The Metropolitan Opera introduced a star-studded solid of feminine voices of their revival of the now-classic John Dexter manufacturing of Dialogue des Carmélites on January 15.
Dexter’s staging, now nearing its fiftieth 12 months in manufacturing, has barely aged; its visuals stay spare and hanging: powerfully minimal versus underdrawn and under-furnished. The long-lasting opening picture of the nuns mendacity prostrate inside a cross of sunshine nonetheless elicits the odd gasp, right here and there.
Below the unwaveringly chilly lighting, the stage is commonly divided by screens or jail bars: partitions which meaningfully divide whereas additionally retaining visibility, each visually clear however functionally opaque. Once they divide Blanche and her brother, they appear to signify his restricted—however not completely false—notion of her. They might see one another, however they can’t attain one another. I additionally learn them as capturing one thing of the invisible however insurmountable hole between human understanding and divine thriller, between which religion is the only real, however imperfect, bridge. As these units flew in immediately, I started to see them as suggestive of the guillotines which might be heard offstage (however by no means seen) within the remaining scene of the opera, a testomony to the continued interpretive prospects of a well-conceived manufacturing and of a posh and highly effective operatic textual content.
Carmélites is beloved not just for its music, which is by turns naturalistic, mystical, and dramatic, but in addition for its deep philosophical and non secular exploration of the character of worry and of devotion. I can’t consider one other opera in the usual repertoire that presents such nuanced and particular person portraits of 5 main feminine characters, not to mention makes use of them to suppose via large questions on religion: the human motivations that ship us working in the direction of and away from it, its objective and energy in an more and more secular world, and the aim of martyrdom as religion’s final expression.
Poulenc is admiring however clear-eyed in his investigation whereas making certain that his characters retaining individuality and humanity as an alternative of lapsing in allegory. Characters doubt in distinct methods, every true to her personal persona. It’s a real ensemble piece, in different phrases, and this solid was very effectively suited to at least one one other in addition to to the music. Every singer was each vocally and dramatically distinct, heightening the realism of Poulenc’s characterizations and dealing collectively to make these martyrs really feel human and fallible, even of their bravery.
Because the central Blanche de la Pressure, Ailyn Pérez was vocally succesful, however dramatically uneven. On this efficiency, Blanche’s timidity felt extra paranoid and jumpier, her reactions outsized and considerably delayed. There have been some peals of laughter when she dropped the Christ-child figurine, the meant foreboding derailed into slapstick. Although vocally sturdy within the first act, particularly within the scenes with Madame de Croissy and her temporary duet with Constance, by the second half she oscillated between an almost inaudible whisper pianissimo or a near-shout.
She did, nonetheless, seize effectively Blanche’s simultaneous need to flee and craft an id away from her father and brother (and the horrifying world that she misunderstands and misunderstands her) and for an abdication of that exact same self-determination via the obedience required by the Carmelites. It’s the nice irony of Blanche’s psychological journey (and testomony to the complexity of Poulenc’s libretto) that her remaining second of self-determination can also be self-annihilation. Blanche’s ending, when she joins her sisters in martyrdom, is undoubtedly heroic and courageous—and was appropriately performed as such— however it’s additionally sophisticated by the previous scene between the sacristan and Mére Marie, who’s devastated when reminded that chasing martyrdom is a subversion of God’s will.
Surrounding Blanche are a group of ladies who battle in several however equally highly effective methods with disentangling the threads of their very own wishes and fears with the desire of God as they react and interpret the world round them.
Mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, as Mom Superior Madame de Croissy, thrummed with a darkish depth from the second she got here on stage. Her face and physique contorted, wracked with discomfort that rose to agony, this was an totally vanity-free performing showcase for Coote, matched by an intense and riveting vocal efficiency that was unafraid to dig into the nastier aspect of de Croissy. I discovered her intensely shifting in her anger and ache.
Sabine Devieihle, making her Met debut, was luminous as Constance, resident convent chatterbox and Blanche’s fixed foil. Her voice has a pure, candy high quality that disguises a wealth of energy and presence and which made the flighty younger nun extra grounded and much more likable than traditional. As she looked for Blanche whereas ascending the scaffold, Devieihle’s Constance appeared to shrink into herself, glancing round in what constitutes her personal take a look at of religion, earlier than increasing in a burst of pleasure as Blanch runs in.
One other vocal standout in a night of general very sturdy singing, was Christine Goerke as Madame Lidoine, Mom Superior after Madame de Croissy. This efficiency was a convincing argument for giving Goerke barely lighter repertoire than the Met has given her just lately; free of the chains of one thing like Turandot, which she sings with immense energy however not at all times with magnificence, the soprano was in a position to launch a luxurious and beneficiant stream of sound that flowed with unhurried energy, extra a waterfall than a muscle automotive. She additionally regarded radiantly stunning, exuding calm and heat together with her eyes glowing from beneath her behavior.
Jamie Barton turned in a finely-drawn and affective efficiency as Mére Marie, whom she leant a stentorian energy and zealous hearth, lower with a touch of instability and worry. Her fervent and considerably disturbing need for martyrdom, her barely hid jealousy of Madame Lidoine after being handed over for the position of Mom Superior, together with the stress between her vow of obedience in watching over Blanche and her reluctance to cope with the youthful girl’s suits of nerves, all mixed with Barton’s expansive and steely voice made Marie an enchanting character certainly. Her shifting scene with the priest revealed a shocking mixture of affection, devotion, and envy.
There are just a few males within the opera as effectively, with newcomer Piotr Buszewski and veteran Laurent Naouri because the Chevalier and Marquis de la Pressure, respectively. Each had been hemmed in by the talkiness of their opening scene, which doesn’t permit for a lot lyrical singing, however Naouri wrenched as a lot expression as he might along with his flinty baritone. Buszewski shone brighter in his scene with Blanche on the convent, lastly in a position to decelerate and reveal a pliant and strong tenor.
On the podium, de Billy was at his most incisive when steering the fast-paced moments, which hummed with lifelike dramatic pressure. At occasions, nonetheless, these scenes flew by too shortly for there to be a lot magnificence from the singers, who needed to handle large mouthfuls of textual content. Poulenc’s rating, which could be each dense and uncovered without delay, introduced some quantity challenges all through, with de Billy generally unable to make his singers heard over the orchestra. Within the remaining scene, de Billy held onto the reins extra firmly, letting Poulenc’s highly effective conceit communicate for itself as every nun’s “Salve Regina” is silenced with the guillotine, one after the other.