The power of Poulenc’s DIALOGUES

February 25, 2011

Juliana showed up for dinner the other night visibly shaken having just heard the Opera UCLA’s performance of Francis Poulenc’s DIALOGUES of the CARMELITES. I went with Josie to the Thursday night performance and Juliana was right: the finale packs a wallop. Like the first time I saw APOCALYPSE NOW, I felt as if I had blood in my mouth for the next day. Experiencing the martyrdom of fifteen nuns by guillotine hit me like a sharp blow to my chest. Biochemical chaos. I felt disoriented; dizzy; terribly sad, yet invigorated by the power of the opera. I have not had as powerful of a reaction to a piece of music like that for quite a while.

As a boy, I remember every year my [minister] father would remarry all of the married couples in church. He’d have them all stand up, face each other, take each other’s hands and say their vows. It was tremendously moving for all. After watching DIALOGUES, I feel I have retaken my vows as a composer.

I do.

This is a performance of a production by the Met, a very different experience from the terrific Kazaras/Hak production at UCLA, but worth hearing and watching. You hear the SLICE of the guillotine which adds a horror element, a sharp contrast to an opera about nuns and their faith.

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