Get immense pleasure from going to the cinema and watching live opera and ballet simulcasts. Some productions admittedly have not done much for me, but there have been many brilliant ones. It's not just the quality of the productions, it's also about the experience of going to the simulcasts, just love the authentic atmosphere and the accessibility of the pricing (even if still more expensive than going to see a film) and location.
'Dialogues Des Carmelites' is quintessential Poulenc, would go as far to call it his masterpiece (speaking as someone who gets a lot of pleasure out of his songs and 'La Voix Aux Humaine'). It is one of my favourites and is very special to me, due to performing in it five years ago and have a lot of fond memories doing it. That is including being an emotional wreck in the wings after being killed off. What is also special about 'Dialogues Des Carmelites' is its intensity and emotion, before being acquainted with it 'La Boheme' got my vote as having the most poignant final scene of any opera. As of now, my vote has changed to this. Harrowing and heart-wrenching, and also difficult to stage due to timing, from my experience no other opera had the feeling of not a dry eye in the wings, crew, cast or audience after it was over.
For that to happen, you need a good production. A good production this is, make that brilliant. Of a mostly good to great Season 13, with the only near-misfire being 'Samson et Dalila' (though also from personal tastes wasn't completely sold on the opera 'Marnie', despite the production itself being a solid one thanks to the brilliant musical values), 'Dialogues Des Carmelites' is one of the season's best. The most moving one and one of the more consistent musically.
The traditional production values are simple but never overly-so or ugly. Didn't ever it inappropriate and did feel that there was a sense of time and place, instead of being confused as to where the production was meant to be set and what relevance it has to a libretto that indicates a very specific time period (towards the end of the French Revolution, with references to it peppered throughout). It is very well and tastefully directed throughout, with the numerous conversational (most of it is conversational in fact) parts of the opera not dragging or feeling static and the prison scene having genuine menacing intensity. The staging is revived from the late 80s John Dexter production and while adhering faithfully to it it makes it more interesting. The final scene is beautifully timed, gave me goosebumps and had me reaching for the tissues, was every bit the emotional wreck in the cinema screening as when in the wings five years ago.
Musically, this 'Dialogues Des Carmelites' is exceptional. The orchestra brings out every ounce of powerful unsettlement and sincere nuance that the score is filled with, made possible with Yannick Nézet-Séguin living every note and moment. Whether with one of the most fierce accounts of the opening scene and when the nuns are sentenced to death, the intensity and emotion of the Old Prioress' death scene (another highlight), the intimacy of the numerous scenes in the convent to the building poignancy of the final scene.
Did worry as to whether Blanche would be too high for Isobel Leonard, being a mezzo, actually she showed no signs of being taxed at all with her tone being as warm and glowing as ever. Interpretation-wise, she is very heartfelt and succeeds in not making Blanche passive (one of the dangers with the role). Erin Morley brims with confidence as Constance, her voice having a ping to it despite her tessitura being so high without being strained or shrill. Karita Mattila gives her best performance in years, regardless of whether vocally she is somewhat past prime, as an authoritative but very emotionally hard-hitting Old Prioress, her death scene gave me chills. Karen Cargill provides some of the most beautiful singing of the evening, as well as some of the production's most sincere acting. Adrianne Pieczonka, the reasonably wide ranging register of Madame Lidione coming easy to her (her experience in Strauss does help), especially shines in the prison scene, acting Madame Lidione with such dignity. The nun chorus sing and are balanced beautifully and they don't come over as too static, the Metropolitan Opera Chorus' acting over-time has generally come on a lot and been more individual.
In summary, wonderful and intensely moving production. 10/10
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