Press | November 26, 2018
Press | November 26, 2018
“On Friday night, you could see why Puccini loved this opera so much and the emotional intricacy that he worked so hard to build. And Kristine Opolais was the reason why.
The Latvian soprano was singing in her 50th Met Opera performance and sixth role (fifth by Puccini) and this might have been one of her finest nights in that hall. The great challenge of this opera is how much information is hidden from the audience in the opening minutes of the opera. Angelica remains but a fringe character until halfway through when the Princess shows up. When she does, we are given a plethora of information on who this nun is and her painful tragedy.
Going from just another nun to a tragic figure in just minutes is a challenge for any actress. Often, sopranos go from being anonymous in the story suddenly blasting one big sound after another in the second half’s intense emotional moments; but there is no build and hence the opera remains in purgatory.
But Opolais managed it quite well. The staging helped a bit as well, keeping her central throughout the exchange with the Princess. While Stephanie Blythe’s princess was a stone-cold and immovable object, Opolais’ Angelica was more vulnerable, her body collapsing ever slowly throughout the exchange. While her voice retained a muted quality in the early parts of the exchanged, the shift toward conversing about her son betrayed increased emotional intensity. What you saw and felt was the conflicting natures of a mother while all the while seeing the nun trying to pay her respects to the venue of the conversation. This inner conflict, combined with the emotional intensity of revealing Angelica’s great tragedy, added nuance to the situation. You might often find sopranos start to really throw caution to the winds in this section emotionally, but with Opolais you sensed the inner turmoil more acutely. And because of this, you felt drawn deeper into her performance, wanting more and wondering whether we would get it.
And she did give us more, though it came about gradually, the tension sustaining throughout. The portamento “grido lamentoso” right after this scene came about as rather charged emotionally, the first real moment where Opolais started to expose the pained inner life of Angelica.
“Senza mamma,” the opera’s famed aria would seem the appropriate moment to just let the soprano push her voice to the brink emotionally; Puccini’s arching lines ebb and flow throughout the aria, though he does ask for “voce desolata.” Opolais took an introspective approach to the aria, giving it an intimacy and privacy; you couldn’t help but feel pulled more and more into her orbit.
It also kept you guessing about where Angelica might go next emotionally; you sensed her deep pain, but we couldn’t yet predict a sense of desperation. It was a believable choice, given that she’d been a nun for years and on some level, one might understand Angelica having discovered coping devices for her difficulties. The preparation of the poison thus felt like a discovery of character and her own shock at the realization that she was damned also came off as a genuinely potent.
It was here that Opolais took off her “veil” and succumbed to intense desperation. Her voice soared…you simply couldn’t argue against the complete emotional immersion. The climactic high C was a piercing cry of the despair and the two final downward portamento G naturals were gut-wrenching.
This was undeniably one of the best performances that Opolais has given on the Met stage and it would have been rather fascinating to see the soprano’s immersive interpretation on camera, where many of her subtler gestures would have revealed more about her approach to this character.”
“In the title role of “Suor Angelica,” the second of the three operas, Kristine Opolais was haunted and focused…her suffering and transcendence were chillingly real.”
The New York Times
“Soprano Kristine Opolais sang Angelica with a firm grip of the dramatic stakes…Her best singing came after she poisoned herself and tore off her wimple; it was as if her voice had been liberated, along with her hair.”
“…all attention remained riveted on Kristine Opolais and Stephanie Blythe in the central roles…happily placed at the front of the stage, her voice rose into the auditorium, the tone rounder than previously, her fraught demeanor a pity to behold. As the terrible news dawned on her, her body sank to the floor; we watched a woman break. “Senza mamma” was sung so endearingly that the Met audience was still.”
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Andris Nelsons, conductor