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Catrin Wyn-Davies has already been seen this season as Tatyana in the revival of Eugene Onegin. She is a talented artist with a rich, vibrant voice but I am puzzled at ENO's promotion of her in young ingénue roles. As Tatyana her voice as an expressive instrument only really came into its own in the final act, when Tatyana is more mature. There was a similar problem with her Blanche; though her acting was superb her voice completely failed to suggest fragility. Only at the end, did voice and role completely match. But she is an intelligent artist and there was still much to enjoy in her rich and nuanced performance.

Catrin Wyn-Davies as Blanche in 'The Carmelites'. Photo © 2005 Stephen Vaughan
Catrin Wyn-Davies as Blanche in 'The Carmelites'. Photo © 2005 Stephen Vaughan

The issue of Wyn-Davies's voice type is perhaps symptomatic of a production which seems to have been cast with a degree of blindness to Poulenc's careful allocation of voice types and tessituras. Blanche is intended to be a lyric soprano (think Felicity Lott in the Covent Garden revival of the opera) as is the New Prioress, whilst Mère Marie is a mezzo. This latter role allocation was deliberate as, with the death of the Old Prioress, this leaves Mère Marie as the only low female voice. What we got at the Coliseum was the more dramatic lyric voice of Wyn-Davies as Blanche, the dramatic soprano of Orla Boylan (she has been singing Sieglinde recently) as the New Prioress and Dame Josephine Barstow as Mère Marie. All are fine artists and dramatically credible, with suitable contrasting voices but none is quite the voice type which Poulenc intended. Only Sarah Tynan as Sister Constance sounded just right.

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Copyright © 20 October 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK


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