More play than opera, the Dialogues des Carmélites is as stark and serious a production as the very nature of the Carmelites. This story of the cloistered nuns of Carmel touches upon many topics pertinent even today. One is perhaps even reluctant to acknowledge how timely it is, in fact. Themes of fear and oppression run through all facets of this libretto.
Fleeing a war torn land, Blanche de la Force (Marianne Fiset, Soprano) seeks refuge in a convent in the hopes of escaping her fears and finding a place where she belongs. There she is confronted by the prioress Madame de Croissy (Mia Lennox, Mezzo-Soprano) who warns her that the convent is not a place of hiding, but a place to face your weaknesses. Undaunted, Blanche makes her case and is permitted to join the order.
But there is no escape from the politics at play. The revolution has brought with it a secularization of state and an increasing call to dismantle the religious structures. When de Croissy falls terminally ill, she entrusts Blanche’s further education to Mère Marie (Aidan Ferguson, Mezzo-Soprano), who looks after Blanche till the very end.
And what an end it is! To bring modern vernacular to a classic medium, spoiler alert! Regardless of your feelings throughout this production, in regards to performances, interpretations, costumes, lighting, etc., the setting of the final scene will leave you standing for that ovation.
Many other strong voices join in this cast of characters, Marie-Josée Lord (Soprano) commands the stage as Madame Lisdoine and Magali Simard-Galdès holds her own alongside the rest of these strong women.
I found the orchestra to be in particularly fine form at this premiere showing, the grand compositions even over-shadowed the cast at times. Though I hold the sound engineer partially responsible for that.
The lighting certainly played a strong supporting role, and fulfilled the dramatic effect that costuming could not quite achieve alone. Not much flexibility in the religious habit of a nun!
All in all, the Dialogue des Carmélites is an interesting departure for the OdM and a piece that will leave a lasting impression.
Photos by Yves Renaud