Dialogues des carmélites at Royal Opera – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Francis Poulenc|Lyrics: E. Lavery after a drama by Georges Bernanos
Worldpremière: at La Scala, in Milan 26 of Januari 1957. Swedish première: Royal Opera in Stockholm, Operan 11 april 1981. Seen the performance on: 22.10.2011
Paris 1789. The Chevalier de la Force arrives at the home of his father,the Marquis,the Marquis, with news of rioting on the streets of Paris. His sister, Blanche, returns from Mass in a state of agitation over the mob and announces her decision to enter a convent. Later in the Carmelite convent in Compiegne, Blanche appeals to the Prioress, Mme de Croissy, to be accepted as a novice. Another novice, Sister Constance tells Blanche of a dream she has had in which she and Blanche die young together.
The Prioress is on her deathbed, and out of concern for Blanche instructs Mother Marie to take the young novice under her charge. The Prioress dies, surrounded by the nuns, her faith severely shaken. Blanche and Constance watch over the body of the dead Prioress. Blanche takes fright and tries to leave, but is caught by Mother Marie, who rebukes her.
As the two novices are binding a wreath of flowers for the Prioress’s grave, Constance tells Blanche that she believes the Prioress died in agony ;o that somebody else would meet a more peaceful death
The nuns assemble in the chapter room to take their vow of obedience to their new Mother Superior, Madame Lidoine, who stresses the importance of prayer over martyrdom.
The Chevalier de la Force arrives at the convent to persuade his sister to return home to take care of their father, but Blanche explains to him that her duties are now to the Carmelite order.
The Chaplain of the convent, who has been forbidden to perform his duties, holds a final service before leaving the convent – only to return shortly afterwards to seek refuge from a patrol of soldiers. The Prioress departs for Paris, in search of relief.
The revolutionaries burst into the convent and desecrate it, and informs the nuns that all religious wows are void. Mother Marie urges the commissioners to provide them with civil garments so that they may evade a lynching as they escape the convent. To comfort Blanche in her despair. Mother Jeanne gives her a small statue of the infant Christ, but Blanche drops it and it smashes onto the floor.
Mother Marie insists that the sisters hold a vote to take a vow of martyrdom. All eventually accede but as the vows are sworn, Blanche flees the convent.
Back at the house of the Marquis de la Force, Blanche becomes a servant 😮 the revolutionaries, who have occupied the family home and dispatched her father to the guillotine. Mother Marie arrives to reunite Blanche with the other nuns, but fails to persuade her.
Now imprisoned, the Prioress comforts her sisters in faith and tells them that she intends to join them in martyrdom. Constance tells of her dream. in which Blanche returns to them. The jailor then announces that they have been sentenced to death.
On a street in the city, the Chaplain informs Mother Marie of their fate. Paris 1794. In the Place de la Revolution, the nuns go to meet their death. one by one, singing SaWe Regina.
Translation Nell Betteridge
Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve! Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Hevae, ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte; et lesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui. nobis post hoc exilium ostende. O Clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.