Pittsburgh Opera Concludes Its Season with Heavenly Performance

By Kanny, Mark | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 2, 2011 | Go to article overview

Pittsburgh Opera Concludes Its Season with Heavenly Performance


Kanny, Mark, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Once again Pittsburgh Opera concludes its season with an outstanding presentation of a 20th-century masterpiece, which provides a welcome supplement to the repertoire of beloved standard repertoire operas. Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites" (Dialogues of the Carmelites) is an unforgettable experience.

Poulenc had the advantage of an excellent libretto by Emmet Levery, based on a play by Georges Bernarios, which in turn was based on a novel by Gertrud von Le Fort. It is centered on a Carmelites convent in Paris as the French revolution approaches, and is rich in psychological and other truths.

The opera opens in an aristocratic home, where the Marquis de la Force and his son worry about his daughter, Blanche. The father uses the euphemism "high-strung" for his daughter, whose emotional agitation is never far from the surface. She decides to enter a convent to find grace from God.

Sean Panikkar was a riveting presence as the Chevalier de la Force. If he forced a bit initially, he adjusted quickly. Baritone James Maddelena was also dramatically powerful, especially in relating his wife's fear of a crowd surrounding her carriage hours before she gave birth to Blanche and died.

Amanda Majeski offered a brilliantly nuanced performance as Blanche. Her timbre was clear but not cold. Her voice no less than her stage presence made Blanche a totally sympathetic character.

Sheila Nadler also gave a commanding performance, portraying the wide emotional range of prioress Madame de Croissy. The libretto's strength includes her character's correction of Blanche's illusions about being a nun. Her agonizing death-bed scene includes heart- rending groans. …

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