South Florida opera fans will experience a unique double bill – Puccini’s only comic opera and a rare operatic sequel at the Arsht and Broward Centers. 

Florida Grand Opera (FGO) will stage “Gianni Schicchi” and “Buoso’s Ghost” by Michael Ching, both one-act operas. Chinese-American director Mo Zhou helms the performances with Ching on the podium, offering audiences the rare opportunity to witness a composer conducting his own work. 

Based on an incident mentioned in Dante’s “Inferno,” Giacomo Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” is named for a wily lawyer and newcomer to Florence, whose daughter Lauretta is in love with the scion of an influential family. The Donatis view the Schicchis as upstarts and object to the relationship.  

When rich Uncle Buoso dies and leaves his wealth to the church, his scheming relatives are forced to call on Schicchi for help in altering the will before Buoso’s death is discovered. Schicchi obliges, but in helping the Donatis, he also deceitfully enriches himself. 

“Buoso’s Ghost” begins at the moment “Schicchi” ends. As Schicchi surveys his newly acquired home, where Buoso’s body still lies in repose, he discovers that the Donatis poisoned the larder. Mayhem ensues as the lawyer defends himself against family intrigue and outrageous allegations of murder.  

“I think the audience takeaway will be a lot of laughs and how to untangle family feud and drama,” said Zhou. “This double bill is a great marriage between these two works. It’s a night of hysterical laughter, but it also shows the heart of our everyday being, facing hard choices personally and professionally. There’s no black and white in the story.”  

Composer Ching, who also wrote the libretto, explained, “I quote the very last few bars [of ‘Schicchi’] and we just pick up after intermission ends with the same music. I use a fair amount of quotations and paraphrases of various styles. People will recognize pieces from the opera repertoire.” 

“Schicchi” is performed in Italian with English and Spanish supertitles, while “Buoso’s Ghost” is sung in English with English and Spanish supertitles. 

Both operas feature an ensemble cast, and Ching conceived “Buoso’s Ghost” to use the same voice types and most of the same characters as its predecessor. 

In the title role, internationally acclaimed baritone Franco Pomponi returns to the FGO stage for the first time since 2017, when he sang the title role of “Eugene Onegin.” Lauretta will be portrayed by second-year Studio Artist, soprano Page Michels, who was seen as Carolina in the Sunday cast of FGO’s season opener, “El matrimonio secreto.”

Florida Grand Opera presents Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” and “Buoso’s Ghost” by Michael Ching, Jan. 28, 29 and 31 at the Arsht Center in Miami and Feb. 9 and 11 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets start at $18 at FGO.org.