A rare opportunity

Dialogues of the Carmelites has three performances remaining (tomorrow evening at 7:30; Friday, April 24, at 7:30; and Sunday, April 26, at 3). Although this opera premiered in 1957 and is therefore “modern,” it’s not the sort of modern that should keep anyone from attending and enjoying this production. On Saturday, the orchestra was at its finest, having never sounded better, and it was a delight to hear the singing, especially the chorus of nuns. The staging was clear and fast-flowing, and the lighting was excellent.

The stage was raked, and I think that all action was visible from every seat. I’ve seen a performance of this work only once, and I had completely forgotten the first scene. The production’s sung in French, for the most part with a clarity of diction that allows every word to be distinguished. There was a time or two when the projected English translation fell a bit behind. It’s probably just something about the perspective, but to me the prop wood-range appeared to be miniature to the point of laughability.

The reggae fest was gearing up for the evening and had been in session all afternoon. The opera people sent special e-mails and recorded telephone messages to ticketholders, where possible, disseminating parking information and asking people to arrive early. I think that we were among the few who did arrive well before curtain time. It was beginning to look as though there’d be a lot of empty seats, but last-minute arrivals filled them.

The program, which I always read after the performance and never before or during (I like as much as possible to be a surprise), contained an insert informing us that several of those who performed in Dialogues will be on stage for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society performances of Iolanthe in June.

There’s seldom a chance to hear this work performed, and so well. I’m very glad that I was there and would advise any lover of excellent music to look into the availability of tickets. Thank you, Austin Lyric Opera!

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