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Christine Abraham was a radiant Blanche. Her warm, dusky mezzo-soprano soared to impressive heights in the upper range. She suggested both the high strung nervousness and inner strength of the heroine. Kristine Winkler was a touching Sister Constance. Her light soubrette soprano was a joy to hear. She embodied the character's purity and vulnerability while negotiating Poulenc's difficult high lying writing with ease. What dulcet pianissimos she achieved! The great singing actress Judith Forst was a formidable presence as Madame de Croissy, the Old Prioress. Her large, voluminous sound and strongly focused tonal control were impressive. She made the Prioress's death scene truly frightening. Forst made one believe that she was losing not only her life but her mind and her faith. A great performance!

Elizabeth Bishop was a strong, commanding Mother Marie with a firm, impressive mezzo-soprano voice. As Madame Lidoine, the New Prioress, Pamela Kucenic (a soprano with impressive credentials in the Wagner-Strauss repertoire) was riveting! Her bright dramatic soprano held the audience spellbound and her fierce, iron willed portrayal dominated the second half of the evening. Mark Thomsen revealed a lyric tenor of quality and beauty as the Chevalier de la Force, Blanche's brother. His scene with Ms Abraham was poignant. The deep toned bass of Julian Patrick made the cameo role of the Marquis de la Force into a star turn. As the Father Confessor, Don Frazure sang with fervor -- a fine, light tenor voice. Ashley Howard Wilkinson as an officer and Gordon Longhofer as the Jailer brought fine bass voices to their brief roles. The female chorus sang with great beauty and rich, sonorous sound. Chorus master Kamal Khan had prepared his forces meticulously.

In the almost five decades since its La Scala première, Poulenc's opera has lost none of its power to move and disturb the listener -- a shattering musico-dramatic experience. This score remains a singular achievement -- a unique, one of a kind opera. Virginia Zeani served as an artistic advisor for this production. Madame Zeani (now a Palm Beach resident) had been the original Blanche de la Force at the opera's première. This production was first rate. Great opera presented with moving, powerful immediacy! A world class night for the Palm Beach Opera!

Copyright © 6 March 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA




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