Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dialogues of the Carmelites at the Benedum

For Immediate Release

April 4, 2011

Debra L. Bell
Director of Marketing and Communications
412-281-0912 ext 214

Pittsburgh Opera presents Dialogues of the Carmelites

Moving, powerful work speaks to the human spirit

What: Francis Poulenc’s opera Dialogues of the Carmelites

Where: Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, 7th Street and Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh

When: Saturday, April 30, 8:00 PM;  Tuesday, May 3, 7:00 PM;Friday, May 6, 8:00 PM;
 Sunday, May 8, 2:00 PM

Run Time: 3 hours, including 1 intermission

Language: Sung in French with English titles projected above the stage

Tickets: Start at $10 for all performances.

Call 412-456-6666 for more information or visit www.pittsburghopera.org

Pittsburgh, PA…Pittsburgh Opera brings the intimate, powerful Dialogues of the Carmelites to the Benedum Center beginning April 30. Poulenc’s opera, inspired by the true story of 16 Carmelite nuns of Compiègne martyred during the Reign of Terror in France, is also reputedly a product of his own crisis of faith. Poulenc’s exceptionally fine vocal and choral composition is displayed in a work that invites spiritual introspection for people of all faiths. Jean-Luc Tingaud makes his Pittsburgh Opera conducting debut; Eric Einhorn (Carmen, 2010; Don Pasquale, 2009) returns to direct.

The nuns’ martyrdom is preceded by two spiritual crises in the convent, those of Mme. de Croissy, the dying Prioress, and the troubled Blanche de la Force, a young novice trying to escape the vagaries of the outside world, who is placed in the care of Mother Marie. Amanda Majeski debuts with Pittsburgh Opera as Blanche; Sheila Nadler sings Mme. de Croissy and Elizabeth Bishop (The Grapes of Wrath, 2008) portrays Mother Marie. The large cast also includes Sean Panikkar (The Grapes of Wrath, 2008) as Blanche’s brother, the Chevalier; James Maddalena (Così fan tutte, 2006) is the Marquis. Julianna Di Giacomo debuts as Mme. Lidoine; Resident Artists Shannon Kessler Dooley and Stephanie Lauricella are Sister Constance and Sister Mathilde; former Resident Artist Daphne Alderson is Sister Jeanne.

Dialogues features simple period costumes and a minimalistic set that uses light and space to lay bare the spiritual, psychological, and historic conditions of the characters in a non-literal way. The set is from Calgary Opera; costumes are from Seattle Opera.

Tickets to Dialogues of the Carmelites start at $10, with all performances at the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, 7th Street and Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. For additional information or to purchase tickets call 412-456-6666 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org.

The story, in brief

In 1789 Paris, Blanche de la Force, a daughter of privilege but nervous and fearful of the chaos of revolution, joins the Carmelites, despite the Prioress’s reservations. She begins an uneasy friendship with the childlike Sister Constance, who says she is sure she and Blanche will die together. Blanche also witnesses the Prioress’s crisis of faith as she dies in great pain. Blanche tries to leave the convent. Her young friend Constance asserts that the Prioress’s hard death did not suit her and must have been meant for someone else, who one day will find death surprisingly simple.

After the Chaplain celebrates his last Mass amid the chaos of revolution, the sisters discuss their possible martyrdom, but Madame Lidoine, the new Prioress, reminds them that one cannot choose to be a martyr. As the nuns prepare to leave their devastated convent, Mother Marie proposes they all take the vow of martyrdom, which must be unanimous. A secret vote reveals one dissenter: Constance claims untruthfully that it was hers, and asks to change it. Blanche takes the vow with the rest, but flees.

Mother Marie finds Blanche, who has been pressed into service to revolutionaries who have taken over her home and guillotined her father. Blanche confesses she is still dogged by fear, and Mother Marie gives her an address where she can take refuge. Later, Blanche learns that the nuns have been arrested. In a jail cell, Madame Lidoine tells the Carmelites she will join in their vow of martyrdom, made during her absence; Constance says she has dreamed of Blanche's return.

The Chaplain tells Mother Marie that the nuns have been condemned. Though she desperately wants to join them, the Chaplain reminds her she cannot make a martyr of herself. In the Place de la Révolution, the Carmelites march to the guillotine, chanting the Salve Regina, a hymn of supplication. Each is led up to death, as their voices are cut off one at a time. Finally, only Constance remains. She is overjoyed to see Blanche step from the crowd and take up the chant. Blanche changes the song to a hymn of praise to God as she steps to the scaffold. The astonished crowd disperses.

Dialogues of the Carmelites opens Saturday, April 30 and continues May 3, 6, and 8, 2011. Tickets start at $10. Call 412-456-6666 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org.

The Pittsburgh Opera 2010-2011 season is generously sponsored by PNC Foundation.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Media sponsor is WORD-FM.

Tickets and Group Discounts

Tickets for all performances of Dialogues of the Carmelites start at $10. Group discounts are available. For tickets, call (412) 456-6666 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org. For discounted group tickets (6 or more), contact Randy Adams at 412-281-0912, x 213.

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