Dialogues des Carmélites



“Even if it is an opera about fear, it is also, and more especially in my view, an opera about grace and the transfer of grace. That is why my Carmelites will mount the scaffold with an extraordinary calmness and confidence. Confidence and calm are the basis, are they not, of all mystical experience?”

Francis Poulenc


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Libretto by Georges Bernanos
Text of the play by Georges Bernanos
Adapted with the permission of Emmet Lavery
Based on a short story by Gertrude Von Le Fort and from a script by Rev. Bruckberger and Philippe Agostini

During the French Revolution, the nuns of the Carmelite convent in Compiègne are threatened with the guillotine. The young nun, Blanche de la Force, watches in terror as the Mother Superior suffers her agony. When the revolutionaries invade the convent, she manages to flee, but transfigured by her faith, she joins her sisters, and freed from her fear, she joins them at the scaffold.

In March 1953, the director of publishing house Editions Ricordi suggested to Francis Poulenc to put the play by Georges Bernanos, Dialogues des Carmélites, to music. The composer, driven by his deep faith, threw himself passionately into the realization of this opera based on real historical events, when, following the French Revolution, the religious orders were persecuted. He was literally obsessed with Blanche’s complex relationship with death and relates it to his own existential questions. Deeply human, between the sacred and the profane, exploring consciousness and relationships with religion, Poulenc’s masterpiece offers us an initiatory journey towards grace.

After a first performance in Italy in Milan in 1957, before its definitive version came into being several months later, Dialogues des Carmélites is an essential milestone in French opera. The man whom critics called a Monk or a Thug, for the astonishing contrast which animates the spirit of his works, touches on the absolute here through the genius of his French prosody and the dramatic intensity carried by a sublime music.

  • Most recent performance at the ORW
    April 2004
  • New production
    Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège
  • With the support
    of Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral Belge