Metropolitan Opera 2018-19 Preview: The Major Interpreters of ‘Dialogues Des Carmélites” In Met History

By David Salazar

“Dialogues des Carmélites” returns to the Metropolitan Opera for what will be its 58th performance on Friday, May 3.

The opera is one of the beloved in the canon, even if its performances have not been as common at the Met over the ages. The work first premiered with the company on Feb. 5, 1977 and has only seen one production since its inception – John Dexter’s now iconic interpretation.

At the core of the opera is the role of Blanche de la Force, the heroine in a group of nuns destined for the guillotine during the French Revolution. The Met’s Blanche for this 2019 revival (which will be broadcast to HD), Isabel Leonard, is experienced in this very production. She appeared in the role three times during the 2013 run; she will add another three performances of the role during this season.

In sum, the Met has seen a total of eight interpreters of the role, including Leonard.

The Met’s first-ever Blanche was Maria Ewing, who appeared in the opera a whopping 32 times between 1977 and 1987. Of her performance, The Neward Star-Ledger noted,”Blanche gives Maria Ewing a role of wide dimension and she offers a splendid performance only a touch lacking in vocal radiance.”

Next up was Frederica Von Stade, who appeared in six performances in 1983. Dawn Upshaw also got eight performances in 1994, while Patricia Racette took on the role five times in 2002.

Gail Robinson, Emily Pulley, and Kaaren Erickson each got one performance of the role at the Met. Robinson appeared in 1983, Erickson in 1987, and Pulley in 2002.

It is also worth noting that throughout the history of the opera there have been other notable artists that have appeared in a number of other roles. Such artists include Stephanie Blythe, Christine Goerke, Felicity Palmer, Rosalind Elias, Teresa Stratas, Helga Dernesch, Florence Quivar, Mignon Dunn, Leona Mitchell, and Régine Crespin, among others.