Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Suor Angelica Soars while Fly Falls Flat

To the sublime from the ridiculous...

Puccini's Il Trittico is a triptych of one-act operattas, of which the second "Suor Angelica" is especially powerful. It's about the daughter of royalty who brings deep shame on her family by getting knocked up, then is locked away in a convent and spends seven long years there with no word from her family, until at last her evil aunt the Princess comes to disinherit her and reveals that Sister Angelica's son had died years before. Upon hearing this, Angelica longs to join her son in Heaven and, in her rush to poison herself with flowers from her garden, realizes only too late that suicide is a mortal sin that will damn her to Hell. In pleading that would bring Spock himself to tears, she cries out to the Virgin to save her. In a move that could in lesser hands might have bordered on corny, the irradiantly blueclad Virgin gracefully descends on a wire to hover silently over the stage and brings forth Angelica's son in radiant light. All is forgiven and mother joins son in death, happy at last.

My worries about LA Opera this year from the fatally flawed The Fly have been completely put to rest.

The staging of Il Trittico is a visual feast, with each act quite distinct. Sondra Radvanovsky plays the title role of Sister Angelica with grace and a powerful soprano voice that earned her robust applause midway after the most famous aria "Senza Mama", as well as a long standing ovation after the Finale (which I liked even better), where her voice reminded me of the legendary Renata Tebaldi, whose unequaled concert performance of this role I leave you with here (visually accompanied by various slides of her life). Let the healing power of Puccini and the Virgin wash over you as you listen to the Finale:

Then, compare the Finale above with Renata Tebaldi's own rendition of "Senza Mama" here and see for yourself which is the more moving.

No comments: