- Last Updated: 10:26 AM, August 20, 2012
- Posted: 10:53 PM, August 19, 2012
DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES
Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble at the East 13th Street Theater, 136 E. 13th Street; 646-796-3492. Performances Friday and Sunday.
Like New Yorkers, opera tends to flee the city in summer. But a taut production of “Dialogues of the Carmelites” by dell’Arte Opera Ensemble offers a reason to brave a steamy August weekend in Manhattan.
The springboard for Francis Poulenc’s unconventional 1957 opera was a historical incident during the French Revolution when an order of Carmelite nuns chose death on the guillotine over abandoning their religion.
The one fictional character in the tale is the young aristocrat Blanche de La Force, who joins the convent because she’s terrified of the outside world.
In this spectacular role for a sensitive singing actress, the young American soprano Jennifer Moore bravely explored the character’s neurosis, despite a few glassy high notes.
Also shaky in the high range were Mary Ann Stewart as Madame Lidoine and Laura Federici as Mother Marie, though they played the conflict between these two senior nuns with quiet resolve.
More vocally consistent was Maria Alu, whose light soprano sparkled in the role of perky Sister Constance. Leanne Gonzalez-Singer projected the deep lines of the elderly prioress Madame de Croissy in a rich chest voice and played her death scene with stoic dignity.
Of the few men in the cast the best was Lawrence Bianco as the Chaplain. His ethereal tenor floated serenely over the “Ave verum corpus” hymn sung at the nuns’ final Mass.
Consistent across more than 14 solo roles was fluent diction in that most tricky of all operatic languages, French. Above the playing area projected English titles summarized the poetic text.
Conductor Chris Fecteau’s 11-player adaptation of this grand opera’s symphonic score yielded a mighty noise in the tiny black box space of the East 13th Street Theater, even if the strings wandered in and out of tune.
The spare production by Victoria Crutchfield — daughter of conductor Will — elegantly evoked the humility of the Carmelite order. The sisters dressed in a uniform black turtlenecks and slacks, and a few folding chairs indicated locations ranging from a chapel to the prison where the nuns spend their last night before their martyrdom.
Though dell’Arte describes its mission as providing a transition for young singers from conservatory to career, this “Carmelites” is one a professional company might present with pride.