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The opera, Poulenc's major work, charts the progress of Blanche (Dagmar Schellenberger) from the luxury of her aristocratic home to the scaffold. Her carriage has been halted by a jeering crowd, and she is so fearful for the future that she asks her father the Marquis, who is serenely reading in his study, for permission to join a religious order. Christopher Robertson is as nonplussed by her request as is her brother, the Chevalier of Gordon Gietz. Brief as is this glimpse of family life, it is clear enough the Revolution is determined to destroy it [watch and listen -- chapter 5, 12:49-13:25].

The prioress (Anja Silja) with Blanche (Dagmar Schellenberger). Screenshot © 2004 RAI Trade
The prioress (Anja Silja) with Blanche (Dagmar Schellenberger). Screenshot © 2004 RAI Trade

As prioress of the convent, Anja Silja, already a sick woman, interviews the potential novice and asks her motive for wishing to join the order. The conversation is both relaxed and serious. Blanche's eventual plea for something heroic in her life comes as a surprise, finely expressed by both singers. The Marquis's daughter has always been victim of mood-swings that continue to affect her till the very end of the work. For the moment her will is firm and she is desirous of facing the future whatever the future may bring [watch and listen -- chapter 10, 22:43-23:44].

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Copyright © 2 January 2008 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt


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