“Holy Agony”: I’m at Commonweal

reviewing the Met’s recent Dialogues of the Carmelites:

The Metropolitan Opera’s recent production of Dialogues of the Carmelites opens with a group of habited women prostrating themselves on the floor with their arms spread. Their bodies are individual crosses that make up one big cross. This opening for Francis Poulenc’s 1956 opera, adapted from a play by Georges Bernanos and based on a real incident during the French Revolution, seems to subsume the women into a collective identity: they’re no longer Constance and Marie and Lidoine, but “the Carmel.” And yet everything in Poulenc’s opera works against this initial impression, insisting on the women’s individuality—and on their spiritual solitude. Each of them must face her own death alone.

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