Opera tells story of Carmelite martyrs, comes to Newark cathedral

Opera tells story of Carmelite martyrs, comes to Newark cathedral


An opera, which tells the true story of 16 Carmelite nuns who were martyred during the French Revolution, will be performed at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark this month.

Dialogues of the Carmelites tells of the final days of the French Revolution, when the Committee of Public Safety was created to preserve the reforms of the revolution. Their aim was to eliminate all counter-revolutionary elements, including people dedicated to the faith.


This aim resulted in the Reign of Terror, a period characterized by a wave of executions. Sixteen Carmelites of the Monastery of the Incarnation in Compiègne were arrested on June 24, 1794, and thrown into prison. While singing hymns, they were guillotined in Paris one month later.  Pope Pius X beatified these martyrs of the faith in 1906.


The three-act opera by Francis Poulenc will feature Metropolitan Opera Mezzo-Soprano Barbara Dever, along with the Cathedral Choir and Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John J. Miller and under the stage direction of Will Bryan. Dever has sung with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo.


The performance coincides with the anniversary of the death of three saints who served in the Carmelite order: St. Mary Magdalene DePazzi, who died 400 years ago; St. Raphael Kalinowski, who died 100 years ago; and St. Edith Stein, who died 65 years ago. 


The opera is also celebrating its 50th anniversary. It debuted in 1957 at La Scala Opera House in Milan. 


Dialogues of the Carmelites will be performed at the Newark cathedral May 24 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for adults range in price from $20 to $40. Children’s tickets are $10. Group rates are available. For more information, go to: www.cathedralbasilica.org.


The performance was made possible in part by a grant from the Valparaiso Project.