San Francisco Opera is continuous their Centennial season by presenting a twentieth century masterpiece that was deeply embedded of their 100-year historical past, Francis Poulenc’s haunting second opera Dialogues des Carmélites (Dialogues of the Carmelites), which opened on Saturday evening October 15.
Merely eight months after the world premiere of the opera at La Scala on January 26, 1957, San Francisco Opera staged its American Premiere in English with Dorothy Kirsten as Blanche and in her American opera debut, the nice Leontyne Worth as Madame Lidoine.
There have been solely two different seasons Carmelites had been mounted, the revival of 1963 and, in 1982, the well-known John Dexter’s manufacturing (which continues to be going sturdy on the Met) graced the Conflict Memorial with Worth reprising the position of Madame Lidoine, Virginia Zeani (the unique Blanche) as Mom Marie, the nice Régine Crespin as Madame Croissy, and Carol Vaness as Blanche. This efficiency made historical past by being the primary to be sung utilizing Poulenc’s unique textual content (in French)!
As probably the most enduring twentieth century opera, Poulenc’s Carmelites nearly requires no introduction; the web site Operabase listed a minimum of 11 totally different productions everywhere in the world, from New York and Glyndebourne to Vienna and Munich!
Primarily based on the (display)play of the identical title by Georges Bernanos – tailored farther from Gertrud von Le Fort’s novella Die Letzte am Schafott – the story adopted the emotional journey of the fictional aristocrat Blanche de la Power throughout the real-life occasion of Martyrs of Compiègne, the place 16 Carmelites nuns had been executed by the guillotine in the direction of the tip of the Reign of Terror in 1794 for refusing to denounce their religion.
Carmelites itself had been interpreted by many a mirrored image of Poulenc’s personal (re-)affirmation with Catholicism and his battle with despair all through his life; it was no marvel he thought Bernanos’ texts “such a transferring and noble work”!
For this event, San Francisco Opera determined to current Olivier Py’s acclaimed manufacturing of Carmelites, revived by Daniel Izzo. Py’s staging, which premiered at Théâtre des Champs Elysées in 2013 (and went on to win 2013/14 Grand Prix de la musique du Syndicat de la critique prize), was actually a factor of extraordinary magnificence, the place taut dramaturgy was married to a stark simplicity to create essentially the most gripping account of the opera and having slick units that superior nonstop like a well-oiled machine actually moved the story alongside!
Pierre-André Weitz’s units consisted of movable geometric panels that handsomely denoted room, home, cross, church, even woods! I personally liked the utilization of a single chandelier to distinguish the Marquis’ mansion and the convent.
I really actually loved the utilization of virtually monochromatic colours for many of the units and the costumes (I suppose it’s somewhat inappropriate to insert “Fifty Shades of Gray” jokes right here!); whereas it did little to assist differentiate the nuns (somewhat than Blanche and Constance in white and the Prioress in two-tone black and gray), it set the tones properly and successfully, notably as illuminated by Bertrand Killy’s thrilling lighting.
Two scenes had been notably memorable when it comes to staging, the primary one was the choice to stage Madame Croissy’s loss of life scene that ended Act 1 vertically (in different phrases, the mattress was positioned on the wall). This was actually a genius thought, as her agony and frustration – central to the scene – had been seen clearly to the viewers, and it elevated the second to nearly insufferable stage!
The ultimate scene was a research in simplicity and profundity, as Py/Izzo organized the sisters in a semi-circle form holding hand singing “Salve Regina”, all in white, with the background merely a darkish starry evening. One after the other, because the guillotine sound interrupted the hymn, one of many sisters nodded and retreated to the again as if she was a star within the night-sky.
Apparently, Blanche as the ultimate particular person, stepped in not in white costume, however in black, the identical coloration she wore to start with of the opera, as if signaling she got here full circle to beat her fears (or “worry of fears” as her brother identified) and to embrace who she actually was! It was additionally price to notice that the varied biblical tableau vivant that had been employed throughout the orchestral preludes stuffed the stage splendidly and becoming the theme!
If the manufacturing was wonderful, the music-making of the evening actually lifted the expertise to a different stage. This was actually thrilling and considerably stunning to me, notably since just about everybody on stage that evening made position debuts of their corresponding roles, together with the Music Director Eun Solar Kim, who performed Poulenc’s opera for the primary time!
Kim led the SF Opera Orchestra in a studying with exceptional magnificence, emphasizing the tonal results and colorings of the various devices, whereas paying shut consideration to Poulenc’s syncopated rhythms. In her hand, the rating sounded alive, vibrant and sure, fashionable, whereas guaranteeing that the texts had been absolutely heard. After this and her conducting Adams’ Antony and Cleopatra, I’m now wanting ahead extra of her in modern opera sooner or later!
Heidi Stober’s Blanche was actually a tour de drive of a efficiency, starting from timid and scared within the first scenes to defiant throughout the heartbreaking scene together with her brother in Act 2, to acceptance within the last scene (singing the ultimate stanza of “Veni Creator Spiritus”). Her voice was supple and sturdy on the identical time, and the darkish undertones that she employed gave a notion of a tormented soul all through, a far cry from different roles she had carried out thus far at Conflict Memorial.
Debuting soprano Michaela Schuster stole the scene together with her tackle Madame de Croissy, notably throughout the dramatic loss of life scene that closed Act 1. With a brilliant daring voice, she singlehandedly turned that significantly lengthy second right into a memorable one, drawing parallel to Jesus in Gethsemane.
Michelle Bradley imbued her Madame Lidoine with grace and dignity, her resolution to be a martyr in Act sounded heartfelt. Melody Moore turned a heat and sort Mom Marie, fully devoid of irony. Solely Deanna Brewick barely dissatisfied on that Opening evening; whereas she sang and acted extraordinarily nicely because the carefree Sister Constance, her delicate instrument tended to get swallowed by the Orchestra, notably on the very high!
Albeit in smaller roles, the boys weren’t a slouch both. Along with his ringing voice, Ben Bliss as soon as once more impressed as Chevalier de la Power, notably within the heartbreaking duet with Blanche in Act 2. As soon as once more, Dale Travis discovered the humor and humanity in Marquis de la Power, whereas Brenton Ryan employed his brilliant sound to interpret the caring Chaplain. All different comprimario roles had been dealt with superbly, and the SF Opera Refrain sounded haunting and beautiful off-stage.
All in all, this was such a very divine expertise that I made a vow to catch it once more earlier than the entire run ended. Congratulations to San Francisco Opera for presenting such a deeply felt manufacturing, particularly at a time the place every part gave the impression to be going haywire!