A contrasting pair

The Canadian Opera Company will be offering a pair of one act operas in their spring season that have some things in common.

  • Both works are set in Florence.
  • Both works are based on literature
  • Both have a character named “Simone” (they’re men by the way)
  • They were written roughly a year apart

And while they’re sharing the same bill and will appear on the same stage, that’s maybe as close as they’ll get to one another.


Alexander Zemlinsky

Both Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy (or Eine florentinische Tragödie) have literary antecedents.

Puccini’s comic masterpiece takes a small episode in the thirtieth canto of Inferno as subtext, spinning a story defending someone Dante consigned to one of the deepest places in hell.

The opera Zemlinsky gives us, in contrast, is of the genre Literaturoper: an opera based on literature, namely the play by Oscar Wilde (you can read it here).  The libretto is not exactly the same as the play, but Zemlinsky’s setting is essentially faithful, as with other examples of Literaturoper, such as Salome or Pelléas et Mélisande. No one quibbles about the insignificant discrepancies between the play and the opera.

Zemlinsky’s opera is not yet well-known, although this will likely change in the years ahead as it is programmed more and more, and people become acquainted with its late-Romantic glories. 

In contrast, Puccini’s opera boasts one of his most famous tunes.

Conducted by Andrew Davis, and directed by soprano-turned-director Catherine Malfitano the COC production of these two operas opens on April 26th.  The popular tune I spoke of –“oh mio babbino caro”—will be sung by Canadian soprano Simone Osborne.

I’m looking forward to it.

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