‘Dialogues of the Carmelites’

Author: Gene Stowe

“Dialogues des Carmelites,” a 1950s opera set in the French Revolution, echoes contemporary themes of religious freedom and the relation of individuals to society, says Mark Beudert, director of Opera Notre Dame.

Opera Notre Dame and the Department of Music present the opera at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 25 to 27, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 28, in the Decio Mainstage Theatre. The 1950s opera is based on the history of 16 Carmelites from a convent in Compeigne, executed during the French Revolution.The performance is French language with projected English translations, and tickets are $14. Please arrive early. There will be no late seating and no intermission.

“I think there are questions with religious freedom and how society interacts with religion today,” Beudert says. “I think you can open the newspaper and see any number of topics where the question of how a person of faith lives in a secular society. It’s not too much of a stretch to see France in 1792 in America today or Europe in the 1950s.”

Most students in the program are double majors, and while some have gone on to professional music careers or further study at top conservatories, many devote themselves to other fields. For example, MurphyKate Montee, who plays the leading female role Blanche de la Force, is a Churchill Scholar who will be studying geometry and topology at the University of Cambridge in the fall.

In the opera, Blanche, a young noblewoman, decides to enter the severe Carmelite order. As a result of the French Revolution, with its strong antipathy to religion, the order’s property is nationalized, and the nuns are condemned to death, a martyrdom that Blanche accepts voluntarily.

The French-language performance—with a cast of more than 50—also reflects Notre Dame’s rare approach to opera, with a focus on understanding such questions as why the opera was written and what was its context as well as how to perform the piece—an approach befitting the University’s’ liberal arts environment.