Reviewed by Sherri Strichman
Tri-Cities Opera continues to surprise me. I knew I was headed for a performance yesterday (Nov. 9) of Giacomo Puccini’s one-act opera Suor (Sister) Angelica but wondered how TCO planned to make a full meal out of a single dish. Instead, the audience was treated to an interactive banquet of delights at Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church, 44 Main St., Binghamton.
Before the intermission and the main course, three pieces were offered as a “prequel.” First, organist Timothy E. Smith set us in the church mood with his virtuosity in a performance of the Sonata Cromatica of Petro Yon (1886-1943).
We then were treated to a beautiful rendition of Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate, sung with great joy, sweet legato and stunning coloratura by Lianne Aharony in character as Suor Angelica‘s Sister Genovieffa.
Gina Moscato (Sister Dolcina) used her lovely voice in four of Samuel Barber’s Hermit Songs. “Operatitles” (by Emma Bennett) helped listeners understand how these songs related to the ecclesiastical life.
During the prequel — a brilliant selection of works — director Cara Consilvio had her characters play out the story of Angelica before she entered the convent: boy meets girl, they fall in love and so on until she’s locked away by her rich, noble family to atone for her sins.
Trinity made a wonderful setting for this production. Consilvio used the entire floor plan to show life in the convent, with just the addition, by scenic designer AmarA*jk, of a statue of the Virgin and the bank of flowers and herbs that Angelica uses for her healing potions. The lighting design by Joshua Rose was very effective. The illumination of the side windows radiated a feeling of antiquity. As the sisters talk about the golden glow through the windows at this time of year, their white robes took on a golden hue. At the conclusion of the opera, the bright white light from the narthex was very dramatic.
The “orchestra” was minimal but perfectly suited to the drama. Music director John Cockerill made the difficult orchestral reduction sound easy on the piano, and with him were organist Smith, harpist Karlinda Caldicott and percussionist Joel Smales, playing bells and chimes.
In the title role, Meroë Khalia Adeeb continues to improve her standing as a singer and performer of note. Velvety smooth and consistently strong, she was sweet, hopeful, tortured and penitential by turns.
Tesia Kwarteng displayed a powerful voice as Angelica’s aunt, the Princess. She was so calculatedly cruel and chillingly cold that someone in the audience actually hissed at her as she exited. She didn’t even blink.
Her gown and Angelica’s before she became a nun were absolutely stunning. (The costume designer was the late Betty Frederickson,and Katherine “Sue” Johnson was the costume coordinator. The habits and robes looked fine to me, but then I’m just a nice Jewish girl from Schenectady. All of the supporting voices were excellent, including Kelly Miller (the Abbess), Deanna Morgan (the Monitor,) Starletta Noll-Long (the Mistress of the Novices), Moscato, Christina Taylor and Kaleigh Watkins. Aharony was a standout.
The ensemble singing, whether in parts or unison, was captivating.
I’ve run out of adjectives, so I’ll just add that it was a terrific marriage of the musical and the visual.
Worth the price? Yes.
IF YOU GO: There are three more performances: 3 p.m. tomorrow (Nov. 11) and Nov. 18 and 7:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 16). Tickets at $55 and $40 are available at 772-0400 or at tricitiesopera.com. Keep in mind that this is an “immersive” production in a church sanctuary. The seats are pews; if you’re in the general admission seats, you might want to take a cushion.
‘Suor Angelica’ centerpiece of TCO banquet of musical delights
Reviewed by Sherri Strichman