Sat | Jul 20, 2019

A riveting story of faith and martyrdom

Published:Wednesday | May 15, 2019 | 12:18 AM
A scene from Act III of Poulenc’s ‘Dialogues des Carmélites’. contributed

The opera takes place between 1789 and 1794 in Paris in the town of Compiègne in northeastern France, the site of the Carmelite nuns’ convent. Its historical basis is the martyrdom of a group of 16 Carmélite nuns and lay sisters from Compiègne, who chose to offer themselves as victims for the restoration of peace to France during the Revolution.

One of the most successful operas of the later decades of the 20th century, Dialogues des Carmélites is a rare case of a modern work that is equally esteemed by audiences and experts. The opera focuses on a young member of an order of Carmélite nuns, the aristocratic Blanche de la Force, who must overcome a pathological timidity in order to answer her life’s calling. The score reflects key aspects of its composer’s personality: Francis Poulenc was an urbane Parisian with a profound mystical dimension, and the opera addresses both the characters’ internal lives and their external realities.

Met music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts John Dexter’s moving production of Poulenc’s story of faith and martyrdom, which stars Isabel Leonard as Blanche, Adrianne Pieczonka as Madame Lidoine, KaritaMattila as the Old Prioress, and Karen Cargill as Mother Marie.