Monday, April 12, 2010

O sorella in pio lavoro

The fabulous Puccini-loving professor strikes again! This morning's topic in the hagiography seminar was high medieval female spirituality, and our lively discussion brought us around to the subject of miracles related to pregnancies, usually miraculous terminations of (yes, you read that right; found in lives of St. Brigid, the Cantigas de Santa Maria, and an Icelandic bishop's life, among other places) and the relationship, or perceived relationship, between chastity and holiness. Which of course brought us to Suor Angelica, in a brief professorial aside. This made me giggle--I am so glad I'm not the only one occasionally distracted by operatic analogies to seminar topics--and also elicited a general "Huh?" which was answered with admirable brevity and verve.

Of course, this meant that my afternoon tea break was devoted to wandering the byways of YouTube for the exquisite "Senza Mamma." Scotto acts it beautifully (albeit with badly synchronized sound) in this video. Virginia Zeani gives instant-lump-in-the-throat anguish, while Renata Tebaldi gives an almost unbearably beautiful rendition. Caballe lingers on each tragic phrase to heartbreaking effect. The recording I'm familiar with (yes, that is a veiled Really Shameful Confession: recording, singular) features Cristina Gallardo-Domas, whose girlishness I find very touching. Victoria de los Angeles' Angelica is radiant even on YouTube; getting my hands on the classic Trittico which includes it will be a personal objective. You will have gathered by now that my romantic sympathies are fully engaged by the pathos of this aria. So many Angelicas, so many great sopranos (and others whose omission doubtless constitutes a crime), but I have to confess that this is the version which invariably makes me want to telephone my mother. The first time I heard it--in this collection--I actually did, alarming her no end, apparently, by spontaneous mid-week confessions of love and gratitude, despite reiterated assurances that I was really fine. Oh, opera, what you do to us.

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