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Puccini's Suor Angelica this week on The Lyric Stage.

Suor Angelica is the second of Puccini's triptych "Il Trittico."

This week we have Giacamo Puccini’s Suor Angelica, the second of his three one acts making up his Il Trittico.

It’s easy to understand why the three one acts are rarely performed together, as was Puccini’s directive. It makes for a very long evening, for one thing, and the stories of the first two operas are somber, to say the least. Il Tabarro concludes with a husband killing his wife’s lover and telling her the news by opening his large coat to reveal the lover’s body.

In the second one act, Suor Angelica, set in late 17th century Italy, Suor Angelica’s family confines her to a convent for having an illegitimate child, and she eventually commits suicide.

So after these two somber stories, it’s no wonder that the rollicking Gianni Schicci, one of the best comic operas written, holds stage far more frequently than the first two operas of the triptych.

But it is Puccini, and Suor Angelica contains some of his most beautiful music, including one of his finest arias, “Senza Mamma”. Angelica has an illegitimate child in late-17th century Italy, and her family sends her to a convent. Seven years later, an aunt brings news to Sister Angelica that her child has died. Devastated, she sings "Senza Mamma", mixes poison, and resolves to kill herself. After drinking the poison, she realizes that her suicide is a mortal sin, and she will not go to heaven. As she dies, Sister Angelica prays for forgiveness, and in her last moments, has a vision of the Virgin Mary bringing her lost child to her.

Victoria de los Angeles sings Sister Angelica, and her aunt is Feodora Barbiera.

Tullio Serafin conducts the Rome Opera Orchestra and chorus in a 1957 recording.

Mike Harrah is host of The Lyric Stage, which airs Sundays at 8 pm.