Monday night, I got a look at Kentucky Opera's new production of Francis Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites, which plays Friday and Sunday at Louisville's Kentucky Center for the Arts. We were over there to talk to the four University of Kentucky students in the Apprentice Studio Artist program at the KO -- Afton Battle, Amelia Groetsch, Mark Kano and Chuck Chandler -- for a story coming in Friday's paper. After a pre-rehearsal dinner at the Bristol, I sat in on the first act. It was a piano rehearsal, and staging was still being worked out, so obviously we are not delivering any kind of review here. But one thing that did strike me was the clarity of the singing.
It may be that it struck me because a few weeks ago I had ordered a DVD of the opera from Netflix. It was a 1985 version from Opera Australia with Joan Sutherland as Madam Lidoine and Isobel Buchanan as Blanche. This version, like Kentucky Opera's production, is in English. But the recording from Kultur did not have any subtitle options, including closed captioning, and a lot of the singing was not clear enough to understand. A few minutes into the first act, I paused the disc and went to get a synopsis off Wikipedia so I could have some idea what was happening.
Anyway, back to Louisville, no such problems emerged Monday. Almost all of the lines were easily understood, and if you missed something, there were supertitles above the stage. I don't know how much an orchestra and 2,000 plus warm bodies in the hall will alter that, but it did seem an effort was being made to be clear. So, if you're going, or think you might be interested, it looks like a pretty accessible production. Fair warning: It is a grim show about an order of nuns that bravely faced the guillotine in the French Revolution. As some wascally wabbit once said, "What did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?"
~ Digital music fans should check out the new Deutsche Grammophon online store with what are purported to be higher quality downloads than most online music services. Check it out. You shouldn't have any trouble finding something good at DG.