Arg. Well, this is a severely late review of Lyric's Dialogues of the Carmelites, which J and I took in two (or three) weeks ago, but it still has two shows left, so I feel compelled to represent.
This is a lovely production: minimalist, classy and blessed with moments of really stunning beauty. In one scene, when the sisters are informed of their sentence, they are dressed in all black--then slowly recede into the crowd of citizens, becoming indistinguishable in the dimming lights, only to reemerge from the crowd in brilliant white robes. Wow. And the lighting design throughout is an ever fascinating essay in shades of blue, gray, and white, thoughtfully enhancing the careful shading in the story. I shall say it again. Why the h can't City Opera pull off productions like this? This production pulls off more elegant moments, armed more or less with only nun get-ups, than NYCO had in its whole season last year.
Also, Felicity Palmer is a rockstar. Clad in a shroud, hair a scrappy blond mop, she OWNS the stage as the Old Prioress. Her death sequence is one of those rare marriages of opera and the sort of balls out acting that would be at home on the straight stage. It is shocking, at times nauseating, and completely chill inducing. Awesome.
As J noted at the time, it's a bit harder to feel too strongly about the other vocal parts of Carmelites. Bayrakdarian as Blanch-a de la Forc-a was no doubt excellent, as was Pat Racette in the Mother Superior/(New Prioress?) role. But the real beauty in Dialogues doesn't lie in the solo writing, but in Poulenc's stunning orchestral and choral effects. These are brought off tremendously by the ensemble and the Lyric band, under Andrew Davis, who masterfully structures Poulenc's patterns for dramatic impact.
Just to ensure you're getting it fair and balanced, though, some downsides: 1. the guillotine woosh sound was a bit too ambiguous for my tastes. Maybe a woosh-thud would solve this problem? J says he thinks its actually a manipulation of some percussion instrument that's written into the score, tho, so maybe I am out of luck. 2. they have the nuns doing this kind of tai-chi dance as they are singing the Salve Regina and getting axed...it gets a bit old after like 74 executions. 3. not really a downside per se, but sopranos in nun costumes are really hard to tell apart, and the plot involves some confusing shifts in the nun-archy. Read the notes BEFORE the lights go down if you're not familiar. And tell me if you understand how promotion works in the convent. I feel like one of them gets passed over for Pat Racette but I don't know who or for which post.
Long story short: Poulenc kicks ass; don't wait for the DVD.