Notes and Editorial Reviews
Poulenc wanted his Dialogues des Carmélites performed in the vernacular; at its premiere at La Scala, it was heard in Italian. The Met has performed it in both French and English. This new recording, then, another in Chandos' Opera in English series, is not the usual anomaly the series has tended to represent, but it is an excellent performance, and the first on CD in English.
Chandos' engineers must be applauded; I've never heard Poulenc's orchestration so clearly. His use of the piano, creeping in and out of the texture, is masterly, and his transparent use of woodwinds never has been so distinct. In addition, the text can be understood almost all the time; only when the women are singing near or above the staff do
the words blur. But the opera has a visceral impact that has been lacking from previous recordings: The old Dervaux (EMI) recording, in unimpressive mono, lacked immediacy, and the newer, Nagano-led performance (Virgin), while superb, still does not offer the intense, in-your-face experience Chandos offers.
While we're comparing, it must be said that both of those (and another, radio broadcast from 1980 under Jean-Pierre Marty) are wonderful performances, totally committed. This new one is their equal in most ways, with Felicity Palmer as the willful, dying Mme de Croissy and Josephine Barstow as the fearful Mother Marie on a par with their predecessors, the men particularly well cast, and Sarah Tynan's Sister Constance utterly vibrant. Only the Blanche of Catrin Wyn-Davies seems problematic. This is a fearful, bunny-like character, chock-full of neuroses, and Wyn-Davies sounds too sure of herself throughout. It hardly ruins or even mars the recording, but others have portrayed her better.
The conducting of Paul Daniel is stunning, filled with nervous tension contrasted with tenderness, and the English National Opera forces may be the finest to record the work. The point, I guess, is that any available recording of this opera is marvelous--it's not an opera that record companies throw together; but this one, in English, is self-recommending for that reason alone, and also has much to push it to the forefront.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Dialogues des carmélites by Francis Poulenc
Toby Stafford-Allen (Baritone),
William Berger (Baritone),
Felicity Palmer (Alto),
Sarah Tynan (Soprano),
Josephine Barstow (Soprano),
Orla Boylan (Soprano),
Peter Wedd (Tenor),
Jane Powell (Mezzo Soprano),
Ryland Davies (Tenor),
Anne-Marie Gibbons (Mezzo Soprano),
James Edwards (Boy Soprano),
Roland Wood (Baritone),
David Stephenson (Bass),
Ashley Holland (Bass),
Catrin Wyn-Davies (Soprano)
English National Opera Orchestra,
English National Opera Chorus
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1953-1956; France
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