DAILY CAMERA: CU Opera shows personal side of tragedy with ‘Carmelites’
“Nobody can remain unmoved at the end.”
Powerful tragic endings are par for the course in opera, but Francis Poulenc’s 1956 masterpiece, “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” takes the shocking, moving aspects of its ending to an almost unbearable level.
The story relates a version of an actual event — the 1794 martyrdom of the Carmelite nuns of Compiègne at the end of France’s revolutionary Reign of Terror — and remains one of the most popular and effective 20th century operas.
The University of Colorado’s Eklund Opera Program stages “Carmelites” next weekend as its major spring production. It was previously seen at CU in 2003.
Eklund program director Leigh Holman says the work can be a hard sell because of its setting inside a convent.
“On the surface, it’s an opera about a bunch of nuns,” Holman said. “That may not seem too interesting at first, but the music is gorgeous and the story is powerful.”
Music director Nicholas Carthy concurred, saying that “nobody can remain unmoved at the end.”
Neither Holman nor Carthy was involved with the 2003 production, but its sets, which Holman describes as “powerfully austere,” are being used again.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Blanche de la Force, a novice who finds that the convent is no refuge from the terror going on outside of it. Holman said that, at its heart, the story is about the realization there really is no hiding from one’s fears.