MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



Not available in the USA

CD: AmazonUK
Download: Classicsonline

Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Suor Angelica
Victoria de los Angeles (soprano) - Suor Angelica; Fedora Barbieri (mezzo) - La zia principessa, the Princess; Mina Doro (mezzo) - abbess; mistress of the novices; Sylvia Bertona (soprano) - prima conversa; Teresa Cantarini (soprano) - la suora infermiera; Santa Chissari (soprano) - Suor Osmina, una novizza, seconda cercatrice; Maria Huder (mezzo) - seconda conversa; Anna Marcangeli (soprano) - Suor Dolcina; Lidia Marimpietri (soprano) - Suor Genovieffa; prima cercatrice; Corinna Vozza (mezzo) - la suora zelatrice
Rome Opera House Chorus and Orchestra/Tullio Serafin
rec. Teatro dell’Opera, Rome, June 1957. Mono. ADD.
Detailed synopsis but no libretto.


Experience Classicsonline

The three short operas which together make up Il Trittico - Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi - have always been, for me, the toughest nut to crack among Puccini’s operas. For all the beauty of the music, Suor Angelica is very static and the ending somewhat contrived by comparison with Tosca, La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Turandot and even Manon Lescaut, all of which rank among my favourite operas after Mozart and Wagner. With an all-female cast, too, there’s no opportunity for those wonderful duets.

If any recording was going to convince me to add Suor Angelica to that select list, it would have to be this one. Made in 1957, it was released to immediate acclaim and still finds a deserved place in the catalogue, as an EMI Great Recording (212714-2, 3 mid-price CDs with the other Trittico recordings), on the GOP label (GOP66391, mid-price) and now, even less expensively, in one of the Naxos Mark Obert-Thorn transfers, where it joins two other Puccini recordings by Victoria de los Angeles, her classic recording of La Bohème, with Jussi Björling under Sir Thomas Beecham (8.111249-50) and Butterfly with Giuseppe Di Stefano under Gianandrea Gavazzeni (8.111291-2). Göran Forsling thought that the latter should be in every Puccini collection – see review. 

I recently gave a strong recommendation to another transfer of that Bohème, on the Past Classics label in my January, 2009, Download Roundup. It remains incomparable and it’s especially good value as a download from eMusic, on just four tracks, potentially for less than £1. With 22 tracks, their download of this new Suor reissue offers much poorer value, working out at around the same price as the CD. Classicsonline would be a better bet for a download in this case, but, even so, fails to undercut the £3.98 for which is offering the CD. 

The de los Angeles/Beecham Bohème not only remains the best performance available, it also sounds well in the Past Classics transfer. If anything, the new Naxos transfer of Suor Angelica sounds even better. Though made as late as 1957, when stereo recording was well established, Suor was recorded in mono. Otherwise the transfer is easy to live with – a little thin, perhaps, but the ear easily adjusts. There’s a little distortion in the loudest passages, but it’s nothing to worry about. My Arcam Solo totally refused to recognise the CD – a trick which it occasionally plays – but my other decks were more than happy with it. 

If de los Angeles in Bohème still has the power to convince me, has this version of Suor converted me? Her performance in particular was met with superlatives in 1957 – even those who had not been convinced by her Butterfly were won over – and those superlatives are thoroughly deserved. It’s largely thanks to her that this recording just avoids the sentimentality which lies just below the surface. When, having bidden farewell to her sisters, Angelica’s thoughts turn to suicide – La grazia è discesa dal cielo (track 19) – and she greets the poisonous flowers as her friends, amici fiori, it’s perilously easy to make the portrayal sound mawkish. It’s not that de los Angeles plays down the emotion, she somehow contrives to let us hear it just below the surface without over-emphasis. 

Fedora Barbieri as the Princess, Angelica’s aunt, offers the perfect vocal contrast. If anything, she’s just a little too imperious and unyielding. We never feel, as the Naxos summary implies, that she is almost about to soften in Or son due anni (track 16). The other roles are well sung, with some of the singers in multiple parts, and the Rome Opera House Chorus and Orchestra give of their best under Maestro Serafin. 

Back in 1957, the original recording on ALP1577 cost more than £2 – equivalent to well over £40 in current values. To have it now for a small fraction of that cost is largesse indeed. There’s no libretto, but the text is readily available online, in Italian and translation. 

This is a valuable addition to the Naxos series of historical Great Opera Recordings. It may not have persuaded me to place Suor Angelica in the front rank of Puccini operas, but it easily merits an important place in the catalogue – I seriously considered nominating it my Bargain of the Month. 

Don’t forget that Naxos also have some modern recordings of Puccini which are well worth considering; there are no big names and none of them would be first choice, but they all offer very acceptable budget-price alternatives. Madama Butterfly (8.660078-9, conducted by Günter Neuhold, also available in 3-CD Opera Plus format, 8.660910-12) even restores some valuable music from the 1904 original. Rahbari’s accounts of Manon Lescaut (8.660019-20), Tosca (8.660001-2) and Butterfly (8.660015-16) are also well worth considering.

Brian Wilson




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.