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Barstow is still a fabulous actress and looked just right as Mère Marie, but her voice no longer has the focus it once had, the easy dominance of the orchestra is gone but she can still manage an impressively quiet cantilena when required. Tynan gave another stand out performance as Sister Constance. I was impressed when I saw her as Iphis in Jephtha and I look forward to her Dalinda in Ariodante.

Josephine Barstow as Mother Marie. Photo © 2005 Stephen Vaughan
Josephine Barstow as Mother Marie. Photo © 2005 Stephen Vaughan

These are really only niggling doubts but they surfaced, I think, because the production fails to address some of the deeper issues within Poulenc's score. Don't get me wrong, the performance was profoundly moving and the ending as masterly as any I have seen. But along the way, there were moments when I felt that the dramatic point of the opera had been slightly mislayed. Felicity Palmer made the Old Prioress's death scene a terrific tour de force, but the sense that she and Blanche had somehow exchanged deaths was lost somewhere along the way.

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Copyright © 20 October 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK


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