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Opera Workshop to present “Dialogue of the Carmelites”

Stephanie DePrez | Monday, November 24, 2008

Tonight at 7:30 in Washington Hall, the Music Department’s Opera Workshop class will perform Francis Poulenc’s 1957 work “Dialogues of the Carmelites.” The performance will feature selections from Poulenc’s 20th century opera about an order of nuns attempting to survive during the Reign of Terror in France.

Poulenc, once described by critic Claude Rostand as “half bad boy, half monk” (“le moine et le voyou”), was a versatile composer who also wrote chamber music, ballet, choral pieces, music for film and more. “Dialogues of the Carmelites” is based on a screenplay by French author Georges Bernanos, which was in turn based on a German novella by Gertrud von Le Fort. The opera actually first made its debut in Italian at the La Scala opera house in Milan.

The students’ performance will include four songs from the opera, with each song containing a different prayer. 

The performance is a pure workshop experience, rather than a finished product. The class has been working since fall break on all aspects of this program: Learning the text and examining the staging, costumes, makeup and lights, while also handling publicity in groups run by the students themselves. The goal of the workshop is to present the material as one does in performance – by accepting and sharing where the process of production is at this given moment. 

What will be different about the experience that one would usually expect from an opera is that the students will then engage the audience in dialogue about their work.

After the interactive discussion, and benefiting from that discussion, the class will present the production again, incorporating whatever comments and suggestions the audience has given them.

By this process, the students of the Opera workshop hope to illustrate a truth about performance: that it is an active collaboration between audience, performer and composer. 

The show itself will run for approximately 25 minutes. It will be performed in English. Tickets are free at the door.

Contact Stephanie DePrez at sdeprez@nd.edu