Almost all about Les Dialogues des Carmélites: part 3

There are those operas that you just can’t spoil and Les Dialogues des Carmélites is one of them. For Poulenc, melody is the centre of the universe. His music is so poignantly beautiful and his composition so expressive that you don’t really need a director.

The opera’s themes are sacrifice, martyrdom, revolutions and ideologies, but those are just the side lines, because the main theme is an all-devouring fear that makes it impossible to live or die: “Fear is a terrible disease. I was born of fear, in fear I live and in fear I shall die. Everyone despises fear, so I am condemned to be despised.

Hamburg, 2008

The opera came to Hamburg in 2008, it was directed by Nikolaus Lehnhoff. His Blanche, Alexia Voulgaridou, is very much like Liu: sweet, scared but steadfast and very impressive.

Kathryn Harries as Madame de Croissy is even more impressive than Anja Silja. She acts not only with her whole body but also with her perfectly used voice. Her fear is physically palpable and her death scene cannot leave anyone unmoved.

Unfortunately, Gabrielle Schnaut’s Mère Marie is not of the same calibre. With the remnants of the once so imposing voice, she only causes irritation: not one note is pure and her terrible wobble feels like torture to your ears. How different then is warm and sweet Madame Lidoine, here sung incredibly lovely by Anne Schwanewilms!

The staging is very simple and there are hardly any sets, which is not at all disturbing. And the final scene is almost better than Carsen. (Arthouse Musik 101494)

Munich, 2010

Munich would not be Munich without its ‘high-profile’ new productions that will cause scandals over and over again. Dmitri Tcherniakov’s Dialogues des Carmélites from 2010 was therefore not well received by everyone. I myself find the production very exciting, although his vision sometimes goes a little too far for me.

First of all: forget about the nuns, there are none. There is a community of women, locked up in a glass house. They have left the outside world, but that world can still see them and interfere with them. Claustrophobic.

Blanche, phenomenally sung and acted by Susan Gritton, clearly has mental problems. Her heroic act at the end stems from the same emotions as her fear. Two extremes of the same problem.

The contrast between a resolute, here caricatured a bit as a butch kapo, Mère Marie (a fantastic Susanne Resmark) and the sweet, clearly striving for a different course, Madame Lidoine (Soile Isokoski at her best) could not be greater.

And oh yes: also forget about the guillotine, because it’s not there either. Tcherniakov also changed the ending.

By the way: the chance that the DVD is still for sale is small. The Poulenc heirs thought that Tcherniakov had allowed himself too much freedom and they went to court (BelAir BAC061).

Below the trailer:

Almost all about Les Dialogues des Carmélites. Part one

Almost all about Les Dialogues des Carmélites: part 2

Almost all about Les Dialogues des Carmélites: part 4

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