San Francisco Opera Presents DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES This Month

Performances are October 15–30.

By: Oct. 05, 2022

San Francisco Opera Presents DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES This Month

San Francisco Opera's Centennial Season continues with Francis Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelties (Dialogues des Carmélites) at the War Memorial Opera House, October 15-30. Caroline H. Hume Music Director Eun Sun Kim conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus and soloists in this powerful, 20th-century masterwork in the acclaimed production by French director Olivier Py.

Based on the true story of an order of Carmelite nuns who faced execution by guillotine during the French Revolution, the opera is a testament to the bonds that hold people together amid social instability and political violence. Poulenc's vibrant score includes one of the most musically ingenious final scenes devised for the Lyric Stage, a shattering, sublime and unforgettable denouement.

Dialogues of the Carmelites, with a libretto by the composer adapted from a screenplay by Georges Bernanos and older sources, had its world premiere at Milan's Teatro alla Scala in 1957. It quickly emerged as a modern operatic masterpiece with premieres in Paris, London and, in its first performances outside of Europe, San Francisco. It's return to the stage of the War Memorial Opera House during San Francisco Opera's 100th season is a celebration of the Company's historic commitment to revitalizing the repertory with new works.

Just as the Company's premiere of Dialogues of the Carmelites presented beloved artists in new roles and introduced new performers to its stage, the 2022 presentation offers many significant role and Company debuts. Heidi Stober's "energy and fluid vocal grace" (San Francisco Chronicle) have illuminated the War Memorial Opera House stage 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.

Scheduled to join San Francisco Opera for Verdi's Ernani in 2020, soprano Michelle Bradley's much anticipated Company debut was delayed by the pandemic. The fast-rising soprano, acclaimed for her portrayals of Verdi heroines Aida and Leonora (the latter role in both Il Trovatore and La Forza del Destino), bows for the first time as Madame Lidoine. In her house and role debuts, 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, assumes the role of Mother Marie.

Soprano Deanna Breiwick makes her San Francisco Opera debut as Sister Constance. Following his acclaimed 2021 debut as Ferrando in Mozart's Così fan tutte, tenor Ben Bliss returns as the Chevalier de la Force. Bass-baritone Dale Travis is Blanche's and the Chevalier's father, the Marquis de la Force. Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook is Mother Jeanne.

The staging by Olivier Py, a co-production between companies in Paris and Brussels, is mounted for San Francisco Opera by stage 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 Company's first presentation of Poulenc's opera in four decades. Chorus Director John Keene prepares the artists of the Opera Chorus.

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 cast for the 1963 revival included Regina Resnik as Madame de Croissy and Reri Grist as Sister Constance with Lee Venora as Blanche. John Dexter's famous production was presented in 1982 under the baton of Henry Lewis. The outstanding cast on that occasion featured Carol Vaness as Blanche with three renowned interpreters of the other lead roles: Price reprising the role of Lidoine; Virginia Zeani, the original Blanche, as Mother Marie and the great French diva Régine Crespin as the Mother Superior. Each of San Francisco Opera's previous presentations of Dialogues of the Carmelites utilized 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 of the Carmelites are scheduled for October 15 (7:30 p.m.), 18 (7:30 p.m.); 21 (7:30 p.m.), 26 (7:30 p.m.), 30 (2 p.m.), 2022.