Dialogues of the Carmelites | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Dialogues of the Carmelites 

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Lyric Opera's production of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites is one of those rare theatrical events where all the elements--music, text, sets, costumes, choreography--combine brilliantly. Composed in 1957, the score is as haunting and poetic as Poulenc's libretto, adapted from a play based on a novella about a (real-life) group of Carmelite nuns during the French Revolution who martyred themselves after the revolutionaries declared communal religious life illegal. Their conversations range from the seemingly simple but profound musings of Sister Constance (sung with crystalline purity by Anna Christy) to the monumental offerings of love and support of the new mother superior (sung with tremendous warmth and depth by Patricia Racette) after the agonizing death of her predecessor (depicted with distressing reality by Felicity Palmer). The fictionalized main character, an anxious young woman who joins the order, is portrayed with sensitivity and fire by soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian. The conclusion, with the music sliced by the sound of a guillotine, is simply stunning. See also Wednesday. a 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $42-$179. --Barbara Yaross

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