María José Siri, Anna Maria Chiuri (voices); Orchestra e Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Valerio Galli; dir. Denis Krief (Florence, 2019)
Dynamic DVD: 37873; Blu-ray: 57873 60 mins
The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino has cannily released the three ‘acts’ of its 2019 Il trittico separately. (Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchiwere reviewed in the September and November issues.) With Suor Angelica, they have held back the best till last. There is no production ‘concept’ here – this is not an opera that lends itself to one – but Denis Krief’s austere, angular, copper-coloured set with barred windows provides an appropriately oppressive ambience. The lack of visual distraction ensures our attention is firmly focused where it needs to be: on the tense emotional psychodrama at the heart of what is arguably Puccini’s most devastating work.
Like its rival for that title, Madama Butterfly, this opera is about a woman’s psychological journey from anticipation, via elation, to devastation. María José Siri, with her rich-hued voice and impeccable sense of line, is outstanding in the role. A superbly naturalistic actor, she is utterly endearing as this naïve innocent whose optimism is constantly crushed.
Anna Maria Chiuri is equally convincing as La Zia Principessa: implacable to the last, her voice as dark as her black suit and her ominous mood. Conductor Valerio Galli wrings every drop of emotion from an angst-ridden, at times sinister orchestral score that is pure film music avant la lettre.
The characterisation of Puccini as a sadist who revelled in his heroines’ pain is a cliché. Though the pain here is almost unbearable, this production reinforces a different message: the composer’s contempt for those who sit in judgment and serve their cruelty with a side order of sanctimoniousness.