Puccini: Suor Angelica

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: Discover International
WORKS: Suor Angelica
PERFORMER: Miriam Gauci, Lucienne van Deyck, Rachel Fabry, Bernadette DegelinJaak Gregoor Chorus, BRTN PO Brussels/Alexander Rahbari
CATALOGUE NO: DICD 920120 DDD
The central panel of Puccini’s triptych for the Metropolitan Opera (1919) has always been the Cinderella of the three one-acters, at least in Northern European, predominantly Protestant countries. Yet, paradoxically, Angelica has done well on disc, with more individual recordings than either of its companions and I must confess that it moves me more than any of Puccini’s more familiar and popular weepies, especially in the performances of Victoria de los Angeles (EMI), Renata Tebaldi (Decca), Katia Ricciarelli (RCA) and, above all, Renata Scotto (CBS/Sony). Miriam Gauci, the Maltese prima donna of Naxos and now Discover International, may not, in one respect, be in the same league as these great artists – her voice is not especially distinctive in timbre – but otherwise has nothing to fear from comparisons. She is a superb singer, her voice more steely than either De los Angeles or Ricciarelli but steadier and easier on the ear than Scotto, and more touching, vulnerable and musically detailed than Tebaldi, who always sounds indomitable as the little Puccinian woman. Try Gauci in the final sequence from ‘Senza mamma’ if you don’t believe me.

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Alexander Rahbari is a brisk, sensitive Puccinian who makes much of the score’s luminous colouring, and the small parts are all very well taken by mostly Belgian artists. Lucienne van Deyck’s oratorio contralto booms effectively as the implacable Princess and Rachel Fabry (La suora zelatrice) and Bernadette Degelin (Genovieffa) stand out from the lesser nuns.

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Not a first choice perhaps – that would be De los Angeles or Scotto – but anyone who loves this beautiful work will want to hear Gauci, again and again. Hugh Canning