Following the success of Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Teatro Regio in Turin keeps on offering interesting titles. It is now the turn of an unusual pairing: Goyescas by Enrique Granados and Puccini's Suor Angelica. This proved an intriguing combination which mixed together the exuberant sensuality of Granados’ one-act-opera with the gloomy shades and melancholy liturgy of Suor Angelica. Puccini always hoped that the three pieces of his Trittico (Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi) would have not been performed separately nor combined with others. Trittico was intended to impress with the bloody story of Michele and Giorgetta (Il tabarro), to move with Suor Angelica and to have fun with Gianni Schicchi. However, this combination of Granados and Puccini together did not jar.

Both operas had their debuts at the Metropolitan Opera in New York almost at the same time (Goyescas in 1916, Suor Angelica in 1918). The warm and enchanting tinctures of Granados’ music, which inevitably evokes the Spanish carnal and roused rhythms of the time (the second cuadro ends with a splendid and sensual fandango), seem to share nothing with the monastic atmosphere of Suor Angelica. Nevertheless, the drama in both is built around female characters: Goyescas around Rosario (an aristocratic woman in love with captain Fernando but doomed to lose him); Puccini’s opera around Angelica, a young girl of a high-ranking family who has been imprisoned in a convent by her family.

Andrea De Rosa’s mis-en-scene alludes visually to this sense of solitude and emptiness: the scene of Goyescas is indeed swallowed by a crater in the middle, a chasm that, at the same time, inexorably separates the worlds of the characters (on one side the majos and the maja with their lightness and voluptuous dances; on the other side, Rosario with her faithful Fernando). But it also hints at the imminent loss of Fernando, who will be killed in a duel. The last cuadro (the one of the duel) is the weakest of this production. Fernando, eroded by jealousy, faces the torero Paquiro (engaged with Pepa) who previously harassed Rosario. The captain then wears a bull-mask and is pierced by his rival (endowed with red muleta and sword). This interpretation only weakens the dignity of Fernando, presenting him as crazy and irrational, which is a bit misleading. All that said, we appreciated Goyescas’ warm and seducing lighting (realized by Pasquale Mari) which well depicted the vitality of the first two quadro. The Carmen-style choreography was clumsy. Granados himself would probably not have loved such folkloristic mannerism.

Mezzo-soprano Giuseppina Piunti (Rosario) possesses a pleasant dark timbre, but she also struggles on the higher notes and especially in “Oh! Misterio!” during the ending of the third cuadro. She provided intensity, however, during the aria “Porqué entre sombras el ruiseñor”, which is a masterpiece. The Fernando of Andeka Gorrotxategui was good, but Fabiàn Veloz (Paquiro) was less successful, his voice was often covered by the orchestra. Donato Renzetti was the chief protagonist of the evening: he conducted magnificently, leading the Orchestra del Teatro Regio to a flawless execution. Anna Maria Chiuri was a little flavourless as Pepa but did better in the role of the Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica.

The mis-en-scene of Puccini’s opera is more convincing than the first one: De Rosa sets the opera in an asylum where the sisters take care of the ills. The scene is framed by iron bars, in order to underline the sense of oppression and constraint that encumber the life of Angelica. The conclusion is interesting: Angelica loses her mind and becomes one of the patients as well, following the encounter with the dreadful Zia Principessa (who tells Angelica of the death of her young son). This way, De Rosa could explain the vision of the Virgin and of a baby as an hallucination of the sick Angelica. The cellos and the double basses, which mark the entrance of the Zia Principessa (still Anna Maria Chiuri, breezier here, especially in the low-pitched notes) were sumptuous. Amarilli Nizza was an inspired and moving Angelica on stage, capable of brilliantly modulating her voice in the middle register (less morbid in the high pitched as in “Senza mamma”) with a voice vibrating with pure soul in “Perché tacete”, when she discovered that her son had died. After the lukewarm reception for Goyescas, this was a triumph for Renzetti and Amarilli Nizza.