Argentina Puccini, Suor Angelica; Leoncavallo, Pagliacci: Buenos Aires Lírica. Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Buenos Aires Lírica, Conductor: Carlos Vieu. Teatro Avenida, Buenos Aires. 9.9.2011. (JSJ)
Director/sets/costumes: Marcelo Perusso
Lighting: Rubén Conde
Chorus: Juan Casasbellas
Suor Angelica: Florencia Fabris
The Princess: Elisabeth Canis
The Abbess: Alicia Alduncín
The Monitress: Vanina Guilledo
Mistress of the Novices: Rocío Arbizu
Sister Genovieffa: Patricia Deleo
Sister Dolcina: Patricia Villanova
Nursing sister: Florencia Machado
Alms sisters: Sabrina Cirera, Melina Biagetti
Novice: Patricia Deleo
Lay sisters: Ana Durañona, Sabrina Contestabile
Canio: Luis Lima
Nedda: Florencia Fabris
Tonio: Omar Carrión
Silvio: Ernesto Bauer
Beppe: Fermín Prieto
Villagers: Juan Feico, Fabián Frías
Having had a Suor Angelica just three months ago in Buenos Aires (at the Teatro Colón) another production so soon after was not ideal. But this time, rather than one or other of the other works of Il Trittico, it was unusually paired with Pagliacci.
For Buenos Aires Lírica, this was in fact the closure of a cycle, having presented the other two Trittico works in 2007. Thus any comparisons of Suor Angelica and Cavalleria Rusticana, the more traditional pairing with “Pag”, are redundant. Suffice to say it made for some interesting comparisons, which the producer, Marcelo Perusso, exploited to the full.
Suor Angelica, dark and of the period, was well set principally with screens and projections – although one, the cloister where Angelica meets her aunt, seemed redundant – giving an appropriately stark feel to the life in the convent. Conversely Pagliacci was bright and (moderately) modern, with a 1950s/60s village square feel, with Canio arriving on a motor bike pulling a cart (which on opening night got stuck on the scenery impeding their entry) and Nedda in a period dress and retro sunglasses.
Both also had some unusual aspects – in Suor Angelica a family group of people including a male figure and children who crossed the stage at the start and later turned out to be family members who had accompanied the Tia Princess to the covent. And in Pagliacci, instead of a knife, Canio shot Nedda and Silvio.
The only cast member common to both works was Florencia Fabris, who gave an outstanding performance – retiring and full of emotion of the tragic Angelica, feisty and forceful as Nedda. Well measured and secure across the range, she well contrasted these two very different roles.
In Suor Angelica, the second main role of the Princess was sung by Elisabeth Canis, with appropriately cold and dark tone – with just one moment of warmth when she extended her hand in comfort to the distraught Angelica before quickly withdrawing it.
Conversly in Pagliacci all the other roles are male and Canio was played by the veteran Argentine tenor Luis Lima – a role that has long been his dream, according to an interview in a local magazine. And he made it his own, as a hardened and heavy drinking Canio, and giving reason to Nedda’s determination to leave for the younger Silvio. Now in his sixties he clearly has plenty of energy both physically and vocally, though some strain is apparent.
Ernesto Bauer was a fine Silvio, while Omar Carrión’s Tonio was more a simpleton than a hunchback.
The orchestra was led by Carlos Vieu with his customary precision and style, and the chorus was spirited.
Jonathan Spencer Jones