Thursday 20 October 2005

Thoughts on Reviewing Dialogues of the Carmelites

We went to Poulenc's Carmelites on Saturday at the London Coliseum, ENO's revival of their 1999 production, with a largely new cast; Josephine Barstow carried over from the old cast but is, I think, getting to the limits of her present voice in this sort of role. My full review is on Music and Vision here.

The problem with Carmelites is that the concentration of female role means that each revival has to be, in some way, outstanding. For myself, I have to keep ensuring that I live in the present rather than the past and don't just regurgitate the comparisons with the marvellous Royal Opera revival which had a cast that included Felicity Lott (Blanche), Pauline Tinsley (Mother Marie), Regine Crespin (Old Prioress), Valerie Masterson(New Prioress) and Eiddwenn Harry. This ROH performance was one of the landmark performances of my career listening to opera. But I can't simply complain of a more recent performance because a particular Blanche does not sound like Felicity Lott in the role. It might be true, but it is hardly helpful for a reader who was not there at the time; when writing about such pieces you've got to try and comment on what you actually heard and try and explain it in a current context.


  1. Anonymous3:10 pm

    Really interested to read your comments regarding the suitability of voice types for the roles. Last night (3 Nov) went to the last performance and Louise Cannon was covering Blanche for Cat Wyn-Davis. I think she was far more suited to the role and managed to convey the vunerability and fragility of the character in both her voice and acting superbly. It was a very strong performance and was a great opportunity for a young singer who deserves more exposure.

  2. Lets hope we see more of her, though I'd be surprised if ENO revived Carmelites again; is hardly regular fare.


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