Friday, 22 June 2012

Puccini Suor Angelica on TV

Nuns with illegitimate children committing suicide? Suor Angelica, the second opera in Puccini's Il trittico  was broadcast on BBC TV4 tonight, and wl be rebroadcast at 330 am. For me it was by far the most moving of the triptych because it dealt with complex human feelings, not more conventional emotional situations. On stage, you could hear how well Ermonela Jaho characterized the part with her voice. On film you can see the fine detail in her acting as she expresses Suor Angelica's tortured emotions. Jaho speaks of how much she puts into the role, and it shows. Such sincerity and committment! She's truly a star. Anna Larsson as the Princess is excellent too.

A plot like this could invite a maudlin, pseudo-religious setting, but here it's more matter of fact. Suor Angelica, like the Virgin Mary, lives for her son whom she loses. She kills herself to be with the kid in heaven, til she realizes, oops, suicide is mortal sin. That's a sign, I think, of how uncalculating and instinctive she is. Maybe that's why the Virgin Mary shows her grace, becuase Suor Angelica is a good person at heart.

Convent/Christian life is fundamentally unnatural because it demands the suppression of earthly desires, however innocent. To 19th century Catholic Italians, what Puccini is implying was blasphemy. Can the Virgin Mary overturn the laws of God? Assuming that there is a god at all, and that religious life isn't just another scam like the one the Princess is planning. It's a wonder that the Church didn't turn on composer and librettist.  Please read what I wrote about the prima last September (ReNUNciation : Puccini Il trittico) All three operas have been filmed and are now available on DVD. Highly recommended.

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