by Daniel Hathaway
CIM opera theater presented Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites in Kulas Hall at the Cleveland Institute of Music twice earlier this month in a production directed by JJ Hudson with Harry Davidson and the CIM Orchestra in the pit. I attended the matinee performance on Sunday, March 5.
A theater piece based on such a true story — the mass execution of a convent of Carmelite Nuns at Compiègne during the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution — may seem an odd choice for a student production, but in practice, the piece is a gift for opera departments like CIM’s that are long on female voices.
The dark and serious subject matter may also seem an odd choice for the composer, whose musical style frequently leans toward the popular and theatrical (think of the ending of the “Laudamus te” from his Gloria, where the music seems about to morph into a Cha-Cha!).