Very moving performance, effectively adapted to video
R. Gregory Capaldini | Arlington, VA United States | 05/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was given this DVD by someone who knows I'm a Carmelite-ophile (see my review of the Chandos CD Poulenc: The Carmelites). As is often the case, the stage production yielding this video succeeds by being visually minimalistic. Better yet, director Marthe Keller -- yes, the elegant European actress who's been working steadily for four decades now -- gives us something way better to look at than scenery: Opera singers who really act! For brevity I'll only cite two scenes, Madame Lidoine's (the New Prioress's) speeches in Acts II and III. In the earlier one, the nuns appear to listen very intently, quite in contrast to some productions where they appear to be marking time until the serene Ave Maria chorus. During the latter monologue, the nuns not only take their Mother Superior's words to heart, but also devise a simple but striking final act of defiance against their anti-clerical persecutors.
Anne Sophie Schmidt is superb as the protagonist Blanche, not surprising since her other Poulenc opera video, La Voix Humaine (on Kultur), shows her to have a deep understanding of this composer. There are several other fine performances here, but the real "It" Girl in this show is Patricia Petibon. Her interpretation of the young Sister Constance is right on the money, and the camera truly loves her. Daringly, Keller asks her and the other 14 members of the nuns' chorus to take the stage alone for the opera's brutal finale -- and to stay there! I won't reveal how they represent dying onstage, except to say that it's resourcefully foreshadowed by the Old Prioress's final facial expression in her Act I death scene. Finally, special mention for adapting Keller's stage direction for DVD goes to Don Kent, for whom www.IMDb.com asserts that this was a first major TV adaptation of an opera performance. I see that over the years he's been engaged to do several more, which comes as no surprise after seeing this impeccable video."
A great performance in very mediocre sound
Dr. J. J. Kregarman | Denver, Colorado United States | 07/27/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I read the existing reviews after viewing this DVD on a first class audio-visual system. Firstly, what we have here is a magnificent performance of the opera. All parts are well sung and well acted and, much to the point, the singers look their parts. Secondly, the staging is quite good as is the video direction. One is brought into the action. The sound, however, was a problem. On many newer DVDs I have found audio equal or better than the best CDs. The sound on this DVD was not in this league. All was recorded at a rather high level and tended to distort if played at a normal level. The singers seemed much to the front of the orchestra and, thus, some orchestral details were slighted. I wonder whether the sound was compressed. This is not, then, a DVD I would listen to without video, and even watching this DVD the sound quality reduces the impact of the whole."
This is the one to have
Archie | Ottawa ON Canada | 09/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unlike some reviewers, I have found no fault with the technical aspects of this recording. It is in stereo only, but despite this the sound is first rate.
I have written at length praising this production as distinct from the TDK production from La Scala. Here is a copy of my review of that production:
" Get the Arthaus production, September 30, 2007
By Archie (Ottawa ON Canada) - See all my reviews
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 moving opera, excellent performance
Larry A. Verdugo | Pasadena, CA USA | 10/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This production of Poulenc's inspired opera comes with few frills. The production is spare and dependent on light and the mood the singers can create. It adds up to an exceptionally moving performance, one that is very sensitive to the rarified atmosphere that makes this opera such a unique experience. The singing is uniformally good and the acting under the direction of Keller is insightful. The big moments like the death of the old prioress and the monologue of her replacement are inspired, as is the handling of that final wrenching scene. The latter is not done literally but is in keeping with the more interior mood that is sustained throughout. If you have any interest in this work, seeing this dvd is a must.