When Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi debuted on the Metropolitan's stage, the critics welcomed them with mixed feelings. Gianni Schicchi was actually praised, while the other two weren't much appreciated. After the American premiere, Il Trittico arrived in Italy in January 1919, conducted by Gino Marinuzzi, who took Arturo Toscanini's place because of the hard feelings between the latter and the composer. Toscanini had, in fact, labeled the libretto of Il Tabarro despicable and the music boring and unexceptional, and Puccini, offended, refused to commit the conduction of the opera to him when it was to debut at Covent Garden in London.
Synopsis Suor Angelica
All the sisters sing hymns in a convent. When they've finished, everyone gathers for recreation in the courtyard. The sisters rejoice because, as the Mistress of Novices explains, this is the first of three evenings that occur each year when the setting sun strikes the fountain so as to turn its water golden. This event causes the sisters to remember Bianca Rosa, a sister who has died. Sister Genevieve suggests they pour some of the "golden" water onto her tomb. The nuns discuss their desires. While the Monitor believes that any desire at all is wrong, Sister Genevieve confesses that she wishes to see lambs again because she used to be a shepherdess when she was a girl. Sister Dolcina wishes for something good to eat. Sister Angelica claims to have no desires, but as soon as she says so, the nuns begin gossiping. In fact, Sister Angelica lied: her true desire is to hear from her wealthy, noble family, whom she has not heard from in seven years, since she was sent to the convent in punishment. The Infirmary Sister arrives and tells Sister Angelica that her aunt, the Princess, has arrived and wants to see her. Sister Angelica is nervous and excited because she hasn't seen nor heard anything from her family in over seven years. They meet and the Princess explains that Angelica's sister is getting married and that Angelica must sign a document renouncing her claim to her inheritance. Angelica is disappointed, she hoped the aunt had come there to tell her she was forgiven for her sin or at least she thought she could have news of her illegitimate son, who was taken from her seven years ago and was the reason why she was sent to the convent. The Princess at first refuses to talk about the child but finally informs Sister Angelica that her son had died of fever two years before. Sister Angelica, devastated, signs the document and collapses in tears. The Princess leaves. Sister Angelica is seized by a heavenly vision: she believes she hears her son calling for her to meet him in paradise and in desperation, she prepares a herbal drink with poisonous herbs and drinks it. As she does that, she realizes that in committing suicide, she has committed a mortal sin and has damned herself to eternal separation from her son. She begs the Virgin Mary for mercy and, as she dies, she sees a vision: the Virgin Mary appears, along with Sister Angelica's son, who runs to embrace her.