Best Operas Ever is a new podcast from Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on CBC Radio 2. In each instalment, host Ben Heppner talks to one of the major opera figures of our time about a particular opera recording that they especially love. You'll find each episode here on cbcmusic.ca, and you can tune in to CBC Radio 2 at 1 p.m. any Saturday from now until the end of November to hear these classic recordings in their entirety — along with extended conversations with our esteemed guests.
Daniel Okulitch's favourite opera is actually three operas. It's Puccini's triptych of mini-operas, Il Trittico.
Puccini isn't Daniel Okulitch's bread and butter. The Canadian bass-baritone has made his name in roles by Mozart and in new operas such as Howard Shore's The Fly. Sure, there's the small anomaly of his having sung in Baz Luhrmann's ballyhooed Broadway production of La Bohème, but Okulitch would be the first to tell you that the Italians aren't his specialty as a singer. But that's not to say he doesn't love this music more intensely than just about anybody. When asked to choose his favourite opera recording ever, Okulitch cheated and selected three. Kind of. Il Trittico is a tryptich of one-act operas by Puccini, originally intended to be performed as a unit. For his episode of Best Operas Ever, Okulitch decided to choose his favorite recordings of each of those operas, featuring Renatas Tebaldi and Scotto in the major roles.
"I love Trittico," Okulitch told Ben Heppner, emphatically. "I sometimes get strange looks from people when I tell them that it's in my top five. What I love about these operas is the skill that it takes to economically and within an hour, tell a complete drama. I think they're absolutely brilliant, each one of them in its own way."
Okulitch adores the Debussy-like textures of the first in the trilogy, Il Tabarro, and he's quick to proclaim the third, Gianni Schicchi, as the best comedic opera ever written. But it's the middle child that he loves the best: Suor Angelica. "I cry every time I hear this opera," he confessed. "This is my theory on it: there is nothing in my belief system that relates to... a forgiving presence that would grant absolution in a moment of crisis or at the end of your days. And I accept that. But I cannot deny that there's a part of me that wants it." So, at the end of the opera, when Angelica is forgiven for her sins and reunited with her dead son in the next life, cue the waterworks.
Hit the play button above to hear Heppner's full conversation with Okulitch about these three classic mini-operas. You can tune in to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on Nov. 26 to hear all three of his favourite Trittico recordings in their entirety, plus more from this conversation.
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