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Dialogues des Carmélites

by Francis Poulenc

Dialogues des Carmelites 2019

Terror, turbulence and violence provides the backdrop for Francis Poulenc’s powerful opera of faith, bravery and redemption. Blanche de la Force, the timid daughter of an aristocrat, joins the Carmelite order of nuns against the wishes of her family. Whilst living at the convent she befriends one of the young nuns, Constance, who shares an astounding prophecy.

Orpha Phelan’s new production, with its starkly beautiful staging, combines modern and minimalist set designs with intense and atmospheric lighting. Poulenc’s radiant and exhilarating score draws on the colourful resources of a large orchestra, a full chorus, a semi-chorus and a large number of soloists. It promises to be another wonderful showcase for the RNCM.

Based on a true story, Dialogues des Carmélites is a series of intimate conversations existing independently across the scenes and is considered to be one of the operatic masterpieces of the 20th century. The audience is, in effect, eavesdropping. The intricate and detailed story gradually unfolds and culminates in one of opera’s most devastating and dramatic final scenes, as the Carmelite nuns embrace martyrdom whilst singing a transcendent and heart-wrenching setting of Salve Regina.

Although the turmoil of political upheaval and bloodshed remains at the heart of this opera, this is predominantly a story about women – their fears, their faith and their relationships. Poulenc did not write music for nuns, but for women who happen to be nuns. Each of the major characters are brought to life musically and dramatically in a unique way – as human beings with true emotions and fears, each searching for the courage to face their own future and destiny.

It is ultimately an opera about redemption and positivity, about finding one’s inner strength and one’s voice. What intrigues us about Blanche is not her vocation, but the character herself. How does a nervous and frightened young woman find the strength and courage to face the brutality of death with such commitment, honesty and humility?

This production will be sung in French with surtitles.

We have generous discounts available depending on the size of your group. Click here for more information or call 0161 907 5555 to book.

If you fancy a bite to eat before the opera, pre-opera dining* is available to book in our restaurant before the evening performances, please call 0161 907 5353 to make a reservation (book early to avoid disappointment) *There’s also a Festive Sunday Lunch available before the matinee performance on Sun 08 Dec and a Festive Afternoon Tea available before the matinee on Sat 14 Dec. Booking and pre-payment is required for these afternoon events, please book on the number above.

If you are under 26, you can save 50% on your tickets.

Poulenc, Les Six and the Carmélites
– With Barbara Kelly and Deborah Mawer

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Andrew Greenwood conductor
Orpha Phelan director
Anna Bonomelli set and costume designer
Matt Haskins lighting designer
Rebecca Tong assistant conductor
Mark Burns associate director
Kevin Thraves chorus master

Download full cast and chorus information

Dialogues des Carmélites is based upon a fictionalised version of the story of the Martyrs of Compiègne, Carmelite nuns who, in 1794 during the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, were guillotined in Paris for refusing to renounce their vocation.

‘…unlike every other opera about nuns, it finds space for a serious discussion about religion and the workings of divine grace that is never saccharine or merely consolatory: how hard it is to be good, how unsure the rewards of virtue.’ Philip Hensher

French composer Francis Poulenc (1899–1963) is known for a wide variety of works in many genres, including piano and chamber music, songs, ballets, three operas, and religious music, successfully combining mysticism with modern sensibilities. Poulenc wrote the opera’s libretto himself, based on an unproduced screenplay (that was then turned into a stage play) by Georges Bernanos, a French author with an interest in politics and religion, which in turn is based on the 1931 novella Die Letzte am Schafott (known in English as The Song at the Scaffold) by German writer Gertrud von Le Fort.