By Iride Aparicio

Photographer: Cory Weaver, SF Opera

SAN FRANCISCO, CA-Considered one of the 20th Century greatest operas, "Dialogue of the Carmelites" was written by Francis Poulenc in 1957, a Catholic composer of Christian Music, who wrote music for the masses of the Catholic Church.

His opera libretto was written by French author Louis Émile Clément George Bernanos, a soldier, who was also a Catholic writer with lots of monarchist learning and with critical and elitist though. The story of the opera's libretto, was based on historic data collected during the terrorist time in France (The years before The French Revolution in l789) which were the time when hundredths of religious martyrs, mostly Catholic nuns and priests, were decapitated in the guillotine for no other crime but refusing to repudiate their religion.

In his opera's  libretto, Bernanos gives his audience a glimpse of the revolution,  with hordes already  raising  against the aristocracy in France. impersonated in the libretto in the character of  Blanche de la Force, the young daughter of a rich French Marquis, who lives in a mansion with his brother and father, has maids, and travels in her own horse drawn carriage.  Blanche, who because of her aristocratic rank has been separated from the middle and lower class French all her life, is shy, insecure, and suffers from fear.

Lately, when going out, she had seen the masses shouting on the streets of France, and, at times, those masses had even stopped her carriage and threatened her when she walks outside outside her mansion.  On the first act, of the opera, we see her returning to her home, after being threatened in the street, still shaking from terror, and self describing her nature to her father, as the nature of a Bunny Rabbit, which as we all now, are very fearful animals. In her conversation she also informs her father, that she had decided to abandon the world, so filled with rage and hatred, and hide from it, forever, in the security offered behind the tall cement walls of s Carmelite's convent in France.  


And if in its music the opera is novel in it sound, in its arias, the opera is unique, because most of its Arias are in recitative, and imitate speaking dialogue. In Dialogue of the Carmelites, second act, most are in recitative (speaking form). And in this particular opera, the dialogue is important, because it is in the dialogue that Bernanos gives the audience the essence of faith we need to be familiar with, to fully understand the meaning of the work.

Some dialogues among the nuns are short, but the one between the now dying Mother Superior of the convent, who years ago accepted the fearful Blanche as a novice, after she told her that if accepted, as a novice and becomes a Carmelite nun, she would adopt the name of "Sister Blanche of the Agony of Christ," are very important. specially its second one.

During this dialogue, we see the two nuns talking again, but this time is different, because Blanche is already a nun, and the old Mother Superior is laying on a cot, dying, So, if the opera's subtitles in English are translated correctly (the opera is in French) the audience will be able to understand the old nun's words, and extract bits of her accumulated wisdom base of faith. We may define her wisdom, in literature terms, as the premise of this drama. What we mean is the quotes from the Bible with the power, to completely dissipated Blanche's FEAR


For those wanting to see the San Francisco's Opera Production of Francis Poulen's DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES, the powerful opera is now showing it at the San Francisco  War Memorial Opera House from October 15 through October 30, with a superb cast.
The orchestra is going to be conducted by Caroline H. Hume Music Director Eun Sun Kim and to name a few singers: Soprano Heidi Stober will be singing the role of Blanche de La Force, Bass baritone Dale Travis, will sing the role Marquis de La Force, and Ben Bliss. The role of Chevalier de la Force and Michaela Schuster will play the role of Mother Marie, and Deanna Breiwick will   make her San Francisco Opera debut as Sister Constance, The opera revival will be directed by well-known director Daniel Izzo.

Tickets are available at https://www.sfopera.com/buy-tickets/ and by phone at 415 864-3330. You can also get a ticket for livestream on Friday, October 21 at 7:30pm if you can not make it to the opera in person.