Night and Day: Wednesday, January 04, 2006
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Set in an era of paranoia and despotism, ‘Dialogues of the Carmelites’ has contemporary resonance.
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Signs of the Crosses and Times

By Leonard Eureka

The Fort Worth Opera explores dramatic new territory this weekend with two performances of Francis Poulenc’s searing look at faith and martyrdom, Dialogues of the Carmelites. The opera premiered at Milan’s La Scala Opera House in 1957 and within two years had appeared on 17 other opera stages. Currently in the New York City Opera repertory, Dialogues has taken almost 50 years to reach North Texas’ professional circuit. It’s about time.

The piece ranks alongside Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande as the pinnacle of 20th-century French opera, and indeed it is impossible not to be moved, even shaken, by its profound substance. Based on a true incident during the Reign of Terror, a cruel era of paranoia and despotism (sound familiar?) that gripped France after the fall of the monarchy in 1789, Dialogues recounts the plight of 16 nuns in a small Carmelite monastery who were forced by the government to renounce their faith or die.

The Old Prioress will be sung by Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Victoria Livengood, a popular Carmen in New York, and Mother Marie by mezzo-soprano Eugenie Grunewald, who sang the role with the New York City Opera last season. Sopranos Janice Hall and Sarah Tannehill, seen here in the FWO’s The Turn of the Screw a couple of seasons back, will also be heard. The conductor will be Christopher Larkin.

Dialogues will be sung in English, with English supertitles above the stage. “The text is terribly important here,” said company general director Darren Woods. “And I didn’t want our American singers concentrating on making perfect French vowel sounds instead of projecting the words’ meaning.”

Fri-Sun at Bass Performance Hall, 555 Commerce St, FW. Tickets are $19-140. Call 817-731-0833.


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