Words by Giovacchino Forzano and Music by Giacomo Puccini
Hanger Farm Arts Centre,
November 2011
Director: Nigel Finch
Cast List
Gianni Schicchi
Betto di Signa
La Ciesca
Maestro Spinelloccio
Snr Amantio di Nicolao

Notes on this performance

117. Gianni Schicchi & Cox and Box 

Possibly too ambitious…

After the artistic success of A Little Night Music, the Committee was eager to put on another ‘short show’ and regularly asked members via SOSNews whether anyone would like to gather a team of helpers and get some experience at directing. Several new members had joined specially to be in Carmen and it seemed sensible to put on an opera to maintain their interest. Consequently, Nigel Finch offered to direct and MD Gianni Schicchi, a one act opera by Puccini. The Committee gave this the ‘green light’ but needed another one act show to accompany it, so Paul Webb was persuaded to make his directing debut with Cox and Box - an interesting pairing which, if it worked, would attract followers of opera as well as the usual supporters.

Gianni Schicchi might be short but it is quite complicated as it features very few arias. Nevertheless, Italian scores were hired, a performing licence obtained and Hanger Farm was booked. The show involves a cast of eleven men and only four ladies and it would have been easier if the numbers were reversed! Eventually the full quota of men was found (including the returning Frank Zaragoza and Rob Kirtley) but interest in the female roles was so great that auditions had to be held – possibly the strongest session in SOS history! Jessica Smith (Nella) and Cora Hardy (Lauretta), who both joined for Carmen, were among the successful candidates.

All seemed well, but finding rehearsal times when everyone was free proved to be a big problem - Nigel was involved with two other groups and his limited availability seldom fitted in with the rest of the cast’s. Paul (aided by Hilary Green as MD and Sue Grove as choreographer) also found similar problems with his cast of three! As people realised that learning an opera in Italian without many helpful tunes and very little rehearsal time was hard work, there were several ‘drop outs’ resulting in desperate pleas for other members to take their places.

With time running out, it was finally decided that Gianni Schicchi would have to be a concert version and, as such, it was very good – Mike Pavitt in the title role lit up the stage and the singing from the rest of the cast in the small venue was quite astonishing - it should be mentioned that Mike, Jason Sly (Rinuccio) and Cora Hardy mainly sang without scores. Another success was the PowerPoint display for the English translation which simplified things considerably; the first verse of Jason’s long aria about his home town was translated as ‘He likes Florence,’ whilst the second verse became ‘He likes Florence very much.’

Cox and Box was also an enjoyable show, featuring Matthew Pike (Cox), Jason Sly (Box) and Rob Kirtley (Bouncer) - their performances were slick, well sung and they certainly made the most of the many humorous lines. 

Poor ticket sales meant that a small band could not be considered (Nigel accompanied both shows on a keyboard) and sadly the venture made a loss of £999 – perhaps opera followers were put off by the Burnand and Sullivan piece and vice versa?

Terry O'Farrell


Photo of Relatives

The relatives: Tony Lehrle-Fry (Gherardino), April Luescher (La Ciesca), Jessica Smith (Nella), Jonathan Fulcher (Marco), Sue Grove (Zita), Frank Zaragoza (Simone), Mark Allen (Betto di Signa), Jason Sly (Rinuccio)

Photo of Lauretta

O mio babbino cara: Cora Hardy (Lauretta) pleads with Mike Pavitt (Gianni Schicchi)

Photo of Angry Relatives

Tony Lehrle-Fry (Gherardino), Jessica Smith (Nella), April Luescher (La Ciesca), Jonathan Fulcher (Marco), Mike Pavitt (Gianni Schicchi - seated), Frank Zaragoza (Simone), Sue Grove (Zita), Mark Allen (Betto di Signa)

Photo of the Ladies

Jessica Smith (Nella), April Luescher (La Ciesca) and Sue Grove (Zita) reason with Mike Pavitt (Gianni Schicchi)

Photo of Gianni

Mike Pavitt (Gianni Schicchi) standing - 'disguised' as the late Buoso Donati

Photo of Lawyer

Enter (left) the Lawyer and witnesses: Dan O'Farrell (Cuccio), Rob Kirtley (Pirelino), Paul Webb (Snr Amantio di Nicolao) - Mike Pavitt centre as Buoso Donati / Gianni Schicchi