Saturday, July 16, 2016


Libretto by Giovacchino Forzano
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Directed by Stephanie McAlister
Musical Director: Liz Collier
Canberra Opera
Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest to 24 July

Review by Len Power 15 July 2016

The Puccini opera, ‘Suor Angelica’, was first performed in 1918 at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, as part of the first complete performance of ‘Il Trittico’, an evening of three contrasting one act operas including ‘Il Tabarro’ and ‘Gianni Schicchi’.

Banished to a convent as punishment for bearing a child while unmarried, Suor Angelica is asked by a family member to renounce her inheritance in favour of her sister, who is getting married.  At the same time, she learns to her horror that her infant son had died two years previously.

Canberra Opera’s production, staged on the altar of the Wesley Uniting Church in Forrest, gains much from the atmosphere and acoustic of the church.  Director, Stephanie McAlister, has kept the production simple and focussed on the all important music.  It was pleasing and surprising to see the use of projected surtitles to keep the audience abreast of the story, which was sung in original Italian.

Karyn Tisdell gives a heart-felt performance as Suor Angelica, singing and acting the role very well.  Her performance of the difficult aria, ‘Senza Mamma’, was especially notable.  Janene Broere was imposing and effective as La Zia Principessa with her aria ‘Nel Silenzio’.  Louise Keast, Vivian Bachelier and Doreen Robinson sang well in the other principal roles.  The group singing of the chorus and principals was nicely done with pleasing and clear harmonies.  Italian pronunciation was also fine.  It was good to see the inclusion of the men’s and children’s chorus at the end of the opera.  The sound produced by the combined voices provided an emotional finale to the show.

Acting performances were a bit uneven amongst the cast.  There was a tendency to drop out of character and just stand there while not actually singing.  More individuality of character, given the uniformity of the nun’s costumes, would have provided added interest and it was not realistic having everyone walk slowly all the time as if in a procession.

Musical direction by Liz Collier was fine and her small orchestra played the score very well.  The sound produced by orchestra and singers was well balanced and quite beautiful to listen to throughout the one hour production.

Overall, Canberra Opera have done nice work here.  It’s a good opportunity to see a Puccini opera that isn’t done very often.

Len Power’s reviews can also be heard in ‘Artcetera’ on Artsound FM 92.7 from 9am on Saturdays.