MET Opera: Dialogues des Carmélites

Final opera of the season
In French with English subtitles

The Met brings its 2018-19 season to a close with a revival of John Dexter’s classic 1977 production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites. Poulenc’s masterpiece was first staged in 1957 and it has remained in the repertoire ever since. It is an intoxicating mixture of dark brooding spirituality, sublime contemplation, and the clash of faith and anti-clericalism.

The tragic fate of the nuns of the Carmelite convent at Compiègne during the French Revolution inspired one of Francis Poulenc’s most personal works, and one of the most profoundly moving operas in the repertoire. At its center is Isabel Leonard as Blanche de la Force, a shy young aristocratic woman who joins the order on the eve of the Revolution, flees when the sisters, forced to leave their convent, take a vow of martyrdom, and is finally reunited with them as they face death by the guillotine. Felicity Palmer is Madame de Croissy, Patricia Racette is Madame Lidoine, and Elizabeth Bishop is Mother Marie. Paul Appleby and David Pittsinger co-star as Blanche’s brother and father.

The opera takes place between 1789 and 1794 in Paris and in the town of Compiègne in northeastern France, the site of the Carmelite nuns’ convent. Its historical basis is the martyrdom of a group of 16 Carmelite nuns and lay sisters from Compiègne, who chose to offer themselves as victims for the restoration of peace to France during the Revolution.

In this revival of John Dexter’s powerfully spare and dramatically dead-on 1977 production, Mr. Nézet-Séguin was consistently attentive to refinements of the music and the careful way Poulenc sets words so that vocal lines seem almost conversational, those “quintessentially French” qualities.

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USA 2019, 189 min incl one 30 minute intermission
Conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Starring Isabel Leonard, Karita Mattila, Erin Morley, Karen Cargill, Adrianne Pieczonka David Portillo & Jean-François Lapointe

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