Opera Scotland

Dialogues des Carmélites Dialogues of the Carmelites

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Francis Poulenc (born Paris, 7 January 1899; died Paris, 30 January 1963).


The composer.


Drama (1948) by Georges Bernanos (1888-1948).



First Performance: Milan (La Scala), 26 January 1957.

First Performance in UK: London (Covent Garden),16 January 1958.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Athenaeum Theatre), 27 June 1964.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



The subject is the mass execution of a community of nuns living at Compiègne during the French Revolution. The primary source of data was the memoir written by Mère Marie, the only sister to survive. This was later developed and elaborated by a number of hands. Poulenc's operatic version was immediately successful with performances in San Francisco, Paris and London following rapidly after the première. After a lapse, it has recently had several successful revivals which show it to be an extremely powerful work which should survive. It is notable in having several dramatic acting roles for female singers, while the male parts are, by comparison, insignificant. The final scene commencing with a choral prayer, develops a remarkable cumulative effect, as one by one the voices are extinguished to the sound of the blade falling.


Main Characters

Blanche de la Force, a novice (soprano)

Madame de Croissy, the old prioress (contralto)

Madame Lidoine, the new prioress (soprano)

Mère Marie, a nun (mezzo-soprano)


Plot Summary

Blanche, daughter of a Marquis, decides to join the Carmelite order. Soon after, the prioress, suffering a long and painful illness, dies in torment. As the Revolution gathers force, Blanche's brother tries to take her from the convent without success. The new prioress arrives. Blanche flees to her home, but her father is already dead. She lives disguised as a servant, but hears that the order has been abolished, and the nuns arrested and condemned. The prioress gives them strength to face their martyrdom. Only Mère Marie is saved, being on a visit away from the convent at this time. As the nuns one by one go to the scaffold, they are joined by a figure from the crowd - Blanche has decided to join them.

The Cast

Blanche de la Force
 Sister Blanche of the Agony of Christ
Chevalier de la Force
 brother of Blanche
First Commissionaire
Madame de Croissy
 Mother Henriette of Jesus, the old prioress
Madame Lidoine
 Mother Marie of St Augustine, the new prioress
Marquis de la Force
 father of Blanche and the Chevalier
Mère Jeanne
 of the Child Jesus
Mère Marie
 of the Incarnation, assistant prioress
Monsieur Javelinot
 a doctor
Second Commissionaire
Soeur Anne
Soeur Constance
 of St Denis, a young novice
Soeur Mathilde
 a footman

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