Opera Scotland

Saint of Bleecker Street The Saint of Bleecker Street

Music

Gian Carlo Menotti (born Cadegliano, 7 July 1911; died Monte Carlo, 1 February 2007)..

Text

The composer.

Source

Original.

 

Premieres

First Performance: New York (Broadway Theater), 27 December 1954.

First Broadcast in UK: BBC Television, 4 October 1956.

First Performance in UK: Orpington (Civic Hall), 27 July 1962.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Festival Theatre), 15 March 2006.

 

Background

The Saint of Bleecker Street won the composer a second Pulitzer Prize (his first having been awarded for The Consul). Like that work, it also won the Drama Critics' Circle Award. However, in spite of being composed on a larger scale, using chorus and large orchestra, it has not subsequently enjoyed the same level of success. The serious religious element in the plot is perhaps off-putting for some potential audience members - rather like Puccini's Suor Angelica or Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites.

 

Main Characters

Annina (soprano)

Michele, her brother (tenor)

Desideria, Michele's mistress (mezzo-soprano)

Carmela, Annina's friend (soprano)

Don Marco, a priest (baritone)

Maria Corona, a newspaper vendor (soprano)

Assunta, a neighbour (mezzo-soprano)

Salvatore, a neighbour (baritone)

 

Plot Summary

The opera is set among the Italian community of New York, beginning on Good Friday, the day on which Annina is reputed to have visions of Christ and to show the Stigmata in miraculous fashion. A crowd has gathered to witness this event, one way or another, and Assunta, a neighbour leads them in prayer. Maria Corona, mother of a dumb son, is a sceptic and irritated at the delay in Annina making her appearance. When Annina emerges from her room she is in a trance and her hands are bleeding, apparently from the existence of the Stigmata. Maria pushes her son forward to touch Annina. Michele, an agnostic, arrives, and drives everyone away except Don Marco. He is convinced that Annina's visions are no more than the result of poverty and hunger, nothing whatever to do with God. The priest disputes the point.

In September, the community is about to celebrate the festival of San Gennaro. Carmela is sewing a celebratory dress for a little girl while Annina tells neighbours that her brother won't allow her to attend the procession. Carmela, having previously intended to become a nun, tells Annina that she is in love with Salvatore, and intends to marry him. People want Annina to join the procession - Maria is now convinced by her, since her son has started to talk a little. Michele is still opposed to the celebration, and to Annina's wish to take the veil. As the procession with the image of Gennaro arrives, Michele is attacked, beaten senseless, and tied to the railings. Annina is taken off to play a leading role in the procession, and Michele is rescued by his girlfriend, Desideria.

On the wedding day of Carmela and Salvatore, a celebration is taking place in a bar. Desideria has not been invited, because of her relationship with Michele, and she has him summoned from the banqueting room, He initially refuses to take her in to the celebrations, but she eventually persuades him. Don Marco argues against it, which infuriates Michele. The celebrations are disrupted by Michele's outburst, but Annina eventually calms him and volunteers to take him home, while the wedding guests head off for further celebrations. Only Desideria is left, and she bitterly berates Michele, accusing him of being in love with his sister. Goaded to another outburst of fury, Michele stabs Desideria, who dies in Annina's arms.

Michele is on the run, but has confessed to Don Marco. He comes looking for Annina, but is told by the priest that she is very sick, has not long to live, and has decided to take holy orders. He begs her not to do this when he needs her so much, but Annina tells Michele that, much as she loves him, she loves God more.

In the final scene, in Annina's room, her friends pray for her while news is awaited of her application for holy orders. At last the news arrives and Don Marco prepares to perform the ceremony. Michele enters in a frenzy, but Annina is unaware of his presence. Don Marco confirms that he is too late, and as Michele looks on, Annina dies in Carmela's arms.

The Cast

Annina
 
Assunta
 a neighbour
Carmela
 Annina's best friend
Desideria
 Michele's mistress
Don Marco
 a priest
Maria Corona
 a newspaper vendor
Maria Corona's dumb son
 
Michele
 Annina's brother
Salvatore
 a neighbour, Carmela's fiancĂ©
Wedding Guest
 
Young Man
 
Young Woman
 

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