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Subject: Re: Dialogues des Carmélites : A Brief Observation
From: Alain Letort <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alain Letort <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 7 Nov 2017 23:54:32 -0500

text/plain (111 lines)

Dear Listers and Paul Padillo,

I am so glad that Paul enjoyed the Summer Opera Theatre Company of Washington’s 
production of “Dialogues of the Carmelites.”  Yes, Paul, that was me up there pouring 
buckets of blood onto a white sheet while dangling from a railing in full view of the 
audience.  While it was difficult for me to visualize what it looked like from the audience, 
you are not the first who has mentioned that the effect was really rather ghastly.  I do 
remember vividly the gasps from the audience that I could hear perfectly from my elevated 
vantage point.  And yes, what Paul said about the Poulenc estate’s refusal to allow SOTC to 
use the reduced orchestartion without paying a huge fee is absloutely correct.

I always loved working as a super at SOTC because John Lehmeyer’s productions were 
always so original, thought-provoking, stimulating and beautifully designed and costumed.  
While outwardly quite traditional, Lehmeyer’s productions always had an “angle” that was 
different from everyone else’s.  Lehmeyer and Dr. Elaine Walter, then Dean of the Catholic 
University of America’s School of Music, did a great job presenting with dedication two 
operas every summer for more than 20 years, and their productions were always sold out 
and very well received by Washington’s opera-loving public.  Unfortunately, they were done 
in by the 2007 financial crisis, of which SOTC was an early casualty, that led us to the sorry 
state in which we now find ourselves.

The backstage atmosphere was very family-like and everyone was made to feel important, 
supers and stagehands included.  Everybody talked to everybody and every night was a 
very cooperative effort.  When not actually being used, everybody hung out in the Hartke 
Theatre’s green room and munched on baked goods or other delights brought in by various 
cast and crew members.  Backstage at was then called The Washington Opera (Kennedy 
Center) was not quite so informal.  Several young SOTC choristers, all drawn from the CUA’s 
School of Music, now sing regularly at the Metropolitan Opera and other international 
theatres —I’m thinking of Fabiana Bravo and Patrick Carfizzi, to name but two.

Anyhow, it’s nice to know that the work we did at SOTC has left such a lasting impression on 
audience members, especially on highly educated and knowledgeable opera aficionados 
such as Paul.

Cheers and all the best,


Alain Letort
Washington, D.C.
Des Ungeheuers Höhle

On Tue, 7 Nov 2017 10:31:37 -0500, G. Paul Padillo <[log in to unmask]> 

>Wow!  I was at those performances of Summer Opera Theatre of Washington.  So that was 
>YOU up there throwing the buckets of blood!  It was bone chilling, accentuating the horror 
>of the moment.  I also remember the staging being a bit of the “Marat Sade” variety, as 
>entered, the company was seated on benches on opposite sides of the stage “watching” 
>action.  Summer Opera was lucky in having so many of its productions directed by John 
>Lehmeyer – whose work I always found some of the most satisfying in the Washington 
>Lehmeyer was mostly known as a director in those parts, but was also well regarded as a 
>costume and scenic designer whose work was seen virtually all over the country in both 
>opera companies and spoken theatre.  
>Musically, I think I’m recalling this correctly, but for this production a reduced 
>that would fit in the Hartke pit had been commissioned and completed but the Poulenc 
>estate refused to allow it to be used, without enormous fee paid for “NOT” using the full 
>orchestration.  Bizarre.  There were, indeed, two pianos in the pit, but also a large organ, 
>which was, creepily, suspended above the stage, adding an unnecessary element of horror 
>and “muddied” the sound a bit, which would have been better served by the two piano 
>The production featured two, then Washington favorites, Deidra Palmour as Blanche and 
>Sharon Christman as Mme. Lidoine, and both were riveting in their performances.  
>Christman’s was a particularly welcome return after setting Washington on its ear as Anna 
>Bolena two seasons earlier.
>I’ve been fortunate to see many performances of Poulenc’s masterpiece, but the 
>that remains for me the best – and for so many others – remains John Dexter’s for the 
>I first saw it in its 1st or 2nd season (1977) then again, the following year on tour and 
>subsequent performances, each with remarkable casts:  Maria Ewing, Regine Crespin, 
>Shirley Verrett, Jessye Norman, Patricia Racette, Leona Mitchell, Leontyne Price, Mignon 
>Dunn, Frederica von Stade, Patricia Craig, Florence Quivar, Dawn Upshaw, Teresa Stratas, 
>Helga Dernesch, Felecity Palmer, and of course, the ubiquitous Betsy Norden!
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