SF Conservatory of Music Opera Theatre presents Francis Poulenc’s master tale of
the French Revolution

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The struggles of a group of 18th Century French Carmelite nuns seems an unlikely subject for an opera – especially considering the year of its premiere, 1957 – at La Scala. It is considered a true masterpiece of the 20th Century. For its annual spring production, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Opera Theatre presents Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, Thursday, March 31st through Saturday, April 2nd at 7:30 PM and Sunday, April 3rd at 2:00 PM at the Cowell Theatre in San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. The production is directed by Richard Harrell, director of the Opera Theatre program. It is fully staged, in English, and with supertitles. The music direction is by Kathryn Cathcart and Darryl Cooper. The Conservatory Orchestra will be conducted by Michael Morgan, music director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony and artistic director of Festival Opera, and a member of the Conservatory’s conducting faculty.
Click here to purchase tickets on-line: Dialogues of the Carmelites

Madame la Guillotine et Francis Poulenc

“Dialogues of the Carmelites is one of the most important operatic works of the late twentieth-century, and it is a great privilege to be able to introduce it to the Conservatory community,” says Harrell.  “It not only requires a sophisticated level of musicality, but it also demands a broad range of acting skills.  There are profound psychological conflicts which the characters encounter in this tragic story of sixteen Carmelite nuns during the French Revolution.  The final scene, in which the nuns are executed, is simply one of the most moving moments in the entire operatic repertoire.”

Adapted by the composer from the play by George Bernaros, Dialogues of the Carmelites wasn’t seen in the United States until 1966 when the NYC Opera took it on. The opera represents the culmination of Poulenc’s rediscovery of his Catholic convictions after a friend’s sudden death. Though set during the French Revolution, the opera’s true subject is not politics but the transference of grace as the central character, “Blanche”, grows from the anxiety of fear to the calm and certainty of martyrdom.


Add these recordings to your Classical Library:
DVD – Dialogues des Carmelites. Riccardo Muti conducts the Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra and Chorus. Featuring: Philippe Fourcade, Ernesto Panariello, Gregory Bonfatti, Gordon Gietz, Giuseppe Altomare, Laura Aikin, Sara Allegretta, Maria Popescu, Mario Bolognesi, Barbara Dever, Christopher Robertson, Anja Silja, Dagmar Schellenberger, Danilo Serraiocco, and Francesco Musinu.

CD – Dialogues des Carmelites. Pierre Dervaux conducts the Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Featuring:  Xavier Depraz, Gisèle Desmoutiers, Denise Duval, Liliane Berton, Rita Gorr,  Paul Finel, Janine Fourrier, Denise Scharley, Louis Rialland, Régine Crespin, René Bianco, Jacques Mars, Raphael Romagnoni, Charles Paul, Michel Forel, Max Conti.

About the Conservatory Opera Program:
The Conservatory Opera Theatre draws exceptionally talented young singers from around the world and provides them with advanced training in vocal style, acting, stage movement and other essentials of operatic craft. In the fall semester, the Opera Theatre presents an hour-long version of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel or Mozart’s Magic Flute with sets and costumes in matinee performances for children, in addition to outreach performances. Presented in the spring semester, recent fully staged operas have included The Rake’s Progress, La Bohème, Le Nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte, faculty composer Conrad Susa’s Transformations, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Marriage of Figaro, Die Fledermaus, The Crucible, L’incoronazione di Poppea, Count Ory, Tales of Hoffmann and Albert Herring. In addition, eight programs of opera scenes with piano accompaniment from the Opera Workshop program are presented each year, which includes an ensemble devoted to performing one-act operas in their entirety.

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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