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Dialogues des CarmelitesNew production

This listing is in the past
OpernhausSechseläutenplatz 1, Zurich, Zürich, 8008, Switzerland
Dates/times in Zurich time zone
Zurich Opera
Tito CeccheriniConductor
Jetske MijnssenDirector
Ben BaurSet Designer
Gideon DaveyCostume Designer
Franck EvinLighting Designer
Philharmonia Zürich
Zurich Opera Chorus
Kathrin BrunnerDramaturgy
Olga KulchynskaSopranoBlanche de la Force
Evelyn HerlitziusSopranoMadame de Croissy, the prioress
Inga KalnaSopranoMadame Lidoine, the new prioress
Sandra HamaouiSopranoSister Constance
Nicolas CavallierBassMarquis de la Force
Thomas ErlankTenorChevalier de la Force
Alice CooteMezzo-sopranoMother Marie
Liliana NikiteanuMezzo-sopranoMother Jeanne
Freya ApffelstaedtMezzo-sopranoSister Mathilde
Savelii AndreevTenor1er commissaire
Alexander FritzeBass2ème commissaire
Valeriy MurgaBassGaoler
Yannick DebusBass-baritoneThierry, Javelinot
François PiolinoTenorChaplain of the monastery (l'Aumônier du Carmel)
Lillian StillwellChoreography
Janko KastelicChoirmaster / chorus director

With the Salve Regina on their lips, sixteen Carmelite nuns met their end at the guillotine on the Parisian Place de Grève on July 17, 1794. They’d been the defendants in a sham trial by the Jacobin Revolutionary Court, and were sentenced to death for their loyalty to the church. With each execution, the choir grew softer, ending when the last of the sixteen was murdered. Gertrud von le Fort’s novella Die Letzte auf dem Schafott (The Last at the Scaffold, 1931) was based on this historical event, which Georges Bernanos reworked as a dramatic play. That drama in turn provided the basis for Francis Poulenc’s opera, which premiered at La Scala in Milan in 1957. The protagonist is the young Blanche de la Force, who has suffered from panic attacks since her childhood. She finds refuge in the Carmelite convent. The order is isolated from the world, and daily life there is hard and guided by rejection of the self. When the revolution breaches the convent’s peaceful walls, and the women therein choose to martyr themselves, Blanche finally overcomes her fear of death and joins her sisters in their decision. Poulenc’s music is convincingly theatrical, evocative, and rife with lyrically intimate moments. In the tradition of Claude Debussy, Poulenc emphasizes the nuns’ interactions – the main theme of which is martyrdom. As they do so, death and pain aren’t viewed as transfiguring, but rather questioned. The sick prioress is a prime example of this: Poulenc ruthlessly explores her struggles with dying.

The opera is populated with fascinating women’s roles. Evelyn Herlitzius, whose recent performance as Janáček’s Emilia Marty caused a sensation, takes on the role of the old Prioress. Olga Kulchynska – no stranger to Zurich – makes her role debut as Blanche. Tito Ceccherini, who recently proved his mettle with modern music with Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, will musically direct. And following up on her wild success with Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie is stage director Jetske Mijnssen.

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