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CD: Crotchet AmazonUK

Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Suor Angelica (1918)
Victoria de los Angeles (soprano) - Suor Angelica; Fedora Barbieri (mezzo) - La zia principessa; Mina Doro (mezzo) - La badessa/La meastra; Lidia Marimpietri (soprano) - Suor Genovieffa; Santa Chissari (soprano) - Suor Osmina; Corinna Vozza (contralto) - La suora zelatrice; Anna Marcangeli (mezzo) - Suor Dolcina; Teresa Cantarini (mezzo) - La suora infermiera
Chorus and Orchestra of Rome Opera/Tullio Serafin.
Bonus tracks: La Bohème (1896) – Si, mi chiamano Mimì; O soave fanciulla; Addio … donde lieta usci.
Victoria de los Angeles (soprano) - Mimì; Jussi Björling (tenor) – Rodolfo
RCA Victor Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham.
rec. Opera House, Rome, 3 June 1957 (Suor); Manhattan Center, New York, March/April 1956 (Boheme). AAD
REGIS RRC1306 [66:46]
Experience Classicsonline

This disc takes one third of the famous Trittico conducted by Serafin and presents it in splendid isolation. Hearing the operas individually like this gives the listener a chance to weigh up their individual merits and to admire them as the perfectly formed gems they are in their own right.
This might be 1957 sound, but the opening bells of Suor Angelica that usher in the “Ave Maria” are believable and ring forth gently and most beautifully. The cast is excellent all-round. It falls to Corinna Vozza to open the opera, and she does so with great beauty. Lidia Marimpietri is a wonderfully light-voiced Suor Genovieffa (“O sorelle, sorelle!”) but when de los Angeles sings “I desideri sono i fiori dei vivi” it immediately becomes clear who is the star of the show. Everything she sings is has intensely integrity in a way that raises her above most of the rest of the excellent cast: try “Madre, Madre, parlate!”: only Barbieri truly matches de los Angeles in this regard. Suor Angelica’s distress at the news of her son’s death is palpable, climaxing in the famous “Senza mamma”, here in de los Angeles’ hands a moment of unbearably tender torment that becomes intensified at “La grazia è discesa”. Her realisation that she is damned (“Ah! Son dannata!”) is remarkably intense, and that moment propels the action and the piece to its conclusion.
Mina Doro is an imposing Abbess. Fedora Barbieri takes the role of Angelica’s elderly aunt, bringing a necessary doleful yet sinister element to “Il Principe Gulatiero vostro padre”. The scene between Angelica and her aunt is gripping music-drama, a true meeting of equals between Barbieri and de los Angeles. Teresa Cantarini is an acceptable La suora infermiera.
Pacing is perfect from the ultra-experienced Serafin, who also has the ability to turn the mood of a passage on a pin and who oversees the passages of swift vocal exchange with an easy expertise. His handling of the choral work towards the end reveals the hand of a true master of the theatre.
Those who prefer modern recordings will probably find themselves with Pappano (EMI) but, surely, at the price, this Serafin is, even for those who prioritise sound quality, an essential supplement. For those who are less recording quality-obsessed, the Serafin is clearly the version to have.
The excerpts from Boheme are taken from the classic Beecham set, currently available in full on an EMI Great Recording of the Century release (5677502)and Regis (RRC2075). As fillers, they make one ache to hear the entire performance. “Si, mi chiamano Mimì” reveals more of the infinitely touching brilliance of Puccini. De los Angeles is simply superb, and Björling is a superb foil for her in “O soave fanciulla”. Finally comes a “donde lieta usci” suffused with the atmosphere of crepuscular farewell.
Well worth the low investment.
Colin Clarke


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