Carmelites

The singers are working now with our guest, the brilliant director, David Edwards. I’m hoping that there will be a big audience for the performances, because even in the early stages of our work together, we are finding his approach to the text deeply inspired, and I think it will be one of our most successful productions. For some reason, opera lovers who aren’t familiar with Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites sometimes shy away from it, possibly because the main characters are nuns. In fact, it is especially those who love the dramatic qualities of the great operas by composers such as Verdi and Mussorgsky who will most appreciate Dialogues. Last summer when I mentioned to one of my students that we were considering this opera, she said, “Oh yah, Nuns on the Run!” One of my friends said, “Nuns, yikes!” The characters in this opera could not be farther away from our popular misconceptions. The story is based on a powerful historical event during the French Revolution: the arrest and beheading of fourteen nuns during The Reign of Terror. By avoiding theatricality, David has brought a human quality to each character, with a directness and sincerity that I find refreshing. Dialogues is certainly one of the great masterpieces of the twentieth century, and when we identify with the vulnerability of the characters, it gives us the possibility of creating a deeply felt personal experience, both for the performers and audience. I was interested to find that Oregon has a Carmelite monastery, near Eugene. Now that it’s spring, I’m thinking about driving down sometime to visit the Chapel. It looks quite peaceful there. On their website, you can read interviews with the Sisters, which are quite charming and revealing. Click here to read the interviews.

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