Carmelites sisters at Malmö Opera – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Francis Poulenc|Lyrics: E. Lavery after a drama by Georges Bernanos
First performance: Milano, La Scala 26 januari 1957. Swedish première: Royal Opera in Stockholm, 11 april 1981. Seen the performance at Malmo Opera on
Marquis de la Force talks with his son, about Blanche, his nerous, impressionable daughter, who is unable to overcome her fear of life. Blanche appears frightened by rioting peasonts who surrounded her carriage on the way home. She tells her father she wants to become a nun.
Blanche talks to Madame de Croissy, the prioress of the Carmelilite convent. The Mother Superior warns her that the Carmelite order is not a refuge; it is: the duty of the nuns to guard the Order, not the other way around.
In the convent, the jolly Sister Constance tells Blanche that she believes that the two of them will die young together. Blanche reminds Constance to respect the subject of death. The Mother Superior is dying. She commits Blanche to the care of Mother Marie before passing away in great agony and fear. Blanche and Mother Marie are shaken.Sister Constance and Blanche are in the chapel, praying and watching the body. Constance explains to Blanche that the mother superior’s hard death did not suit her and must have been meant for someone else, who one day will find death surprisingly simple. Blanche is afraid and Mother Marie gives her permission to leave.
Madeleine Lidoine, the new prioress, warns that the future will be difficult. The chevalier visits his sister, trying to persuadue her toleave the convent. Blanche refuses, explaining that her highest duty is to the convent that has changed her life. The chaplain arrives to the convent, announcing that he has been forbidden to preach. Two officers enter and read the declaration to close the convent. The sisters discuss the epidemic of fear that has left France unable to defend its priests. This gives Mother Mariene idea of the Carmelites’ offering their lives to the cause, but Madeleine Lidoine reminds her one cannot choose to be a martyr.The mob knocks at the main entrance. Seeing Blanche desolate Mother Jeanne hands her a figurine of the Christ Child as a keepsake, but in her nervousness Blanche drops and breaks it.
While the new Mother Superior is away, Mother Marie proposes the sisters take a vow of martyrdom. Constance votes against it,but changes her mind. The Chaplain administers the vow. Blance flees in fear.
Blanche is working as a servant for revolutionaries who have taken over the mansion. She is found by Mother Marie, who says it is time to rejoin the other sisters. Blanche confesses she is still dogged by fear: her father was guillotined the week before.
While Mother Marie is away, the nuns are all arrested and condemned to death. The prioress joins the Carmelites in the vow of martyrdom. The chaplain tells Mother Marie that since God has chosen to spare her, she cannot now voluntarily become a martyr by joining the others in prison. In the Place de la Revolution, the Carmelites march to the guillotine, chanting Solve Regina. Finally,only Constance remains. On her way to the scaffold, she sees Blanche step from the crowd, take up the chant and follow her.