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Poulenc: Dialogues Des Carmelites / De Billy, Runner, Matthews, Polaski, Breedt

Poulenc / Billy / Matthews / Polaski / Brunne
Release Date: 02/28/2012 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 931   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Heidi BrunnerSally MatthewsDeborah PolaskiMichelle Breedt
Conductor:  Bertrand De Billy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Arnold Schoenberg ChoirVienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This production first saw the light of day in 2008 at the Theater an der Wien, and the original recording was only intended for radio broadcast. CD release at the time was prevented due to legal reasons, but the success of the original meant a revival of the production in 2011 which allowed a CD version to be prepared. There is no indication of which takes came from which editions, but as a “best of” both series there are no discernible joins to concern the potential purchaser.
 
What will concern most potential purchasers is how this performance stacks up against two pretty stiff competitors. Kent Nagano’s Virgin Classics recording with Opera de Lyon has a very strong cast and a superb recording which has been my main
Read more reference for years. The sheer clarity in every aspect of the performance and recorded production means the emotive weight of the story carries no extra luggage, and has its full and chilling effect every time. The grand old EMI recording – one of the earlier choices as part of the Great Recording of the Century series conducted by Pierre Dervaux, with Denise Duval, Régine Crespin et al is in doughty mono, but still packs an authoritative punch as the work’s first recording after some revisions made after the première production in 1957. This version has the greatest French flavour and most direct theatricality of any recording I could mention. The orchestral intonation is a bit sour in numerous places however, and despite its Gallic riches it wouldn’t be my first choice. The Chandos English language version (see review) is surprisingly good, though I was initially resistant to such treatment of so very French a creation. For non-linguists this version does help with the work’s accessibility, but the change of language does affect the nature of the drama a great deal. English is just too genteel a vehicle of communication to make the whole scenario entirely convincing, and the ghosts of farce or fishermen are never far enough away in my set of associations to make this a first choice for me.
 
So, what of Bertrand de Billy’s Dialogues des Carmélites? For a start it is very well recorded, the Theater an der Wien acoustic being on the dry side, but not uncomfortably so. The orchestral sound is warm and not overly spotlit, but doesn’t have quite the lucidity of Nagano’s Virgin Classics version. The live nature of the recording means there is a certain amount of stage noise, but fortunately not too much heavy clumping around. There is always a gain and loss aspect to live opera recordings, and I feel the results here are very much in the gain camp, with a feel of drama and vibrancy which allows you to close your eyes and ‘live in the performance’. There are alas a few unfortunately timed coughs at the beginning of the Stravinsky-esque opening to Act 2 and elsewhere, but a certain amount of heavy breathing and voices moving about is all part of the experience, and after becoming acclimatised I found it all very involving indeed. There is applause at the end but this isn’t allowed to linger for long – in fact the fade-out is rather abrupt, though the response is ecstatic enough.
 
The cast is good, though there are a few observations to be made. Jean-Philippe Lafont as the Marquis has a vibrato which can shift rubble. Early on in the opera this results in plenty of blustery authoritarianism but plenty of notes which can be freely filled-in by the listener. Yann Beuron as his son is a strong and flexible tenor, and the key role of Blanche is done beautifully by Sally Matthews, with some startlingly well observed emotional extremes and very moving moments indeed. She has enough girlishness to be convincingly youthful sounding, but has enough vocal character to create a fully rounded character. The supporting females aren’t quite as impressive but fill their roles well. Deborah Polaski is irrepressible as Madame de Croissy, Michelle Breedt suits the part of Mére Marie impressively.
 
The most important moments are all very well done, the Mother Superior’s agonies and death at the end of Act I for instance performed without extravagant melodrama. The intensity and build-up to the final scenes of condemnation is tremendous, but alas, the sound of the falling guillotine blade in the final Salve Regina is rather pre-recorded and artificial sounding. This effect needs to have a thud which makes you flinch at each repetition, and it doesn’t quite work here. I suppose Nagano’s recording is the most convincing in this regard, somewhere in between the première EMI version which sounds like someone chopping wood and this one, where the rather over-done slide of the blade is all you really hear. It reminds me of one of those doors on Star Trek, but badly in need of maintenance. Never mind, it’s all very moving and tragic, and we can all come away from the experience glad we live in more humane times, yes?
 
All in all this is a highly recommendable recording of an opera everyone should have in their collection. In fact, if you have no other opera in your collection this is the one to have – on your top ten wish list if nothing else. Poulenc’s score is moving and marvellous: the whole experience can be overwhelming live, and is strong enough stuff on this recording. This version doesn’t quite knock my Kent Nagano favourite from its perch, but does come very close, and if you fancy a live performance alternative this is very well worth having.
 
-- Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Dialogues des carmélites by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Heidi Brunner (Mezzo Soprano), Sally Matthews (Soprano), Deborah Polaski (Soprano),
Michelle Breedt (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Bertrand De Billy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Arnold Schoenberg Choir,  Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953-1956; France 

Sound Samples

Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 1: Ou est Blanche? (Le Chevalier, Le Marquis)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 1: Les soldats surviennent a temps (Le Chevalier, Le Marquis)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 1: Blanche, votre frere aviat grand'hate de vous revoir (Le Marquis, Blanche, Le Chevalier)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 1: Son imagination va toujours d'un extreme a l'autre (Le Marquis, Le Chevalier, Blanche, Thierry)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 1: Je vois qu'il n'y a heuresement rien de grave (Le Marquis, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 1: Mon enfant cherie (Le Marquis, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 2: Prelude
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 2: N'allez pas croire que ce fauteuil (La Prieure, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 2: Je vous que les severites de notre regle (La Prieure, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 2: Ma fille, les bonnes gens se demandent (La Prieure, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 2: Vous pleurez? (La Prieure, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 3: Prelude
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 3: Encore ces maudites feves! (Constance, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 3: Vous n'avez pas honte de parler ainsi (Constance, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 3: Oh! Soeur Blanche (Constance, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 4: Prelude
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 4: Ayez la bonte de relever ce coussin (La Prieure, Mere Marie)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 4: Je trouve que Blanche de la Force tarde beaucoup (La Prieure, Mere Marie)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 4: Relevez-vous, ma fille (La Prieure)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 4: Dieu se glorifie dans ses saints (La Prieure, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 4: Monsieur Javelinot, je vous prie de me donner (La Prieure, M. Javelinot, Mere Marie)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 4: Mere Marie de l'Incarnation! (La Prieure, Mere Marie)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act I Scene 4: La Reverende Mere veut que vous approchiez (Mere Marie, La Prieure, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 1: Qui Lazarum resuscitasti a monumento foetidum (Constance, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene I: Que faites-vous? (Mere Marie, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II: Interlude: Soeur Blanche, je trouve notre croix (Constance, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II: Interlude: Pensez a la mort de notre chere Mere (Constance, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 2: Mes cheres filles (La Nouvelle Prieure)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 2: Mes Soeurs, sa Reverence vient de nous dire (Mere Marie, Les Carmelites, La Nouvelle Prieure)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II: Interlude: Que se passe-t'il? (La Prieure, Constance, Mere Marie)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 3: Prelude
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 3: Pourquoi vous tenez-vous ainsi? (Le Chevalier, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 3: Dans des temps comme ceux-ci (Le Chevalier, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 3: Oh! ne me quittez pas sur un adieu de facherie! (Le Chevalier, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 2: Remettez-vous, Soeur Blanche (Mere Marie, Blanche)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 4: Prelude
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 4: Mes cheres filles (L'Aumonier, Les Carmelites)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 4: Qu'allez-vous devenir? (Blanche, L'Aumonier, Constance, Mathilde, La Prieure, Mere Marie)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 4: On a tire la clochette! (Constance, Mathilde, La Foule, L'Aumonier, Les Carmelites, Mere Marie)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 4: Ou sont les religieuses? (Premier commissaire, Mere Marie, Deuxieme commissaire)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act II Scene 4: Mes Soeurs, notre Reverende Mere viendra bientot (Mere Jeanne, Blanche, Mere Marie, La Foule)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 1: Prelude - Parlez-leur, mon Pere (Mere Marie, L'Aumonier, Mere Jeanne, Mathilde)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 1: Il y a une seule opposition (Mere Marie, Mathilde, Constance, L'Aumonier)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III: Interlude: Citoyennes, nous vous felicitons (L'Officier)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III: Interlude: Soeur Gerald, il faut absolument prevenir le pretre (La Prieure, Mere Marie)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 2: Prelude
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 2: C'est vous (Blanche, Mere Marie)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 2: Soeur Blanche de l'Agonie du Christ! (Mere Marie, Blanche, La voic d'une femme)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 2: Interlude
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 3: Mes filles, voila que s'acheve (La Prieure, Mere Jeanne, Constance, Mathilde)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 3: Le Tribunal revolutionnaire (Le Geolier)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 3: Mes filles, j'ai desire de tout mon coeur (La Prieure)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III: Interlude: Elles sont condamnees a mort (L'Aumonier, Mere Marie)
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 4: Prelude
Dialogues des Carmelites, FP 159: Act III Scene 4: Salve Regina (La Foule, Les Carmelites, Constance, Blanche)

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