Friday, May 10, 2019

The death of...

Dialogues des Carmélites - Metropolitan Opera, 5/3 and 5/8/2019
Leonard, Mattila, Pieczonka, Cargill, Morley, Portillo / Nézet-Séguin

I expected this Dialogues revival - as those of previous seasons - to be effective and moving. What I did not expect, despite an outside hope therefor, was that it would contain within the first act's limited span one more great Mattila triumph, the first since 2012 and one of an all-too-few to be moviecast. If this turns out to be her send-off (which, at 58, need not necessarily be the case), it's a great one.

Felicity Palmer (whose Waltraute I've missed in Met Rings since) was a heck of a singing actress, but in the last two revivals she portrayed a prioress who dies. With Mattila, Madame de Croissy's death itself - enormous and terrible, like the death of Christoph Detlev Brigge in Rilke's prose book - is the main character of the opera's first part. That's as you'd expect upon discovering that this opera could fit such a thing, as Mattila's decade-and-a-half of providing the most significant element in each Met season was built on loading the "terror" side of the Aristotelian schema markedly higher than even this most emotionally extreme art form is accustomed. And amidst this awful struggle - with her wracked body, with impossible responsibilities, with death itself - the loving directness of de Croissy's last advice to Blanche arrives in even more touching relief.

The excellence of Isabel Leonard - Blanche here as she was in 2013 - not only holds the overall show together but provides Mattila the foil her first secondary-role run here (Kostelnicka in 2016's Jenufa opposite the eminently forgettable Oksana Dyka) fatally lacked. The same inner stillness and that made Leonard a near-ideal Melisande earlier in the season also serves her here, if differently: Blanche wants to and should be in that state - one too evidently fit for worry and risk won't suit - but too often can't.

It's not clear whether it was deliberate or fortuitous of Adrianne Pieczonka to portray Madame Lidoine in a manner entirely distinct from the character's predecessor: all motherly love, calm, and composure amidst the storms of trouble. In any case, it works brilliantly - and Karen Cargill, who like Erin Morley (Constance, again reprising her 2013 part) is much more impressive than she was in the Ring, provides a third distinct elder figure with her hardheaded and dogged Mother Marie.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, as ever, conducts impressively in the direct manner.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.