The Savannah VOICE Festival (SVF) is producing a stirring opera this year, based on true events.
“Dialogue of the Carmelites” retells the story of the Martyrs of Compiègne, Carmelite. During the French Revolution in 1794, nuns were guillotined in the final days of the Reign of Terror in Paris for refusing to renounce their faith.
Director Fabrizio Melano said the story identifies with the human condition through emotion. "Sister Blanche is terrified of life. She has an existential fear. By the end, she is able to march confidently to the guillotine."
Based on a true story, the opera offers a safe environment where people can face the horrors of war. Sister Blanche embodies what terror is, and evolves to demonstrate ultimate courage. Melano said no one wants to deal with those issues, but the opera gives a safe place to confront their fear and overcome it.
“Dialogues of the Carmelites” speaks to audiences of all ages. Having worked at The Metropolitan Opera in New York for over 30 years, Melano enjoys working in intimate venues like the SVF offers. Growing up in New York, he got hooked on opera at age 10, and asked to go to Tosca. He had memorized the text completely and was fascinated by the opera.
He has worked in nearly every opera house in the US and Canada over the lifespan of his career. Working with a smaller company has advantages as well.
Melano said he loves working with young singers who are fresh and open. He also enjoys reaching out to a different younger public.
"All operas are stories," said Melano, " which happen to be sung." He added for anyone wanting to go for the first time, to focus on the story, and anyone can follow along with the story.
"Music adds a tremendous amount to their story," he said. "Don't make it intimidating for children, they will probably love it."
The difference with an opera and other performances is the blend of all of the moving parts.
"You have to direct it like a play or a movie, and music gives it so much more power and motivation," Melano said. “The difference with the acting is the notes are the notes and the rhythms,” he added. “The performers must hit the notes and follow it.”