Sister Angelica

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Sister Angelica (Suor Angelica) is a one-act opera by Gioachino Forzano with music by Giacomo Puccini.

The original text

Suor Angelica is one of the three one-act operas which form Puccini's triptych (Il Tabarro and Gianni Schicchi being the others) which, together with Turandot are considered by many critics to be Puccini's greatest works.

The opera is set in a convent, which Sister Angelica, daughter of a Florentine noble, was forced to enter seven years previously by her family after she had a youthful love affair. The nuns were going about their usual business and Sister Genoveva was singing about the "miracle" which happens every year when, just before sunset, the sun's rays shine on a fountain in the convent's courtyard. As the time nears for the annual recurrence of this event, the tranquil existence of the nuns' lives is disturbed. Firstly, one of them is stung by a bee and then, rather more significantly, when the convent bell announces the arrival of a visitor. It turns out to be Sister Angelina's aunt, the Princess. She has come for her niece to sign a legal document necessary for the marriage of a younger sister.

The Princess told Angelina that her little son (whose birth was why she was banished to the convent) had died two years earlier. The Princess is unmoved by Angelina's grief and offers the advice that her only option was to spend a long time making amends. In despair, Sister Angelica swallows poison and realises too late that she had committed a mortal sin by so doing. Before dying, she pleaded with the Virgin and told her she was committing suicide only in order to be with her little boy. She asks for a sign of forgiveness which the Virgin grants, and as the sun's rays fall on the fountain, a vision of Sister Angelica's child appears and she passes away peacefully.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1952: Performed by the University of Cape Town, arranged by Dr Erik Chisholm (Musical Director), Gregorio Fiasconaro (Production), Cecil Pym (Stage Setting), and Phyllis Brodie (Stage Manager).

Starring: Nellie du Toit alternating with Hilda du Toit (Sister Angelica), Noreen Berry (the Princess), Isolde Traut (The Abbess), Joyce Noad (Sister Genoveva), Alicia Slater (The Mistress of the Novices), Patricai Moore (The Nursing Sister), Cynthia Coller and Patricia Moore (The Two Lay Sisters), Rosemary Brookes (A Novice), Jeanette Schatz (Sister Dolcini), Gitel Lazarus (Sister Osmina), and R Brooks, E Lazarus, G Lazarus, C Sweet, S Garvin (as Nuns).

1952: The Federation of Music Societies (Eastern Cape) by arrangement with the University of Cape Town, presented the opera in Port Elizabeth from April 28 till May 1, 1952, in Kingwilliamstown on May 3, 1952, in Umtata on May 5, 1952, Queenstown from May 6 – 8, 1952, and Grahamstown on May 10, 1952.

2000: Presented by Cape Town Opera in a double bill with Gianni Schicchi (21–26 August)

2011: Presented by Cape Town Opera in a double bill with Gianni Schicchi (16–21 April)


Theatre programme, 1952.

Wayne Muller. 2018. A reception history of opera in Cape Town: Tracing the development of a distinctly South African operatic aesthetic (1985–2015). Unpublished PhD thesis. Go to ESAT Bibliography

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