Breaking: Victory for opera director over Poulenc heirs

Breaking: Victory for opera director over Poulenc heirs


norman lebrecht

December 11, 2018

The French court of appeals in Versailles has ruled in favour of the Russian director Dmitri Cherniakov who changed the plot of Dialogues des Carmélites in a celebrated 2010 Munich production.

The heirs of composer Francis Poulenc tried to stop revivals of the production and distribution of the video.

They just lost.

The director always wins.


  • This production is included in my discography. I quiet liked it…/21/dialogues-des-carmelites/

  • Bruce says:

    I dunno, I think probably every opera could end with an explosion. Some operas might benefit from it.

    Rosenkavalier, for example. Or Aida.

    So many possibilities…

  • msc says:

    Until it is in the public domain, they should do not mess with it. If they want it to say something other than what it does, they should find another one or commission a new one.

  • Alex Davies says:

    Given that Dialogues is based on actual historical events, it is hard to see how a production can change the end of the story so that the nuns die in a gas explosion. That seems to change the story in a very fundamental way, i.e. it is no longer about nuns being executed during the Reign of Terror. It’s also strange to do this given that the blade of the guillotine is an essential part of the score and does not sound anything like gas explosions.

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    Is there a French equivalent of the Trades Descriptions Act? A customer might be able to get redress via that. That was the tone of my complaint to Scottish Opera 34 years ago when they staged Turandot as an episode in the life of Puccini and changed the ending so that Calaf spurned the ice princess when she melted and the curtain came down on his cradling the body of Liu. I had paid to see Turandot, was my line, not some different drama to the tunes of Turandot. I forget exactly how my complaint turned out. I think they rejected it in the first instance, but then, as I recall, there was some problem about my bank not having paid a standing order in connection with my subscription and I declined to make up the shortfall on account of the Turandot and the company did not pursue it.

    • Spenser says:

      You know, Paul, I never liked the ending of Turandot. It has always seemed a bit phony to me.
      Calaf spurning the ice princess when she melted and the curtain comes down on his cradling the body of Liu?
      I think I could get aligned with that….

      • Paul Brownsey says:

        Well, maybe; but if a company is going to stage it like that, a word of warning to the paying punters would be in order: “Tony Palmer’s dramatic revisioning of Turandot,” perhaps, or “A conversation about Turandot, to Puccini’s glorious music.”

        In the old Scottish Opera production, apparently Ricordi required the the original (Alfano) ending to be performed, so after the curtain came down on poor Turandot being spurned, it went up again and (as I recall) understudies gave a concert performance of the Alfano ending.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Regarding Turandot, I would pay to avoid it.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    That is a shame. Yuja Wang was appropriately blocked from trashing the Rite of Spring, though I don’t know how, unless the piano score is not public domain. The heirs should have prevailed, and hopefully they have the funds to appeal.

    • Paul Carlile says:

      Not really a comparable case. “Dialogues…” works towards a terrible progressive elimination of the nuns with the guillotine sound in the score. A single explosion wouldn’t have the same dramatic or musical effect- and anyway, what benefit?

      Yuja wasn’t “trashing” the Rite, just re-arranging the sounds/textures, which has already been done in different versions. As it’s more often done as an “abstract” orchestral piece now, no storyline would be damaged or abused.

      And personally, i’d welcome different versions of this overplayed work and give all artits the rite to tra shit.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    I saw it at the Met in the 1980s. What a boring opera. And on one set that never changed. How sad a production.

  • Andrew Powell says:

    Poulenc DVD Back On Market (Aug. 18, 2017)

    Poulenc Heirs v. Staatsoper (Jan. 7, 2016)