[Met Performance] CID:248220
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Dialogues des Carmélites {1} Matinee Broadcast ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 02/5/1977., Broadcast
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)
(Debut: Michel Plasson


Metropolitan Opera House
February 5, 1977 Matinee Broadcast
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the production funds
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
In English


Blanche de la Force.....Maria Ewing
Madame de Croissy.......Régine Crespin
Madame Lidoine..........Shirley Verrett
Mother Marie............Mignon Dunn
Sister Constance........Betsy Norden
Mother Jeanne...........Jean Kraft
Sister Mathilde.........Batyah Godfrey Ben-David
Marquis de la Force.....William Dooley
Chevalier de la Force...Raymond Gibbs
Chaplain................Jon Garrison
Thierry.................Nico Castel
Javelinot...............Gene Boucher
First Commissioner......Charles Anthony
Second Commissioner.....Russell Christopher
Jailer..................Richard Best

Conductor...............Michel Plasson [Debut]

Production..............John Dexter
Set designer............David Reppa
Costume designer........Jane Greenwood
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler
Translation by Joseph Machlis

Dialogues des Carmélites received seven performances this season.

Production a gift of Francis Goelet

[Alternate title: Dialogues of the Carmelites.]

Review by Byron Belt in the Long Island Press


The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Francis Poulenc's magnificent "Dialogues of the Carmelites" has brought nobility, grandeur and searing musical drama to the house in the most impressive mounting of a major work in several seasons.

The Bernanos-Poulenc drama of the physical and spiritual anguish of a convent of Carmelite nuns during the worst excesses of the French Revolution has inspired John Dexter to his finest local achievement, and the simple, stunning designs of David Reppa and the superb lightning of Gil Wechsler, assisted by Jane Greenwood's appropriate costumes all contribute to a towering triumph.

The Joseph Machlis English version is being sung here and, while imperfectly declaimed by the brilliant cast, its poetry adds potency to the impact of a drama of words and ideas that finally explodes into the most devastatingly moving conclusion in all of opera.

Musically, "Dialogues" was dominated by Regine Crespin's inspired performance of the Prioress, by Betsy Norden's angelic Sister Constance and by outstanding performances both musically and dramatically by Shirley Verrett, Maria Ewing, William Dooley, Raymond Gibbs and Jean Kraft, as well as deft cameos by Nico Castel, Jon Garrison and Richard Best.

In so superlative an ensemble achievement, it is almost unfair to single out individuals, but Mme. Crespin's overpowering death scene alone provided one of the memorable moments in years of opera-going. Her stature as an artist has never been more vividly in evidence and she properly received the audience's major acclaim.

After years as the cute little silly girl, Betsy Norden has finally found her ideal role, and she made her innocent believer of a Constance a warm, winning and delightful character.

Technically Blanche - the noblewoman torn by fear and doubts who finds hope, and ultimately the courage to die with dignity - is the major role, and she was performed expertly and sung well by Maria Ewing. Somehow the doe-like sweetness of the role turned bland in Miss Ewing's inexperienced but promising hands, and Blanche failed to touch the heart as artists as different as Denise Duval and Mary Beth Peil have managed to do.

Shirley Verrett's New Prioress was sumptuously sung at the end, but a bit neutral in effect elsewhere. Mignon Dunn's voice is simply too strident on top to be really satisfying, but her arrogant Mother Marie was affecting.

Matching the total concept and melding the whole into a marvelous musical panoply was young French conductor Michel Plasson, making a striking debut with the Met. At every turn this week, reports of the orchestra's unhappiness with their guest have been tossed about, but the playing was on the highest level in several seasons, and Poulenc's transparent, subtly beautiful score shimmered and soared.

"Dialogues of the Carmelites" may not be for everyone - there were plenty of sleepers around us - but for music drama of heart-rending expressivity, it represents French opera and the Met at their grandest.

Production photos of Dialogues des Carmélites by James Heffernan/Metropolitan Opera.

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