04.02.–17.03.2024 / Opera

Dialogues des Carmélites

Francis Poulenc
Fri 09.02.2024
Opernhaus Düsseldorf
19:30 - 22:30
Pay what you want! Opera
Pay what you want!
Moving plea for the courage to stand by one's convictions in the midst of terror
In French with German surtitles
approx. 3 hours, one interval
For all from 16 upwards
Revolution meets religion: the young Blanche de la Force hopes to overcome her tormenting fear of life in the seclusion of the monastery's everyday life, but the brutal reality of the French Revolution does not stop at the thickest walls. The Revolutionary Guards dissolve the convent, the nuns are arrested arrested - all that is left for them is a prescribed death. Blanche is the only one who manages to escape. She decides against this freedom and in favour of an upright death together on the scaffold. Francis Poulen tells the true story of 18 Francis Poulenc tells the true story of 18 nuns as an existential psychodrama in atmospherically dense sounds.
Musikalische Leitung
Bühne und Kostüme
Luc Joosten
Marquis de la Force
Madame de Croissy, Priorin
Madame Lidoine, neue Priorin
Mère Marie
Soeur Constance
Soeur Mathilde
Erster Kommissar
Zweiter Kommissar
Offizier / Kerkermeister / Thierry
Monsieur Javelinot
Mathias Tönges

Chevalier de la Force is concerned for his sis­ter Blanche after learning that her carriage was stopped by insurgents. His father recalls a firework accident which obliged him to flee from the out­raged crowd with his pregnant wife. As a result the Marquise died giving premature birth to Blanche. Returning harne, Blanche is almost frightened to death by the shadows of the servants when go­ing to her room. She attaches great significance to this incident and begs her father to allow her to seek safety in a convent.

Blanche is received by the old Prioress Mme de Croissy, who warns Blanche not to delude herself into believing that she can escape from herself and the world in a Carmel. But, deeply moved when Blanche unhesitatingly asks to take the order name "Sister Blanche of the Agony of Christ", the Prioress consents with her blessing.

The cheerful novice Constance tells Blanche that she envisages their dying together later. Blanche's reaction to this is horrified and repugnant; even in the convent she cannot be rid of her fear.
Mother Marie is tending the old Prioress on her deathbed. Before sinking into delirium Mme de Croissy commits Blanche to her care. Facing death, the aged Prioress sees God as no more than a shadow. In her death throes she has a vision of the destruction of the convent.


The nuns are keeping death-watch at the bier of the dead Prioress. When Constance goes to fetch their relief, Blanche is seized by panic and makes to flee out of the chapel. She comes face to face with Mother Marie, who rebukes her.

Constance and Blanche are discussing the ap­pointment of a new Prioress. Constance hopes that Mother Marie will be chosen. She is disturbed that the old Prioress had had such a hard death and wonders whether she perhaps died in the place of others.

Modest Mme Lidoine, chosen as the new Prioress instead of the noble Mother Marie, charges her fellow sisters in these troubled political times to seek their salvation not in death by martyrdom, but in prayer.

Chevalier de la Force demands to see his sister.

The Chevalier plans to leave France and asks Blanche to return to her father. Blanche insists on following her own path.

The Republic has forbidden priests exercise their spiritual functions. The Father Confessor of the Carmelites is forced to go into hiding. While he is taking leave of the sisters, a mob led by a police officer breaks into the convent intending to clear it. Although the officer grants the nuns a short postponement, Blanche is most deeply frightened. When Mother Jeanne hands a statue of the Little King of Heaven, she is so paralyzed by fear that she drops Jesus to the ground.


While the Prioress is away in Paris, Mother Marie calls upon the sisters in the face of danger to take a vow of martyrdom. A secret ballot is to decide an her proposal and at first there is only one vote against it. Blanche is suspected, but it was Con­stance, and she thereupon withdraws her Nay. All accede to the vow, whereupon Blanche flees in horror from the convent.

The Carmelites leave the convent and separate. On her return the Prioress admonishes her sisters, in contradiction of their vow, not to seek martyrdom.

Mother Marie traces Blanche to the ransacked hause of her guillotined father and calls on her to save herself. Blanche refuses.

All the Carmelites have been arrested except Mother Marie and Blanche. The Prioress sanctions the vow to martyrdom and seeks to strengthen their resolve by reminding them of Christ's Agony in the Garden on the Mount of Olives. The gaoler announces the verdict: the Carmelites are to die under the guillotine.

lnformed of the death sentence by the chaplain, Mother Marie wishes to join her sisters: but the Father Confessor restrains her.

Singing "Salve Regina" the Carmelites die one after another under the guillotine on the Place de la Revolution, until only the voice of Constance remains. At this Blanche climbs the scaffold and adds her own voice to the hymn. In perfect peace and freed of all fear she smilingly follows her sis­ters to her death.