for the initial and subsequent receptions of the complete bill almost invariably elicited enthusiasm for Gianni and comparative indifference to the other two.

The fact seems to be that the first half of Il tabarro is an extraordinary skillful and subtle sketch of barge life on the Seine while the second half is a brutal shocker, and the two parts don’t jell too well.




(The Cloak)

Opera in one act by Giacomo Puccini
with libretto in Italian by Giuseppe Adami,
based on Didier Gold's French play La houppelande


Michele, owner of a barge

Giorgetta, his wife

Luigi, a stevedore
Tinca, a stevedore
Talpa, a stevedore
Frugola, his wife

Time: about 1910

Place: the Seine River near Paris

First performance at New York, December 14, 2918




Baritone. Husband of Giorgetta. Owner of a barge on the river Seine. He is assisted by three stevedores, one of whom, Luigi, unbe-known to Michele, is Giorgetta's lover. Michele cannot understand why Giorgetta rejects his overtures—when he tries to put his arms round her, she offers her cheek to be kissed. Since the death of their only child they have grown apart and Michele is anxious to renew their old relationship. He becomes suspicious, and when she goes below to go to bed he remains on deck. He watches her through a window and wonders why she has remained dressed and for whom she is waiting. He lights his pipe, unwittingly giving Luigi the signal (the lighted match) that all is clear. Hearing someone approach, Michele hides, pouncing on the visitor. It is Luigi, and with his hands on the stevedore's throat Michele forces him to confess his relationship with Giorgetta, then strangles him and hides him under his cloak. When Giorgetta appears and asks to be warmed under her husband's cloak, he throws it back, revealing her dead lover. Aria: Nulla! … Silenzio! (‘Nothing!…Silence!’). Created (1918) by Luigi Montesanto.


Soprano. Wife of Michele, owner of a barge on the River Seine in Paris. She is much younger than her husband. Their only child has died. She is having an affair with Luigi, one of the stevedores who works on the barge. Her husband wonders why she has become so unresponsive to his approaches. She and Luigi discuss with other workers their dreams and hopes and Giorgetta confesses that her own dream is to return to the bustling life in Paris where she was born. She wishes Michele would sell the barge and return to the city to live. Luigi and Giorgetta have a signal—when it is safe for him to come to her, she will light a match. One evening, after she has gone to their room, her husband stays on deck suspiciously watching her window. He lights his pipe, inadvertently sending the signal to Luigi, whom he catches and kills. Giorgetta returns to the deck, asking to be warmed under her husband's cloak, as they did in the old days. He opens his cloak to reveal the body of her lover. Created (1918) by Claudia Muzio.

Tenor. A stevedore in the employ of the barge‐owner Michele. Luigi is having an affair with Giorgetta, Michele's wife. He decides to leave the barge and return to work on the shore, but Michele persuades him to stay. The signal for Luigi to come to Giorgetta is a lighted match. When Michele lights his pipe, Luigi mistakes this for the signal and comes to see his lover. Michele catches Luigi, forces a confession out of him then throttles him and hides him under his cloak ready to be shown to Giorgetta. Created ( 1918 ) by Giulio Crimi.


Tenor. A stevedore who helps on Michele's barge. He drinks heavily in order to forget the misery of his existence. Created (1918) by Angelo Bada.


Bass. Husband of Frugola. He is a stevedore on Michele's boat. Created (1918) by Adamo Didur.



Mezzo-soprano. Wife of the stevedore Talpa. She and her husband dream of owning a country cottage. Her greatest love is her cat. Created (1918) by Alice Gentle.


The central story is brief, violent, dramatic. Michele is the skipper of a barge that is tied up in Paris, on the Seine. He has lost the love of his pretty young wife Giorgetta, since their child died in infancy. Now she is secretly in love with Luigi, a longshoreman who works for Michele. When Michele has gone to sleep, she tells Luigi, she will strike a match as a signal for him to come aboard to meet her.

Unfortunately, Michele stays up later than usual. Thinking bitterly about his lost love, he lights a match for his pipe. Luigi, mistaking this for Giorgetta's signal, steals on board. The suspicious Michele surprises Luigi, forces him to confess his love, and then quietly strangles him to death.

Giorgetta, uneasy, comes from the cabin and asks her husband whether he does not wish to have her near him.

“Under my cloak?” asks Michele.

“Yes,” she answers. “You said once that everyone carries a cloak: sometimes it hides joy, sometimes sorrow.”

“But sometimes it hides a crime!” cries Michele, and he tears the cloak from Luigi's body. As she utters a cry of horror, he seizes her roughly and hurls her forcibly upon the body of her dead lover.

That is the central, dramatic story, most of it occurring in the last few pages. But we are first treated to a whole series of memorable vignettes. There is Tinea, the longshoreman, who drowns his sorrows gaily in wine, and dances drunkenly with Giorgetta. There is Frugola, the wife of Talpa, another longshoreman, who seems to love her cat as much as her husband. There is a song pedlar who passes musically by. There is the idealized picture of life in a small town sung in a duet between Luigi and Giorgetta. And always there is the background of the river Seine itself, suggested by the undulating rhythms of the prelude—rhythms that come in again and again.

Puccini "Il tabarro" 
1962 Full Opera

Michele: Robert Merrill
Luigi: Mario Del Monaco
Il Tinca: Renato Ercolani
Il Talpa: Silvio Maionica
Giorgetta: Renata Tebaldi
La Frugola: Lucia Danieli
Venditore di canzonette: Piero De Palma
Due amanti: Gianfranco Manganotti, Dora Carral

Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Dirigent: Lamberto Gardelli


bottom of page