First Look at San Francisco Opera’s DIALOGUES DES CARMES
San Francisco Opera released production photos of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites at the War Memorial Opera House, October 15-30. Caroline H. Hume’s musical director, Eun Sun Kim, conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, chorus and soloists in this mighty 20th century masterpiece in French director Olivier Py’s acclaimed production .
Check out the photos below!
Based on the true story of an order of Carmelite nuns who were executed by the guillotine during the French Revolution, the opera bears witness to the bonds that bind people together in the midst of social instability and political violence. Poulenc’s vibrant score includes one of the most musically ingenious final scenes devised for the operatic stage, a heartbreaking, sublime and unforgettable denouement.
Dialogues des Carmélites, with a libretto by the composer adapted from a screenplay by Georges Bernanos and from older sources, had its world premiere at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 1957. It quickly established itself as a masterpiece of modern opera with premieres in Paris, London and, in its first performances outside Europe, San Francisco. Its return to the stage of the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco Opera’s 100th season is a celebration of the Company’s historic commitment to revitalizing the repertoire with new works.
Just as the Compagnie des Dialogues des Carmélites premiere introduced beloved artists in new roles and introduced new performers to its stage, the 2022 presentation offers many important roles and debuts for the Company. “The energy and fluid vocal grace” of Heidi Stober (San Francisco Chronicle) has lit up the stage at the War Memorial Opera House in many roles since her 2010 debut as Sophie in Massenet’s Werther. For the first time in her career, the American soprano takes on the role of Blanche de la Force, Poulenc’s fearful heroine who must discover her strength as the guillotine looms.
Slated to join the San Francisco Opera for Verdi’s Ernani in 2020, soprano Michelle Bradley’s highly anticipated company debut has been delayed by the pandemic. The rising soprano, acclaimed for her portrayals of Verdian heroines Aida and Leonora (the latter role in Il Trovatore and La Forza del Destino), bows for the first time as Madame Lidoine. In her house and her beginnings, Michaela Schuster is the Mother Superior, Madame de Croissy. Melody Moore, whose roles with the Company since 2006 span works by Mozart, Puccini and Christopher Theofanidis, takes on the role of Mother Mary.
Soprano Deanna Breiwick makes her San Francisco Opera debut as Sister Constance. After his acclaimed 2021 debut as Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, tenor Ben Bliss returns as Knight of the Force. Bass-baritone Dale Travis is the father of Blanche and the Chevalier, the Marquis de la Force. The mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook is Mother Jeanne.
Olivier Py’s staging, a co-production between Paris and Brussels companies, was staged for the San Francisco Opera by director Daniel Izzo with sets and costumes by production designer Pierre-André Weitz and lighting designed by Bertrand Killy, all in Company debuts. San Francisco Opera Music Director Eun Sun Kim leads the company’s musical forces in the first performance of Poulenc’s opera in four decades. Chorus director John Keene prepares the artists of the Opera Chorus.
The San Francisco Opera presented the American premiere of Dialogues of the Carmelites on September 20, 1957, with Erich Leinsdorf conducting Dorothy Kirsten as Blanche, Claramae Turner as the Old Prioress, Blanche Thebom as Mother Marie and, in her American opera debut, Leontyne Price as Lidoine. The 1963 revival cast included Regina Resnik as Madame de Croissy and Reri Grist as Sister Constance with Lee Venora as Blanche. John Dexter’s famous production premiered in 1982 under the direction of Henry Lewis. The exceptional cast on this occasion included Carol Vaness as Blanche with three renowned interpreters of the other main roles: Price reprising the role of Lidoine; Virginia Zeani, the original White, as Mother Marie and the great French diva Régine Crespin as Mother Superior. Each of San Francisco Opera’s previous presentations of Dialogues of the Carmelites used an English translation of the libretto. The Company’s 2022 performances are the first to be sung in French using Poulenc’s original text.
The five performances of Dialogues des Carmélites are scheduled for October 15 (7:30 p.m.), October 18 (7:30 p.m.); 21 (7:30 p.m.), 26 (7:30 p.m.), 30 (2 p.m.), 2022.