Suor Angelica / Gianni Schicchi
Music by Giacomo Puccini
RNCM Theatre, 12 December 2018
This was a sublime Puccini double bill, two quite short yet perfectly formed operas.
In the first, Suor Angelica, a nun – a young woman who had given away her illegitimate love child on entering the convent – learns of his tragic fate. And she despairs. His life is already over and she had taken no part in it. Her prayers to the Virgin, a mother herself, one moreover who had lost a son too, fail to bring consolation. So her despair gradually deepens and darkens.
A heart wrenching drama: you leave the theatre wiping away a tear. But it is only the interval…
We return for the second one, where we spy an ostensibly mourning Florentine family gathered around the death bed of a patriarch. He kicks the bucket and, on examining his will, they discover that he has left the whole of his estate to a monastery. WTF? Who to turn to in order to correct this lax mishap? How to claw that filthy lucre back to where it rightfully belongs?
There is deceit, greed and hypocrisy on show here; but the tone is not at all judgemental or moralistic. Instead, we are presented with a clear-sighted survey of human foibles, with a dash of Florentine colour. Oh, and a beautiful aria amidst the intrigue too: a daughter in love appealing to her father for his consent.
The two operas complement each other very well indeed. There is comedy – Divine and poignant in the first, earthy and worldly in the second – and a dreadful excess of human feeling. We learn that human virtue, as well as vice, can lead to damnation. We cry a little in Suor Angelica, laugh a lot in Gianni Schicchi.