Suor Angelica

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Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) is an opera in one act by Giacomo Puccini to an original Italian libretto by Giovacchino Forzano. It is the second opera of the trio of operas known as Il trittico (Triptych). It received its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera on December 14, 1918.[1]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 14 December 1918
(Conductor: Roberto Moranzoni)
Sister Angelica soprano Geraldine Farrar
The Princess, her aunt contralto Flora Perini
The Abbess mezzo-soprano Rita Fornia
The Monitress mezzo-soprano Marie Sundelius
The Mistress of the novices mezzo-soprano Cecil Arden
Sister Genovieffa soprano Mary Ellis
Sister Osmina soprano Margarete Belleri
Sister Dolcina soprano Marie Mattfeld
The nursing sister mezzo-soprano Leonora Sparkes
The alms sisters sopranos Kitty Beale and Minnie Egener
A novice soprano Phillis White
The lay sisters soprano and mezzo-soprano Marie Tiffany and Veni Warwick
Offstage chorus of women, children, and men

Synopsis[edit]

Geraldine Farrar as Suor Angelica and Flora Perini as the Zia Principessa in the 1918 world premiere of Suor Angelica
Place: A convent near Siena.
Time: The latter part of the 17th century.

The opera opens with scenes showing typical aspects of life in the convent — all the sisters sing hymns, the Monitor scolds two lay-sisters, everyone gathers for recreation in the courtyard. The sisters rejoice because, as the Mistress of Novices explains, this is the first of three evenings that occur each year when the setting sun strikes the fountain so as to turn its water golden. This event causes the sisters to remember Bianca Rosa, a sister who has died. Sister Genevieve suggests they pour some of the "golden" water onto her tomb.

The nuns discuss their desires. While the Monitor believes that any desire at all is wrong, Sister Genevieve confesses that she wishes to see lambs again because she used to be a shepherdess when she was a girl, and Sister Dolcina wishes for something good to eat. Sister Angelica claims to have no desires, but as soon as she says so, the nuns begin gossiping — Sister Angelica has lied, because her true desire is to hear from her wealthy, noble family, whom she has not heard from in seven years. Rumors are that she was sent to the convent in punishment.

The conversation is interrupted by the Infirmary Sister, who begs Sister Angelica to make an herbal remedy, her specialty. Two tourières arrive, bringing supplies to the convent, as well as news that a grand coach is waiting outside. Sister Angelica becomes nervous and upset, thinking rightly that someone in her family has come to visit her. The Abbess chastises Sister Angelica for her inappropriate excitement and announces the visitor, the Princess, Sister Angelica's aunt.

The Princess explains that Angelica's sister is to be married and that Angelica must sign a document renouncing her claim to her inheritance. Angelica replies that she has repented for her sin, but she cannot offer up everything in sacrifice to the Virgin — she cannot forget the memory of her illegitimate son, who was taken from her seven years ago. The Princess at first refuses to speak, but finally informs Sister Angelica that her son died of fever two years ago. Sister Angelica, devastated, signs the document and collapses in tears. The Princess leaves.

Sister Angelica is seized by a heavenly vision — she believes she hears her son calling for her to meet him in paradise. She makes a poison and drinks it, but realizes that in committing suicide, she has committed a mortal sin and has damned herself to eternal separation from her son. She begs the Virgin Mary for mercy and, as she dies, she sees a miracle: the Virgin Mary appears, along with Sister Angelica's son, who runs to embrace her.

Recordings[edit]

Year Cast
(Suor Angelica,
The Princess,
The Abbess, The Monitress,
Sister Genovieffa)
Conductor,
Opera House and Orchestra
Label[2]
1957 Victoria de los Ángeles,
Fedora Barbieri,
Mina Doro,
Lidia Marimpietri,
Santa Chissari
Tullio Serafin,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Rome Opera
Audio CD: Regis
Cat: RRC 1306
1962 Renata Tebaldi,
Giulietta Simionato,
Lucia Danieli,
Miti Trucato Pace,
Dora Carral
Lamberto Gardelli,
Orchestra e coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Audio CD: DECCA
Cat: 411 665-2
1973 Katia Ricciarelli,
Fiorenza Cossotto,
Bruno Bartoletti,
Accademia di Santa Cecilia Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: RCA
1975 Renata Scotto,
Marilyn Horne,
Patricia Payne,
Gillian Knight,
Ileana Cotrubas
Lorin Maazel,
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Audio CD: Sony Classical
Cat: 88697527292
1978 Joan Sutherland,
Christa Ludwig,
Anne Collins,
Elizabeth Connell,
Isobel Buchanan
Richard Bonynge,
National Philharmonic Orchestra
Audio CD: Decca
Cat: 458218
1987 Lucia Popp,
Marjana Lipovšek
Giuseppe Patanè,
Munich Radio Orchestra
Audio CD: Eurodisc
Cat: 7806
1994 Mirella Freni,
Elena Souliotis,
Gloria Scalchi,
Ewa Podleś,
Barbara Frittoli
Bruno Bartoletti,
Orchestra e coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Audio CD: DECCA
Cat: 436 261-2

Noted arias[edit]

  • Senza mamma — Suor Angelica
  • Nel silenzio — La Zia Principessa

References[edit]

Notes

Cited sources

Other sources

  • Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
  • Warrack, John and West, Ewan, The Oxford Dictionary of Opera New York: OUP: 1992 ISBN 0-19-869164-5

External links[edit]