GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Opera and Vocal => Topic started by: AlberichUndHagen on December 03, 2019, 06:59:10 AM

Title: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: AlberichUndHagen on December 03, 2019, 06:59:10 AM
Didn't find a thread of this charming French opera anywhere. What do you think of it?
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: relm1 on December 03, 2019, 07:04:23 AM
It's a very good opera.  Not sure I would call it "charming", but poignant, harrowing, and gripping.
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: AlberichUndHagen on December 03, 2019, 07:08:26 AM
It's a very good opera.  Not sure I would call it "charming", but poignant, harrowing, and gripping.

I predicted that comment and you're kind of right. It's just that I find French language in general charming, no matter what the subject matter or how one sings it.
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: Mandryka on December 03, 2019, 07:45:15 AM
Didn't find a thread of this charming French opera anywhere. What do you think of it?

The end, when they get hung, is very memorable. I’ve only ever seen it once, and that was in English I’m afraid..
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: ritter on December 03, 2019, 07:46:35 AM
The end, when they get hung, is very memorable. I’ve only ever seen it once, and that was in English I’m afraid.
Rather than getting hung, they get their heads chopped off... ;)
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: pjme on December 03, 2019, 08:15:15 AM
... while singing a Salve regina...

(https://cds.radio1.be/sites/default/files/styles/1200x600/public/remote_files/576cb32f05aae_louisette.jpg?itok=AnEJqsVq)
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: Cato on December 03, 2019, 08:24:07 AM
More than 30 years ago already!

https://www.youtube.com/v/QbRpYJsqhpE
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: Mandryka on December 03, 2019, 08:54:30 AM
... while singing a Salve regina...

(https://cds.radio1.be/sites/default/files/styles/1200x600/public/remote_files/576cb32f05aae_louisette.jpg?itok=AnEJqsVq)

I wonder if the decapitated head caries on singing. Cato - there’s an idea for your first opera!
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: Wanderer on December 03, 2019, 08:57:53 AM
I wonder if the decapitated head caries on singing.

You are clearly not familiar with the work.
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: Mandryka on December 03, 2019, 09:52:02 AM
You are clearly not familiar with the work.

Ah well, it's been many years! I was sure they get hung -- maybe I just have an image of a scaffold on the set and jumped to a conclusion.
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: Cato on December 03, 2019, 10:27:49 AM
Ah well, it's been many years! I was sure they get hung -- maybe I just have an image of a scaffold on the set and jumped to a conclusion.

I have not seen the score, but in the production above by the Metropolitan Opera with Jessye Norman the sound of the guillotine becomes part of the percussion section: it does not seem to sound at random, but at specific moments, as if notated.  Again, I have not seen the score.
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: pjme on December 03, 2019, 10:44:12 AM
From the ROH:

The finale of Francis Poulenc’s only full-length opera, Dialogues des Carmélites, is tremendously powerful – whether you share Poulenc’s devoted Catholic faith or not. His original inspiration (interpreted through several versions by different authors) was the execution of 16 Carmelite nuns and lay sisters from the Compiègne convent. Their beheading, on 17 July 1794, was one of the last and most brutal events of the 'Reign of Terror', and is popularly regarded as a crucial moment in turning public opinion against the Terror's ringleader Maximilien de Robespierre.

Poulenc uses every tool at his disposal to make the nuns’ march to the guillotine viscerally terrifying. Both in the preceding orchestral interlude (one of the many in this reflective opera) and the finale itself Poulenc makes rare use of the full force of his huge orchestra. Beneath it all marches a relentless ostinato in the lower strings, an inescapable and unstoppable pulsing minor 3rd. Over this the nuns sing the ‘Salve Regina’ prayer in a simple, chant-like rhythm, recalling the opera's other prayers and in contrast to the speech-led rhythms that dominate otherwise.

The nuns sing steadily, matching the tread of the ostinato. But Poulenc creates a hideous sense of anguish, hiking up the pitch with each iteration of the couplets of the prayer, and introducing a sharp increase in volume after the first execution. For worst of all is the unpredictable swish-rattle-thud of the guillotine (an actual replica at the La Scala premiere in 1957, but now most often a sound effect), marked by Poulenc as ‘sourd et lourd’ (dull and heavy). It falls at irregular intervals in terrifying contrast to the steadiness of the nuns’ prayer, snatching away individual singers mid-word in Poulenc’s carefully stipulated score, heightening the aural and visual impact of this nightmarish addition to the orchestra. The remaining four nuns move more quickly through the second verse, aware of their declining numbers, and eventually only one, Constance, the youngest, is left to finish the final line: ‘O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria’ – o clement, loving, sweet Virgin Mary.
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: Mandryka on December 03, 2019, 10:47:26 AM
I have not seen the score, but in the production above by the Metropolitan Opera with Jessye Norman the sound of the guillotine becomes part of the percussion section: it does not seem to sound at random, but at specific moments, as if notated.  Again, I have not seen the score.

Oh yes, vague memory of that! Anyway it’s a good opera, very good. I’m sure I had a DVD of it too, can’t remember the details.

If I remember right (which I wouldn’t bet on!) there’s quite a lot of moral argument in the dialogues, it’s a philosophical opera.
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: Tsaraslondon on December 03, 2019, 03:49:12 PM
A wonderful piece. The ENO did a superb production in 1999, which I saw at the revival in 2005, with Felicity Palmer outstanding as the Old Prioress. It was incredibly moving. I also have its premiere recording, with most of the original cast, which, though in mono, takes a lot of beating.

Charming is not the word that springs to mind when I think of it.
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: Mirror Image on December 03, 2019, 05:35:51 PM
This is one opera I’ve always had trouble with from a musical standpoint. I don’t find it terribly interesting. I mean considering what Debussy and Ravel achieved within French opera, listening to this one from Poulenc is a chore. I suppose it’s the subject matter, too, which doesn’t do much for me.
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: relm1 on December 03, 2019, 06:18:08 PM
I predicted that comment and you're kind of right. It's just that I find French language in general charming, no matter what the subject matter or how one sings it.

I knew you would say that, but you are incorrect.  It doesn't really matter what you think of the french language if the topic of the story is pacifistic nuns being butchered for a cause.   
Title: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites
Post by: San Antone on December 03, 2019, 06:30:20 PM
This the recording I have of this opera

(https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/71GFSKM8YML._SS500_.jpg)

Poulenc : Dialogues des Carmélites
Jean-Pierre Marty



I've never felt a need to purchase any others.