Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Dialogues des Carmélites [Photo: Petrovsky & Ramone]
09 Nov 2015

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

A review by Jenny Camilleri

Above: Dialogues des Carmélites [Photo: Petrovsky & Ramone]

All other photos by Hans van den Bogaard

 

As Dutch National Opera’s most successful export ever, it gets to be the only revival in the company’s celebratory 50th season. Eighteen years on, it is still overwhelming.

Musically, this revival is equally worthy of the 1957 masterpiece about the Carmelite nuns guillotined in 1794 during the Reign of Terror for refusing to renounce religious life. The Residentie Orkest under Stéphane Denève was nothing short of inspired. Wind solos wept quietly. The brass section, crucial in expressing anxiety churning itself into blind terror, distinguished itself, forgetting the odd rogue note, with honed technique and supreme control. Mr Denève kept things transparent, in service to the words. He conducted the interludes with elegant restraint and his graded build-up to the final horror had the feel of a superior thriller. In fact, Georges Bernanos’s play was written for the screen, and the opera’s division into twelve scenes, some of which start in mid-conversation, is partly why its structure feels so modern and familiar. No doubt Mr Denève’s pacing was the result of long study, but it came across as instinctive and uncontrived.

dialoguesdesca-bogaard(4).pngDoris Soffel as Madame de Croissy and Sally Matthews as Blanche

The whole cast, meticulously directed by Mr Carsen, gave theatrically acute performances, without as much as an eyebrow raised gratuitously. All the shorter roles were well-sung­. Michael Colvin made a convincing Chaplain. The women of the Dutch National Opera Chorus were top-notch, joining the soloists in a refulgent Act II Ave Maria and a note-perfect closing Salve Regina. Jean-François Lapointe and Stanislas de Barbeyrac as, respectively, Blanche’s father and brother, were both forceful and vocally rock-solid. Mr De Barbeyrac’s expressive dynamics made the Chevalier’s visit to his sister in the convent stand out as one of the more memorable scenes.

Sally Matthews injected the fearful, hypersensitive Blanche with toe-curling awkwardness, accentuating her self-hatred rather than her timidity. Vocally, her middle-to-lower range sounded clotted, but her missile-like top went a long way towards conveying the panic that has the novice nun in her grip. Michelle Breedt’s Mother Marie was probably caught on a lesser night. Upward climbs were marred by skidding and her lower notes did not project freely enough for this overbearing character. Mother Marie is, after all, the one who persuades the sisters to take a vow of martyrdom, although she herself is denied that glory. It would be useless to analyze where Doris Soffel’s mezzo-soprano tends to shake and spread—her Old Prioress was simply grand, every word thrumming with meaning, her dying howls terrifying. A frail woman brimming with tenderness one moment, a vocal tornado railing against God the next, Ms Soffel’s moribund nun was the stuff of nightmares, and of great moments at the opera. No less impressive was Sabine Devieilhe as that pious equivalent of the flibbertigibbet, Sister Constance. She propelled her laser-sharp soprano with a thrust that far exceeded its size and her text clarity and physical energy were a complete joy. Making her DNO debut, Adrianne Pieczonka brought vocal beauty and dignity to the role of Madame Lidoine. Her highest notes did not always come easily, but her ariosos, wrapped in the velvet of her luxurious timbre, revealed a deeply touching, motherly Prioress.

dialoguesdesca-bogaard(6).pngMichelle Breedt as Mère Marie and Sally Matthews as Blanche

Mr Carsen’s production affects with its simplicity, which belies a wealth of detail. The way the nuns lie face down around Madame de Croissy’s death bed, for example. It is the same position nuns assume when taking their vows and here it presages their death, while drawing a parallel between Blanche’s decision to die with them and her commitment to the order. Mr Carsen finds true poetry in his subjects, in the draping of their habits and the tranquil mechanics of their daily chores. As Poulenc’s music darts in and out of their inner life, Mr Carsen confines and opens spaces with minimal demarcations, such as spotlights and candles. The biggest barriers are human: the row of nuns forming a grille between Blanche and her brother, the angry crowd sweeping across the stage leaving disorder in its wake. In the end, the safest refuge is also human, not topographical. As Madame Lidoine says in her prison speech: “No one could take away from us the freedom that we surrendered with our vows so long ago.” By choosing a common destiny, the nuns conquer their fear. Despite the savage swipes of the guillotine, their Salve Regina rises in hopeful phrases. Their final prayer is an Ascension as well as an execution and staging it as an ethereal dance is pure genius.

Jenny Camilleri


Cast and production information:

Blanche: Sally Matthews, Le Marquis de la Force: Jean-François Lapointe, Le Chevalier: Stanislas de Barbeyrac, L'Aumônier du Carmel: Michael Colvin, Geôlier: Jean-Luc Ballestra, Madame de Croissy: Doris Soffel, Madame Lidoine: Adrianne Pieczonka, Mère Marie— Michelle Breedt, Soeur Constance de Saint Denis: Sabine Devieilhe, Mère Jeanne: Virpi Räisänen, Soeur Mathilde: Wilke te Brummelstroete, Officier: Roger Smeets, 1er Commissaire: Mark Omvlee, 2ième Commissaire: Harry Teeuwen, Thierry: Michael Wilmering, M. Javelinot: Sander Heutinck, Conductor: Stéphane Denève, Director: Robert Carsen, , Set Designer: Michael Levine, Costume Designer: Falk Bauer, Lighting Designer: Jean Kalman, Choreographer: Philippe Giraudeau, Dramaturge: Ian Burton, Dutch National Opera Choir, Residentie Orkest. Seen at Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Amsterdam, Saturday, 7th November 2015.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):