"Gianni Schicchi" by Giacomo Puccini
Gianni Schicchi is an opera in one act by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Giovacchino Forzano, based on a story that is referred to in Dante's The Divine Comedy. It is the third of the trio of operas known as Il trittico. First performance: Metropolitan Opera, New York City, 1918.
The opera is best known for the soprano aria, O mio babbino caro ("Oh, my dear daddy"), which has featured in a number of movies and other works.
Gianni Schicchi is only briefly referred to in Dante's Inferno. Canto XXX:
E l'Aretin che rimase, tremando,
mi disse: 'Quel folletto e Gianni Schicchi,
e va rabbioso altrui cosi conciando.'
(And he of Arezzo, pausing, trembling,
told me, "That madman is Gianni Schicchi,
who gnaws the other in his raving.")
The text states that Schicchi
per guadagnar la donna de la torma,
falsificare in se Buoso Donati,
testando e dando al testamento norma
(to gain for himself the fairest of the stud,
impersonated Buoso Donati,
making a will in proper form.)
That grim vignette is not the real source of the opera's action. A work entitled, "Commentary on the Divine Comedy by an Anonymous Florentine of the 14th Century", first published in 1866, elucidating Dante's terse references, is the actual source to the familiar plot set-up. In this, Buoso has wished to make a will, but was put off with words by his son, Simone. Once it is too late, Simone fears that Buoso may have made a will before his illness, unfavorable to Simone. Simone calls on Schicchi for counsel, and Schicchi coins the idea of the impersonation. Simone promises Schicchi he will be well rewarded, but Schicchi takes no chances, "leaving" a hefty sum to himself (though most goes to Simone), including the mule, and makes the bequests conditional on Simone's distributing the estate within fifteen days, otherwise everything shall go to charity.
Dante was no doubt somewhat biased in his description, having married into the Donati family himself, marrying Gemma Donati in 1295, five years after the death of his adored Beatrice
Buoso Donati has died in bed. His relatives mourn melodramatically, until they hear the rumor that he has left all his money to the local monastery. They frantically search for the will. Rinuccio finds it, but refuses to release it to his aunt Zita until she agrees to his terms. If the will is favorable to them, she must allow him to marry Schicchi's daughter, Lauretta. Schicchi is looked down on by the Donati family since he is a relatively new arrival in Florence. Zita consents (she does not care who Rinuccio marries so long as the will leaves them rich), and reads the will, as Rinuccio quietly sends for Schicchi. When the will confirms the rumor, everyone is furious. They refuse to allow Rinuccio to marry, and angrily turn down his suggestion that Schicchi, who is known for his clever schemes, can aid them.
Schicchi and Lauretta arrive to a cold reception. Schicchi, seeing how downcast the relatives are, uncharitably assumes that Donati must be better. He is informed otherwise, and attempts to console the relatives by mentioning their inheritances. Zita, touched to the quick by Schicchi's condolences, angrily explains the situation, and refuses to hear of a marriage. Rinuccio begs Schicchi to help. However, Schicchi, angered by his reception, refuses to help such people. He is persuaded to try by his daughter (O mio babbino caro). Schicchi reads the will, and proclaims that nothing can be done. But then, he has a thought, and Schicchi sends his daughter away so that she may be innocent of the knowledge of what he will suggest. Schicchi first orders the body to be moved to another room, and tells the women to make up the bed. He ensures that no one else knows of the death--but before he can explain, Donati's doctor arrives. The doctor is prevented from entering by the relatives, while Schicchi imitates Donati's voice, telling the doctor that Donati is feeling better. The doctor departs, praising his own skill. Schicchi explains: Schicchi will impersonate Donati and dictate a new will.
Rinuccio goes to get the notary. The relatives agree on the division of the property, except for Donati's mule (the best in Tuscany), mills, and house. They agree to let Schicchi decide who will inherit those items, but, one by one, they return to promise him a reward if he selects that person. Schicchi agrees to each bribe--but then reminds all of the penalty for forgery--loss of a hand and permanent exile from Florence. The notary arrives, with the witnesses. Schicchi dictates a very modest funeral, a minuscule sum to the monastery, and the agreed-upon division, as the relatives speak approvingly. But one by one, Schicchi grants the mule, mills, and house to himself, to the relatives' outrage. After the notary leaves, he throws everyone out, and they are helpless to do anything except grab what they can on the way out the door. Now that Schicchi can give Lauretta a dowry, there is no obstacle to her marriage to Rinuccio. The lovers embrace, as Schicchi watches, moved. Schicchi turns to the audience and asks if this was not a fine use of Donati's money. He then requests the audience's indulgence, even if he did not receive Dante's, pleading extenuating circumstances.
"Firenze e come un albero fiorito" - Rinuccio
"O mio babbino caro" (Oh, my dearest papa) - Lauretta
"Si corre dal notaio" - Gianni Schicchi