Select Page



Photo: Eike Walkenhorst


A deeply outlandish staging of Puccini’s three-act opera il Trittico stuns with its wild pop colors, psychedelic landscapes and grotesquely costumed characters. I’m in the Deutsche Oper on Bismarckstrasse in Berlin, but it feels like I’m in an episode of Teletubbies where the Adams family has come to visit.

Young, radical director Pinar Karabulut takes the plunge with a bold visual extemporization that, despite a distracting lack of obvious logic, emerges as a crowdpleaser and has the audience cheering with excitement.

Outstanding soloists and dazzling orchestral playing set the stage on fire in a production you won’t soon forget.

Karabulut (36) is a popular feminist figure in Germany’s theater world and gives it her all in this Puccini classic, her first major opera production.

The journey through ll Trittoco’s three tales has a subtle reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy. From Hell, the murderous drama of The Cloak, through Purgatory, the tear-jerking suicide tragedy Sister Angelica, to Paradise, the bittersweet comedy Gianni Schicchi.

Musically, Kappen tops the list with its breathtaking, dark orchestration and melancholic mood of loss that always reminds me of Bruce Springsteen’s sentimental 80s hit The River. The staging, with green-faced characters and a cloak of bright red shower curtains, is eye-catching and a far cry from the usual expectation of a foggy Seine setting in Maigret’s Paris.

Vocally, it’s arguably the performances in Sister Angelica that take the prize, with award-winning soprano Maria Motolygnia as an excellent Angelica and American mezzo Lauren Decker as the diabolical La Principessa with strange alien-like, crab-like arms.

The costumes are pure kitsch in almost fluorescent bright colors and insect-like garments in an ever-rotating set design that, in addition to the convent’s kitchen garden including potentially poisonous medicinal herbs (oops, spoiler alert), includes a lake with splashing water, a mountain, and a choir of Teletubbies-like nuns in strange half-moon hats that also mimic something Hieronimus Borch. Yes, funny, but why…

The peculiar staging makes the most sense in the inheritance comedy Gianni Schicci, where the characters are masked as a rather successful Adams family spoof that emphasizes a grotesque family dynamic, unfolding as a fast-paced, classic slapstick romp.

The ear-catching O Mio Babbino Caro (Oh, Dear Father) takes the packed hall by storm and reminds us that Puccini knows better than anyone how to cut an operatic hit. Great music, pure and simple.

That’s four stars from GOT TO SEE THIS , for a performance that is a blast to watch, very well acted and convincingly executed musically, but which is executed in a concept that is a little too contrived, that seems postulated, tacked on and disappoints  a bit in that way.