Opera Scotland

Suor Angelica 2023Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Suor Angelica

The complete trio of one-act operas by Puccini had previously only had a single performance in Scotland.  Sadler's Wells Opera gave it during a two-week stay in Glasgow in 1957.  On that occasion, the company's musical director, young Alexander Gibson, conducted Gianni Schicchi.  Suor Angelica was in the hands of a second Scottish conductor, Marcus Dods.  He later concentrated on West End musicals, launching Oliver! in 1961, and cinema, including the soundtrack for Murder on the Orient Express.

Since then, Schicchi is the only one to have appeared at the Edinburgh Festival (with Tito Gobbi in 1969).  English Touring Opera brought Il tabarro and Schicchi to the Perth Festival in 2011.  Opera North presented Il tabarro and Suor Angelica in Edinburgh in 2016.

Glasgow-born Sir David McVicar has thus far directed Puccini's Tosca with great success at the New York Met   His staging of Madama Butterfly was an early success with Scottish Opera in 2000, and has been frequently revived.  He also directed La bohème for Glyndebourne. These three short works benefitted from his eye for detail in action and character. 

This included highly appropriate and topical business during the prelude, with one of several unmarried mothers tearfully handing over her baby to be whisked off upstairs to an unknown fate.  Suor Angelica was discreetly updated to the 1950s - the set indicating a modern building (steel staircase and institutional lighting).  Only the Princess's suit and her chauffeur's uniform reinforced that idea as, of course, the nuns' habits were fundamentally unchanging.

The all-female cast was uniformly very strong.  The Korean soprano Sunyoung Seo added to the excellent impression as Georgetta by portraying a wonderfully subtle Angelica, by no means the expected pushover for her aunt to deal with.  Her performance of her great aria ''Senza Mamma'' was extremely touching and her performance to the end was hugely moving.  Reports from Glasgow the previous week indicate audiences in floods of tears, and quite right too.  As with La rondine, Puccini's previous equally underrated opera, Suor Angelica is at last coming into its own.

The part of the appalling aunt needs to be cast from strength, even though her presence on stage is relatively brief.  It is hard to imagine that the ideal player would yet be equally suited to the character mezzo parts in the two outer operas.  The company were lucky to have the perfect exponent in Karen Cargill.  This great Scottishl star is at her peak and gave a ramrod straight performance, allowing just the merest hint of vulnerability.

The rest of the large cast made a perfect ensemble, led by the young lyric soprano Francesca Chiejina as the sweet-toned Genovieffa.  Uniquely, she sings in all three works, culminating in Schicchi with Lauretta's show-stopping 'Oh, mio babbino caro.'

The last night audience rightly went crazy at the end of this superb piece.  When it is performed this well it is hard to imagine why it was ever omitted in the past, and just sad that it has taken Scottish Opera sixty years to reach it.

The company clearly gave this presentation a deal of thought.  While there were only five performances, and all in the central belt, three of those were on a Saturday.  The evenings all began at 6pm, with a thirty minute interval after Il tabarro and a forty minute second break 'for dinner and drinks' before the final comedy.  The intervals must also have been essential for the very involved scene changes.  Even so, this makes the evening only as long as we take for granted with Wagner and Strauss. With a final curtain soon after ten this must also have been a great help for supporters travelling from further afield.

Performance DatesSuor Angelica 2023

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

11 Mar, 18.00 15 Mar, 18.00 18 Mar, 18.00

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

22 Mar, 18.00

Festival Square, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

25 Mar, 18.00

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