Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Poulenc - Dialogues des Carmelites|
Actors: Dagmar Schellenberger, Laura Aiken, Anja Silja, Barbara Dever, Riccardo Muti
Director: Robert Carsen
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Moving, stunningly staged and performed 'Dialogues des Carmé
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are two operas which always leave me in tears at the end: La Bohème and Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmèlites. And surely Dialogues has the most effective final coup de théâtre of any in the repertoire. I have never seen or heard a bad production of it. This DVD of the 2004 production from La Scala is no exception. It is simply magnificent. Begin with the performance by Anja Silja as the old and ailing Madame de Croissy, whose death in Act I sets the plot in motion. Silja was 64 when she sang in this production and her acting, as always, is riveting. Even the threadbare quality of her voice is apt for the dying prioress. She is surrounded by singers who are also marvelous. Although I'd only ever heard of one of them -- Dagmar Schellenberger making her acclaimed La Scala début as Blanche de la Force; vocally she is superb, dramatically she makes the growth of her character believable -- there is not a weak member of the cast. American soprano Gwynne Geyer makes a strong and touching Madame Lidoine, the new prioress. American contralto Barbara Dever is an equally effective Mère Marie. Soeur Constance, the young novice who enters the convent at the same time as Soeur Blanche, is sung by American coloratura Laura Aikin. She does not have quite the chatty insouciance the part requires but her singing, particularly in Acts II and III, is spot on. Blanche's brother, the Chevalier de la Force, is sung effectively by tenor Gordon Gietz, as is Blanche's father by bass Christopher Robertson. Mario Bolognesi as the Father Confessor is fine. He's not only the only tenor in the cast, but also the only Italian singer in an important role, surely an oddity at La Scala.
This production of Dialogues originated at the Netherlands Opera, staged by the brilliant minimalist director Robert Carsen. Onstage action is often hieratic, quite appropriately so, and is particularly effective in the final scene -- where the nuns go one after the other to their death by guillotine -- which is staged differently than I've ever seen it. I won't ruin it by saying more than that; you must see it for yourself. Stage design is minimalist, with only monochromatic backdrops, spare furniture and props downstage, and Wieland Wagner-like lighting, stunningly effective. Costumes by Falk Bauer are primarily in black and white except for the splashes of color in the clothes of the Marquis and the Chevalier. The mob is entirely in black, the nuns in typical black-and-white until the very end.
In this production Riccardo Muti's musical direction reminds us what a superb musician he is. One could not have asked for better playing from the La Scala orchestra, nor for better musical support of the singers.
All in all, this is an extraordinarily effective production and, true to form, I was dissolved in tears at the end. Once again I aver that 'Dialogues des Carmélites' is one of the greatest of twentieth-century operas and this production helps to cement that opinion.
Sound: DD 5.1, LPCM Stereo; Picture format: 16:9 NTSC; Subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish; Liner notes in English, German, French; Region 0 (worldwide); Disc Format: DVD 9; Total time: 149mins.
Get the Arthaus production
Archie | Ottawa ON Canada | 09/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I usually tend to agree with Scott Morrison's reviews. However, this time I only partially agree with him. Yes, "Dialogues of the Carmelites is one of the greatest Twentieth Century operas. Yes the minimalist set is stunningly effective, as is the lighting and the choreography of the nuns. And yes, it is a very good production on stage; although I do hate it when there is a scene change and suddenly from the relatively dim lighting on stage one gets a bright full shot of the orchestra and then a close-up on Mr. Muti. This is jarring and grossly interferes with the atmosphere and momentum of the piece.
But Dr. Morrison must not have seen the other DVD of "Dialogues" by Opera national du Rhin (1999) on Arthaus. I suspect that were he to have done so, he would have held back the superlatives on the Scala production because there would be nothing left to use to praise the other, which in my opinion is so much better. I do not want to detract too much from this production, because it is very good and one should experience it. But if you are to have only one, I would strongly recommend that you get the Arthaus production.
Dr. Morrison has written at length about the TDK production, so I will briefly make a few points about the Arthaus one. The set and the costumes are equally minimalist, stark and extremely effective. The final scene which Dr. Morrison has praised is done better here, (and was done first); and the lead up to it in the prior scenes is much more emotionally telling. This feels like a much more intimate production with the singers and the orchestra very well balanced. The singing and acting are wonderful. There is a much better flow and momentum to the piece, and this is greatly enhanced by the camera work. Normally I do not particularly like too many close-ups (and have been severely critical of Don Kent for his editing of Lucie de Lammermoor on TDK), but here it feels right and appropriate, and it greatly enhances the psychological and moral issues which are so central to this opera.
In my opinion, the Opera national du Rhin production, directed by Marthe Keller and conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig is the one to have and to experience again and again.
[I have not seen the Kultur production, because reading the reviews it appears that they have yet again come up with a sub standard recording (no subtitles, no liner notes) of what probably was a good production. As I have written in reviews of very disappointing Kultur recordings where they sabotage a good production with a bare minimum (if even that) DVD, it would be a blessing if they would go bankrupt.]"
A great musical and theatrical treat
A. Lupu | Rochester, MN USA | 12/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After the last guillotine comes down, there is silence... What else can be said, sung or shown? The last scene is a work of art by itself.
The music and the human emotions go hand in hand in this opera. Poulenc did an incredible job of portraying real human emotions and devotion into words and music. A 20th century opera that doesn't sound or look like one.
The music flows easy, the words fit the music (a la Debussy) and the emotions and psychology of the characters are there for everyone to see and hear.
I strongly recommended it in particular to those who are looking to add somehting different to the repertoire of traditional operas.