Puccini Suor Angelica
A young girl, despatched to a convent for bearing an illegitimate son, is cruelly told of his death and takes poison, but the Virgin mercifully restores him to her in a dying vision. Suor Angelica is generally the least popular of Puccini’s Il trittico (The Tryptch) for its perceived sentimentality and religiosity. But Puccini’s Catholicism was sincere enough, and this is a characteristic Puccinian tragedy in miniature, with the convent atmosphere sketched as atmospherically as his Japan or Paris, and a vulnerable heroine.
Kristine Opolais has made a great success as Butterfly and her fresh, youthful tone and unforced manner suit Angelica just as well. But she is also equal to the dramatic confrontation with her aunt the Princess, and the anguished aria ‘Senza Mamma’. The other nuns are well sung, if less characterful than some Italian casts. Lioba Braun, a fine Wagnerian, is not as frighteningly icy a Princess as predecessors such as Christa Ludwig, but catches the right emotional remoteness. Conductor Andris Nelsons evokes atmosphere with energy and clean-cut textures.
All told, the effect is slightly cool, but many will prefer it to overheated Italianate performances, especially with such a credibly young and affecting heroine. Undoubtedly you miss the solidity of the other operas in the trilogy, but Puccini’s early Preludio sinfonico is an enjoyable bonus.
Michael Scott Rohan