All too often, stagings of the one-act opera Il tabarro (The Cloak) offer little more than a brutal exploration of man’s jealousy.

As the opener of Puccini’s three-part Il trittico, it is the composer’s most successful foray into the operatic movement of verismo, designed to shock audiences with its realistic depiction of violence and murder.

When it is followed by the lyricism of Suor Angelica and the comedic pay-off of Gianni Schicchi, it doesn’t need to be anything other than Grand-Guignol.

As a stand-alone work, however, it requires a deft hand to deliver a more nuanced interpretation and, fortunately, director Constantine Costi does just that.

Olivia Cranwell and Syrah Torii in Victorian Opera’s Il tabarro at the 2024 Sydney Festival. Photo © Jacquie Manning

Costi is no stranger to Il tabarro, having first set it in a meat factory for his warehouse staging in 2016. In contrast, this latest production on board the National Maritime Museum’s historic lightship Carpentaria is much more in line with the original libretto.

Set against Sydney’s Gotham-like skyline overlooking Darling Harbour, it achieves a comic-book feel not unlike La Monnaie’s production in Brussels last year.

Costi and his costume designer...