Season 13 of Great Performances at the Met comes to a close Sunday, September 1 at 12 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) with Poulenc’s classic Dialogues des Carmélites. Metropolitan Opera Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts this devastating story of faith and martyrdom starring Isabel Leonard in the touching role of Blanche de la Force alongside Adrianne Pieczonka as Madame Lidoine, Erin Morley as Sister Constance, Karen Cargill as Mother Marie and Karita Mattila, returning to the Met as Madame de Croissy, the prioress of the monastery.
John Dexter’s production is set in Paris, April 1789, as the first signs of the French Revolution begin to shake the country. After being held up by a mob, the fearful and nervous Blanche returns home to explain the incident to her father, the Marquis de la Force, and brother Chevalier de la Force, declaring that she has made up her mind to become a nun. Weeks later, Blanche is interviewed by the ailing prioress Madame de Croissy, who makes it clear to Blanche that the Carmelite convent is a house of prayer, not a refuge from the impending war. Later, Blanche befriends Sister Constance, who shocks Blanche by telling her that she knows they will both die young.
Following the agonizing death of Madame de Croissy, Madame Lidoine is appointed the new prioress of the convent. While she is addressing the convent, Blanche’s brother Chevalier arrives, urging Blanche to return home to their father who is about to flee the country. She rejects her brother’s advice, stating that her duty is to her sisters. Following a final mass, an angry crowd approaches the convent and commissioners inform the sisters that they have been expelled. In the devastated chapel, the sisters decide by a unanimous vote to take a vow of martyrdom, causing a fearful Blanche to run away. As the revolution rages on, Blanche must choose between living a life in constant fear of the revolution or joining her sisters in their vow. Renée Fleming hosts.