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Final opera of season set for Sierra Cinemas

John Deaderick
Special to Prospector
Dialogues des Carmelites is the last opera of the season showing Saturday at Sierra Cinemas in Grass Valley.
Submitted photo

Know & Go

WHAT: The Metropolitan Opera, LIVE in HD

WHEN: 9 a.m. Saturday

WHERE: Sierra Cinemas, 840-C East Main Street, Grass Valley

TICKETS: $22 Adults, $20 Seniors, $18 Children 12 and under & students with ID; Available online at http://www.sierratheaters.com or at the Del Oro Box Office

INFO: http://www.sierratheaters.com, 530-477-1100

Sierra Cinemas presents Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites on Saturday as the last offering of 2018-19 Season of The Met Opera Live in HD.

Francis Poulenc tells the powerfully moving story of the murder of Carmelite nuns during the French Revolution. The Monastery at Compiègne in northern France has been sacked, its assets seized by the new Revolutionary State and the nuns arrested. Rather than renounce their faith, each goes willingly to the guillotine.

This much is true. Poulenc, a devout Catholic himself, adapted a fictionalized version of the events by Georges Bermanos into a uniquely structured, beautifully rendered, tonally expressed, poetic masterpiece.

Fearful and reclusive, Blanche is sent to the monastery by her father the Marquis de la Force. Even though the Prioress does not believe Blanche has a true calling to be a nun, she grants her refuge. Blanche does find happiness there in the company of Sister Constance. As the Reign of Terror grips France, Blanche’s brother begs her to leave the company of the nuns as it has become unsafe. It’s unsafe anywhere, as it turns out for Blanche’s family.

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Poulenc spoke somewhat ironically of his music: “You must forgive my Carmelites. It seems they can only sing tonal music.”

The shocking climax as the repetitive sound of the guillotine drop punctuates the Salve Regina sung by the martyred nuns proves profoundly effective. Some years back I saw this work in San Francisco. At the opera’s conclusion there was a moment of complete stillness, a stunned silence before the deserved explosion of applause. A highly human and emotional work, Dialogues des Carmelites offers a unique operatic experience.

Met Musical Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the classic John Dexter production. Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard sings the touching role of Blanche and soprano Karita Mattila, a legend in her own time, returns to the Met as the Prioress.

John Deaderick is a local theatre artist and the author of Make Sweet the Minds of Men: Early Opera and Tragic Catharsis, available at Amazon.com.


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