The Met's broadcast season began this past weekend. I did not listen. They began with Il Trittico, which I must confess simply to not liking. Or, more precisely, I dislike Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica. I actually rather like Gianni Schicchi, in part because the story of probate fraud amuses me. All three are a bit, well, screechy and jumpy, but Schicchi seems to get the best of the lot.
Mercifully the radio disguises the ill effects of "updated" stagings. The Met season guide notes for Schicchi begin "Florence, 1959." Una momento, por favor. This is nonsense. While ten seconds of Google research indicates that it is still permissible under Italian law to make a will by dictation to a notary, this is simply nonsense. For one thing, under post-Napoleonic continental systems, it is not possible for a testator to disinherit direct descendants as drastically as Schicchi does. Furthermore, I simply refuse to believe that Italian public officials go around making pronouncements in Latin under the Italian Republic. And aren't some of Donati's bequests of things like cows? How many wealthy Florentines bequethed cows in the 1950s? The story is set in a particular time and place for a reason. Why do directors think they can change this part of the story? Why not turn the opera into a tragedy and have Rinuccio and Lauretta leap off the balcony at the end? That would be bold, edgy, attract new audiences to opera! Or, like most officious intermeddling, simply be uncalled for and uncivilized.