Review- Suor Angelica & Gianni Schicchi- Opera Hong Kong


By Peter Gordon






It was Louise Kwong’s night. The Hong Kong soprano shone in the title role of “Suor Angelica,” the first half of Opera Hong Kong’s summer production of a Puccini double-bill. This semi-staged (orchestra on stage, the singers in costume) production featured an all-local cast, and again demonstrated the increasing depth of local operatic ability and Opera Hong Kong’s willingness to experiment with a format to increase the number of productions and offer more opportunities for singers and public alike.“Suor Angelica” is a story of tragedy, cruelty, and redemption.



Angelica has been sent to a convent to atone for having had an illegitimate child. Her aunt, the Principessa, comes — after seven years — to force her to sign away her inheritance. The first news Angelica has is that her child died of illness two years before. She poisons herself to join him.



Angelica is a taxing role, both musically and emotionally. Kwong who impressed in Madama Butterfly last summer has again shown that she can handle the dramatic parts of the Puccini repertory. She has a fine control over emotion: hers was an Angelica that torn between submission and resistance; she was radiant when Angelica believes she receives grace.The role of the Principessa displayed mezzo-soprano’s Carol Lin flexibility as singer and actress. This haughty and entirely horrible woman in late middle age is a short part — Lin sang both nights — but is the opera’s dramatic fulcrum. Lin managed the low-lying part with much-affronted dignity and verisimilitude.



“Suor Angelica” was balanced by “Gianni Schicchi,” Puccini’s only comic opera. The original story of a con-man, young love and will-tampering in thirteenth-century Florence was reset to early twentieth-century Shanghai; the story is universal so the resulting inconsistencies — the many references to Tuscany and the occasional use of Latin — are easily overlooked while the new setting allows for some culturally-specific sight gags.






Baritone Sammy Chien sang the title role both nights. The part of Gianni Schicchi requires acting as much as singing, and Chien displayed a good sense of comic timing. Alison Lau was a coy Lauretta, Schicchi’s daughter in love with Rinuccio, the nephew of the deceased patriarch. Lauretta has the opera’s blockbuster aria “O mio babbino caro”; Lau gave a sweet, youthful rendition. Her Rinuccio was Chen Yong, who showed off a light, sweet-sounding tenor; it took no great leaps of imagination to understand why Lauretta finds him “bello, bello”. 




The double bill was performed twice with (somewhat) different casts the two nights. The staging cleverly made use of a raised platform behind and above the orchestra, allowing for some dramatically long entrances down the steps in Suor Angelica and the necessary balcony in Gianni Schicchi. These semi-staged productions prove that much can be done with little. 

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