Opera Ithaca to Create Filmed Production of Puccini Classic

By Chris Ruel

Opera Ithaca announced plans for a September release of an original filmed production of the Puccini/Forzano comedic opera, “Gianni Schicchi.”

The New York State-based company is working to revamp its 2020-21 season as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt live performances in the United States and abroad. Praised for its innovative productions, Opera Ithaca sets the story in the present with the greedy, in-fighting members of the Donati family mourning the death of their patriarch via video chat.

“Gianni Schicchi” premiered on December 14th, 1918, at the Metropolitan Opera House in the midst of the Spanish Flu pandemic and Opera Ithaca had this in mind when deciding to produce the film. In the press release, Artistic Director Ben Robinson states, “The film production of ‘Gianni Schicchi’ gives Opera Ithaca a unique opportunity to present a beloved opera with a distinctive reflection on current times.” He went on to say “We are re-thinking what opera can be, and we are giving our audience a fun and safe way to enjoy what we have to offer.”

The company states all aspects of the film will be completed with social distancing measures in place, including the recording of the orchestra and singers. Opera Ithaca structured casting around singers living in environments that matched the dramaturgy of the opera, facilitating physical interactions of certain characters while maintaining safety protocols.

The production is literally a family affair with the husband and wife team, tenor Brent Reilly Turner and soprano Sarah Beckham-Turner, singing Gherardo and Nella, respectively, while Beckham-Turner’s nephew, Quay Banks appears as Gherardino, and her father, James Beckham, plays Buoso Donati.

Under the baton of Christopher Zemliauskas, and directed by Artistic Director Ben Robinson, the cast of “Gianni Schicchi” features baritone Dennis Jesse as the titular character; soprano Emily Pulley as Zita; soprano Elena Galván as Lauretta; tenor Daniel Bates as Rinuccio; baritone Nicholas Davis as Betto; bass-baritone Michael Scarcelle as Marco; soprano Megnot Toggia as La Ciesca; and baritone Steve Stull as Simone.

Cinematographer David Kossack and the award-winning PhotoSynthesis Productions have been engaged to film the production. The company will release the film on a streaming platform associated with the company’s website.