BWW Review: DIALOGUES DES CARMELITES at Sarasota Opera House
Francis Poulenc's opera, Dialogues des Carmélites, is a blistering portraying of the martyrdom of several Carmelite nuns living in Paris who were guillotined for not renouncing their faith during the French Revolution. Although the opera is a fictionalized account of an actual event, the depth by with it was written and the intimate scenes in which we are invited to partake, make this horrific story a very personal experience.
At the center of this three act drama is a young and overwrought with fear, Blanche de la Force, (Sandra Lopez). Blanche decides to leave home where she resides with her father, Marquis de la Force, (Young Bok Kim), and her brother Chevalier de la Force, (Sean Christensen), and enters the Carmelite monastery of nuns hoping it will be a safe retreat from the madness of her present world. Her introduction into the Order is a stern assertion from the Mother Superior, (Lisa Chavez), declaring it is the nuns who protect the Order and not the other way around.
Within the monastery Blanche encounters sisters from various walks of life whose tolerance, temperament and opinions add color to the drab overshadowing of war. A ray of light, who may be a bit too exuberant, is young Sister Constance, (Claire Coolen), whose idealistic view of the world is far from reality. Blanche witnesses the death of the elder Prioress that, to Blanche's bewilderment, declares God has forsaken her. Before she passes, she leaves Blanche in the charge of Mother Marie, (Olivia Vote). When the new Prioress, Madame Lidoine, (Michelle Johnson), takes over, she reminds the Order of their commitment to stay focused on prayer, even to the point of martyrdom.
Before leaving the country, Blanche's brother visits with her to try and convince his sister to leave the Order, but she refuses. Soon authorities arrive telling the nuns they have to leave the convent. At one point Blanche is entrusted with a statue of Jesus to give to Madame Lidoine as encouragement before her trip to Paris. Hearing an angry mob outside the convent, and overcome with fear, Blanche drops the statue with a crack that jolts the audience. Not knowing what the future holds, as the nuns prepare to leave the convent, they put off their habits and take a vow of martyrdom.