Performed in Brussels in 1959, barely two years after its creation at la Scala and in Paris, Dialogues des Carmélites never reappeared on a La Monnaie poster again. High time to repair this oversight, because not only is this work, alongside La Voix humaine, the most famous opera by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), it ranks among the most celebrated works of the whole twentieth century.
At the peak of his maturity, Francis Poulenc succeeded with a work of remarkable density and expressiveness, reaching a degree of spirituality rarely equaled in opera. This, the French director Olivier Py knew how to capture. He found in this opera a formidable ground to probe issues that have for a long time haunted him: faith, fear and heroism, universal themes transcending the Christian/ religious context of the story Gestures, looks, attitudes, diction, everything is meticulously worked out to express the profound humanity of the characters. The austere beauty of the unique setting by Pierre-André Weitz – a black box in which the spaces are drawn by a few accessories and movements of partitions in a crepuscular light designed by Bertrand Killy – magnifies the point of view of the staging. Some scenes reach the peaks of perfection: the death scene of the first prioress crucified on her vertical bed, the farewells of Blanche and her brother, the climb to the scaffold… “It has been a very long time since we have seen such an accomplished opera production in Paris” wrote Emmanuel Dupuy in Diapason, when this co-production opened in 2013.
Dialogues des Carmélites will be the occasion of a first meeting between our musical director and conductor Alain Altinoglu and the French director – a meeting that will continue with the production of Lohengrin in April. Olivier Py is far from being an unknown at La Monnaie, as he has already created here two formidable productions, Les Huguenots in 2011 and Hamlet in 2013.
Two exceptional casts bring together some of the most beautiful French and Belgian voices: the soprano Patricia Petibon and the Belgian Anne-Catherine Gillet in the role of Blanche de la Force; the sopranos Sandrine Piau and Hendrickje Van Kerckhove as Sœur Constance de Saint-Denis; the mezzo-sopranos Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo as Madame de Croissy; the sopranos Véronique Gens and the young Marie-Adeline Henry (a La Monnaie and role debut) as Madame Lidoine; the mezzo-sopranos Sophie Koch and Karine Deshayes as Mère Marie de l’Incarnation; and, in the male roles, the French bass-baritone Nicolas Cavallier as Marquis de la Force and the young tenor Stanislas de Barbeyrac(debut in La Monnaie) as Chevalier de la Force, among others.
The young singers of our MM Academy, headed by Benoît Giaux, will accompany La Monnaie’s Symphony Orchestra and Choir, prepared by chorus master Martino Faggiani.