Suor Angelica is the tragic tale of a woman who bears a child out of wedlock and is sent to a convent to repent for her sins.
Some years previously, Angelica, as the daughter of an aristocratic family, caused a scandal by becoming pregnant. After the birth of the child she was consigned to a nunnery where she has lived for seven years with no further family contact. The abbess tells Angelica that she has a visitor, and she is then left alone with her aunt, who has come to tell her that her sister is about to marry, and that Angelica’s signature is required on a legal document. When Angelica eventually asks about her child she is told bluntly that it died two years earlier. Left alone, Angelica resolves to kill herself, and brews a poisonous potion using herbs from the convent gardens. After drinking this she panics, realising that suicide is a mortal sin and that she will therefore be damned and not meet her child again. She prays devoutly for pardon, and as she dies has a vision of her son welcoming her to Heaven.
Opera in one act
Sung in Italian
About 1 hour
A convent in Italy
Towards the end 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 a 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.
Suor Angelica/Sister Angelica – Soprano (spinto)
La Zia Principessa (The Princess) – Contralto
Sister Angelica's aunt
La Badessa (The Abbess) – Mezzo-soprano
La suora Zelatrice (The Monitress) - Mezzo-soprano
La maestra delle novizie (The Mistress of the novices) – Mezzo-soprano
Suor Genoveffa (Sister Genovieffa) - Soprano
Suor Osmina (Sister Osmina) - Soprano
Suor Dolcina (Sister Dolcina) - Soprano
La suora infermiera (The nursing sister) - Mezzo-soprano
La cercatrici (The alms sisters) - Sopranos
Le novizie (A novice) - Soprano
Le converse (The lay sisters) - Soprano, Mezzo-soprano
Place of birth: Lucca, Italy
Place of death: Brussels, Belgium
Giacomo Puccini was an Italian Late Romantic opera composer. He came from a musical family with organists and composers in five generations. However, as a child Puccini was neither a keen student or particularly interested in music. That was not sparked until he attended a performance of Verdi’s Aida in Pisa 1876.
His operas are written in the realistic Verismo style, with La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly being his most popular.
Although his operas were hugely praised, on a personal level Puccini was struggling. He was in a near fatal auto accident in his 40s, his love life was full of jealousy and drama and he later died from throat cancer a week after having received experimental radiation treatment in Brussels. At the time of Puccini’s death, he was the most commercially successful opera composer of all time.
“Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man's faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements.“
He loved motor cars and speedboats. He was good friends with the inventor Thomas Edison.
Most prominent operas
Manon Lescaut 1893
La bohème 1896
Madama Butterfly 1904
La fanciulla del West 1910
La rondine 1917
Il tabarro 1918 (Il trittico)
Suor Angelica 1918 (Il trittico)
Gianni Schicchi 1918 (Il trittico)
The original libretto was written by Giovacchino Forzano. He was an Italian playwright, librettist, stage director, and film director most known for writing the libretto for Puccini's Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi.
The work is the second part of Puccini's Il trittico (The Triptych, Il tabarro-Suor Angelica-Gianni Schicchi), three one-act operas with contrasting themes, originally written to be presented together.
2+1, 2+1, 2+1, 2 - 4, 3, 3, 1
perc, harp, strings
Stage: piano, organ, 3 trumpets, piccolo, bells
Il trittico premiered in New York at The Metropolitan Opera in 1918.
Aria - Senza mamma (Suor Angelica)
Aria – Nel silenzio (La Zia Principessa)