[Met Performance] CID:248220

Metropolitan Opera Premiere, New Production

Dialogues des Carmélites
Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, February 5, 1977 Matinee Broadcast

Debut : Michel Plasson

In English

Dialogues des Carmélites (1)
Francis Poulenc | Georges Bernanos
Blanche de la Force
Maria Ewing

Madame de Croissy
Régine Crespin

Madame Lidoine
Shirley Verrett

Mother Marie
Mignon Dunn

Sister Constance
Betsy Norden

Mother Jeanne
Jean Kraft

Sister Mathilde
Batyah Godfrey Ben-David

Marquis de la Force
William Dooley

Chevalier de la Force
Raymond Gibbs

Jon Garrison

Nico Castel

Gene Boucher

First Commissioner
Charles Anthony

Second Commissioner
Russell Christopher

Richard Best

Michel Plasson [Debut]

John Dexter

Set Designer
David Reppa

Costume Designer
Jane Greenwood

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Francis Poulenc

Francis Poulenc

Translation by Joseph Machlis
Dialogues des Carmélites received seven performances this season.

Production a gift of Francis Goelet

Review 1:

Review by Byron Belt in the Long Island Press


The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Francis Poulenc's magnificent "Dialogues of the Carmelites" has brought nobility, grandeur and searing musical drama to the house in the most impressive mounting of a major work in several seasons.

The Bernanos-Poulenc drama of the physical and spiritual anguish of a convent of Carmelite nuns during the worst excesses of the French Revolution has inspired John Dexter to his finest local achievement, and the simple, stunning designs of David Reppa and the superb lightning of Gil Wechsler, assisted by Jane Greenwood's appropriate costumes all contribute to a towering triumph.

The Joseph Machlis English version is being sung here and, while imperfectly declaimed by the brilliant cast, its poetry adds potency to the impact of a drama of words and ideas that finally explodes into the most devastatingly moving conclusion in all of opera.

Musically, "Dialogues" was dominated by Regine Crespin's inspired performance of the Prioress, by Betsy Norden's angelic Sister Constance and by outstanding performances both musically and dramatically by Shirley Verrett, Maria Ewing, William Dooley, Raymond Gibbs and Jean Kraft, as well as deft cameos by Nico Castel, Jon Garrison and Richard Best.

In so superlative an ensemble achievement, it is almost unfair to single out individuals, but Mme. Crespin's overpowering death scene alone provided one of the memorable moments in years of opera-going. Her stature as an artist has never been more vividly in evidence and she properly received the audience's major acclaim.

After years as the cute little silly girl, Betsy Norden has finally found her ideal role, and she made her innocent believer of a Constance a warm, winning and delightful character.

Technically Blanche - the noblewoman torn by fear and doubts who finds hope, and ultimately the courage to die with dignity - is the major role, and she was performed expertly and sung well by Maria Ewing. Somehow the doe-like sweetness of the role turned bland in Miss Ewing's inexperienced but promising hands, and Blanche failed to touch the heart as artists as different as Denise Duval and Mary Beth Piel have managed to do.

Shirley Verrett's New Prioress was sumptuously sung at the end, but a bit neutral in effect elsewhere. Mignon Dunn's voice is simply too strident on top to be really satisfying, but her arrogant Mother Marie was affecting.

Matching the total concept and melding the whole into a marvelous musical panoply was young French conductor Michael Plasson, making a striking debut with the Met. At every turn this week, reports of the orchestra's unhappiness with their guest have been tossed about, but the playing was on the highest level in several seasons, and Poulenc's transparent, subtly beautiful score shimmered and soared.

"Dialogues of the Carmelites" may not be for everyone - there were plenty of sleepers around us - but for music drama of heart-rending expressivity, it represents French opera and the Met at their grandest.

Production photos of Dialogues des Carmélites by James Heffernan/Metropolitan Opera.

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