In love and death Suor Angelica – sweet music for the soul
As with most operas, themes of love, romance, murder, madness, and a darker image of suicide are evident. Suor Angelica takes its place on the list of tragedies in Puccini’s opera catalog, which is best known for La bohème and Madama Butterfly. The 85-minute one-act opera is a series of three works known as the Triptych (Il trittico, which had its world premiere at the Met in 1918). Suor Angelica is a spiritual journey that takes an unexpected turn as it takes off. As if foreshadowing the untimely death of Puccini himself, he skillfully denotes the growth of tension and death. During this time of Lent, Suor Angelica is a divine reflection of motherly love, albeit in great pain. There is an infinite beauty in the way music lifts you up, preparing you for the cataclysmic fall of a woman longing to be reunited with her son. The Italian libretto is a brilliant score with an ethereal orchestral movement.
While the storyline plunges into melancholy, vocally the opera transports you to a heavenly realm of realism and mysticism. The salutary grace of such a tragic story lies in the beautiful, rich melodies extolled in harmonic verisimilitude. Potently evocative, Suor Angelica is a symphonically touching masterpiece. For those who are going to the opera for the first time, this is the type of opera that will make you want to take a dip in the water. While I also recommend the opera buff, on the contrary, a tragedy like Suor Angelica touches the soul in the most existential way.
Conductor Judith Yang (San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, Vancouver Opera) will make her debut with the Omaha Symphony, accompanied by director Ketura Stikanne, artistic consultant to Knoxville Opera.
The action takes place in an Italian monastery, the scenery reflects that of an atavistic 17th-century Tuscan abbey, with a picturesque design by S.A. Panfili. As we can see, there is a deep foreshadowing in this work, starting with the nuance of the deceased sister. When a beam of light touches the water in the garden every three years to give it a golden hue, the nuns sprinkle holy water on her grave. The sisters who have hidden in the monastery are eager to taste the material pleasures from which they have protected themselves. Hedonism does not pass them by. The juxtaposition of their suppression of desires is reflected in the habits that bind them.
A visitor calls Sister Angelica and we learn that her aunt, the princess, has only come for her signature so that her betrothed sister can inherit her family’s property. Sister Angelica gave birth to a child out of wedlock and, as punishment for her actions, was sentenced to a life of piety for her atonement. Upon the arrival of the princess, we learn that her son has died. She is in agony, plunging into the deepest sorrow. A penchant for flower infusions and the blessing of heaven is her only refuge, despite the walls of the monastery, protecting her from the post-war world.
World-class soprano Elaine Alvarez plays the lead singer of Angelique. Critical acclaim (Aida, La Tosca, La Rondin), Cuban-American Alvarez makes her debut in Omaha. Combining humanism with a rich, velvety timbre and crystal-clear high notes, she epitomizes the life of a nun shunned by her coat-of-arms noble family.
The caliber of talent on the main list empowers the best opera houses in the world. Deborah Nunsteel (The Superior, Ronnita Miller, (Princess), Kelly Guerra, (Mentor), Hilary Ginter, (Mistress of Novices) and Jennifer Cherest (Suor Genovieff) shine like stars in their own right. Alvarez, Guerra, Gither, Miller and Cherest respectively are accomplished soloists who have performed with the most prestigious orchestras, symphonies and opera houses around the world.
Ginter, a soloist who specializes in Baroque and modern operas, portrays the Mistress of the Novices, in charge of punishing latecomers and bashful laywomen at the opening. Ginter sternly reprimands the guilty novices during the Single Act in a strong mezzo voice that commands the stage.
Jennifer Cherest also makes her company debut as the virtuous sister and former shepherdess Suor Genovieffa. Silvery vocals Cherest are angelic and unearthly, gilded with pristine beauty that surpasses heaven.
The opera choir plays overly pious nuns. Its membership includes not only local veteran Opera Omaha soloists and female vocalists such as Karina Brazas (nurse nurse) and Mary Carrick (alms collector), but also vocal students from the Omaha Conservatory of Music and extras.
Original and additional costume designs by Betty Fredikson and Amanda Jones. One particularly beautiful design is the Principessa design, which pays homage to the costumes worn by the late Queen Elizabeth. Sets and costumes were also provided by Tri-Cities Opera, Inc.
Suor Angelica shows us that redemptive motherly love can transcend the love of even death, deeply touching the soul.
The last performance of Suor Angelica will take place on February 26 at 19:30 at the Orpheum Theatre.