The Saint of Bleecker Street
Music and Libretto By: Gian Carlo Menotti
Conducted By: Thomas Schippers
Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The Saint of Bleecker Street is an opera in three parts created by Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti. The opera first hit the stage at The Broadway Theatre in New York City in December 1954 and ran for 92 performances. The Saint of Bleecker Street earned Menotti the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1955 and the New York Drama Critics Circle award for best musical. On July 19, 2011, Masterworks Broadway released the original Broadway cast recording of The Saint of Bleecker Street in digital format.
The story is set in the Little Italy section of New York in the 1950s and centers on a young, sickly Christian girl named Anina and her over-protective brother Michele. Anina has been having visions - of the crucifixion of Christ, of heaven and more. Her brother dismisses them as the hallucinations of a sick child, but the local priest, Don Marco, and his parishioners believe that Anina is some kind of saint with the power to heal and perform other miracles. Michele is adamantly against Anina’s wish to take the veil before she dies, believing that Don Marco has been exploiting her. Michele’s obsession with protecting his sister has tragic consequences and he finds himself on the run as Anina becomes sicker. The opera culminates in a final tearful reunion and a marriage of sorts.
I’m not a huge fan of listening to opera via audio recording. I feel that one can’t really get the full extent of the opera without both seeing and hearing the opera being performed before them. Thus, when I received The Saint of Bleecker Street for review, I was apprehensive. Would I actually find any meaningful enjoyment from listening to an opera I couldn’t see? The answer is an emphatic, “YES!”
The fact that I couldn’t see the opera being performed forced me to listen more intently to the lyrics and music of the performance, realizing every nuance and inflection, able to glean all the raw emotion of every performance. Emotion is plentiful in this opera and never have I experienced a more emotional performance than that of David Poleri as Michele. His passionate love for his sister and need for her well-being above all things is a palpable thing. One can’t help but feel both sympathy and anger at his actions throughout this musical. Anina is a sympathetic character, but it was with Michele that I was most captivated.
I found The Saint of Bleecker Street to be a captivating performance well worth the $15.00US price tag. The storyline is intriguing, the vocal performances are emotionally stirring and the music is beautiful. I can’t imagine any fan of the opera who wouldn’t enjoy owning this soundtrack.