School of Music, Theatre and Dance

‘Dialogues of the Carmelites,’ an opera, coming to OU stage

Performances run Jan. 16-19 in Varner Recital Hall

icon of a calendarDecember 19, 2019

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‘Dialogues of the Carmelites,’ an opera, coming to OU stage
Dialogues of the Carmelites
Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance will present the opera "Dialogues of the Carmelites" from Jan. 16-19 in Varner Recital Hall. (Photo courtesy JLBoone Photography)

Oakland University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance will present the opera Dialogues of the Carmelites — Francis Poulenc’s moving tale of the martyrdom of Carmelite nuns during the French Revolution — from Jan. 16-19 in Varner Recital Hall.

“The story follows the arc of a fictionalized character, Blanche de la Force, though the other nuns portrayed in the play were real-life individuals,” said Dr. Drake Dantzler, director and associate professor of music at OU.

“It is a mediation on faith, fear, death and redemption,” Dantzler added. “Poulenc’s music is beautiful, haunting and accessible despite its chromaticism, and, at times, terrifying. The final scene, in which the nuns are marched to the guillotine one by one while singing, is one of the most famous in opera.”

The role of Blanche de la Force will alternate between OU seniors Caroline Roberts and Gillian Tackett.

“Blanche is born into a rich family, and seemingly has everything she might need at her fingertips,” Tackett said. “Yet, she is plagued with an inner fear of the world around her, and is the definition of a superstitious person, who could be described as having a poor constitution. Blanche tried to solve her problem by leaving the world as she knows it and turning to her one refuge — God. She becomes a nun. However, what Blanche thought would be a refuge is just about everything but that.”

For Roberts, playing the role of Blanche has been an enjoyable challenge.

“I’ve never felt more like a character I’m playing than the moment when I put Blanche’s habit costume on,” she said. “It’s been a challenge to play her because she is different from myself in so many ways. She is overcome with fear in everything she encounters, and there are even moments when I feel my body experiencing a physiological fear response.”

Nick Nastally, who will alternate the role of Le Chevalier de la Force — the brother of Blanche — with Mario Melone, said the production tells “a wonderful story.”

“One of my goals in life is to be able to take people away from their reality and enjoy music,” he said. “I want to be able to let people feel what they are meant to feel: emotions, whether happy, sad, angry, longing, etc. I am able to do this through opera and especially through this production.”

Melody Baker agreed. She will alternate the role Mére (Mother) Marie — an established nun in the convent who is close with the Mother Superior — with Lily Belle Czartorski.

“It’s a privilege to be a part of this show, and to tell the story of these women,” Baker said. What makes it all the more powerful, is that it is based on a true story. I’m extremely excited to be sharing this role with my good friend, and I can’t wait for people to see the final product. This opera is a powerful testament to what fear can do to us not only as individuals, but as a society, too.” 

Tickets for Dialogues of the Carmelites, which features musical direction by Victoria Shively, are $12 for students and $22 for the general public.

To purchase tickets, visit

Performance Schedule:

• Thursday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m.

• Friday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m.

• Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m.

• Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m.


Decoding Dialogues: A Panel Discussion

The OU College of Arts and Sciences faculty will discuss the historical, social, and musical circumstances surrounding Francis Poulenc’s "Dialogues of the Carmelites" at 7 p.m. on Sunday, January 12 in Varner Recital Hall.

Participants in the Decoding Dialogues: Panel Discussion will include:

• Victoria Shively, a special lecturer in music history and theory;

• David Kidger, an associate professor of musicology;

• Ashley Voeks, visiting assistant professor of French;

• Sara Chapman Williams, an associate professor of history.

“Opera is the ultimate interdisciplinary art, and we love the idea of expanding that notion beyond the School of Music, Theatre and Dance to reflect the College of Arts and Sciences,” Shively said. “With our panel of experts, we will learn more about the world and circumstances in which Dialogues of the Carmelites took place.”

Admission to the panel discussion is free.

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