- Dialogues des Carmélites, opera, FP 159
Poulenc: The Carmelites [Sung in English]by Paul Daniel
The release of The Carmelites continues Chandos' English-language recordings of productions from the English National Opera, and while these may not be definitive versions of the operas, they constitute valuable contributions to a deeper appreciation of the works. The experience of hearing an opera in one's first language (assuming that the piece is performed well, using a sensitive translation) cannot help but increase the listener's understanding. Hearing the words sung in English cements them in the listener's memory in a way that simply reading a translated libretto cannot, and that's particularly important in an opera as talky as "The Carmelites." There are several outstanding recordings in French, so the Chandos CD may not be the first choice for the listener who plans to own only one version, but for anyone who loves the opera who isn't fluent in French, this CD could be of real interest. Joseph Machlis' translation succeeds extraordinarily well in rendering the original into idiomatic English. The performances are consistently strong, though for the most part they don't erase the memory of the singers on Pierre Dervaux's first recording, or Kent Nagano's version with Opéra de Lyon. Felicity Palmer is outstandingly dramatic as the first Prioress, and her death scene is chilling, one of the most poignant on disc. As Blanche, Catrin Wyn Davies sings with elegance and warm tone, but seems a little too mature to be ideal for the role. Sarah Tynan has a crystalline and effortless upper register and brings just the right youthful exuberance to Sister Constance. In terms of pure vocal radiance, her Constance is probably the finest on disc. Paul Daniel's conducting is sensitive and incisive, and he brings an original but effective sense of pacing to the score. The playing of the English National Opera Orchestra rivals that of any of the other recorded versions. The quality of Chandos' recording is uneven. Some voices seem very distant, perhaps in an attempt to create the illusion of stage space, but the result simply sounds muffled, as if the singers were standing with their backs to the microphones. Unfortunately, Blanche, the central character, is most affected by the poor balance, and her musical and dramatic presence is diminished in many scenes.
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Performance CreditsPaul Daniel Primary Artist
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