By Rebecca Fiedler
This week, the story of “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” an opera by Francis Poulenc, will unravel on the Baylor campus. It tells the tale of a convent of nuns standing up for what they believe in during the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution.
The opera is performed under the musical direction and conduction of Jeffrey Peterson and stage direction of Octavio Cardenas, and will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in Jones Theatre at Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center.
Putting on the show will have been no small feat.
“There have been a lot of hands going into this production,” said Amanda Lassetter, the show’s stage manager. Octavio Cardenas, co-director of the production, assistant professor in the Baylor School of Music and director of Baylor Opera, said he loves working with and training the students involved.
“You have to take more time with them to explain to them how to use the voice and the body and how to relate to each other,” Cardenas said. “So we had to be a little slow on the way I approach it. It’s very different than the way I would approach working with a professional, but it’s a lot of fun.”
As opposed to other operas, Cardenas said “Dialogues of the Carmelites” is a challenging one for the students to perform. It doesn’t have a lot of melodies like a traditional opera and is very conversational.
“The music follows the inflections of the voice,” Cardenas said.
Cardenas said the music flows more like a real dialogue would, similar to the chant of a Catholic priest, and that there are no set musical numbers.
“Instead of having a lot of tunes that you can hum, it doesn’t work like a traditional opera,” he said.
Cardenas compared the opera with “Les Miserables,” a popular Broadway musical whose story also takes place in the strife of the French Revolution.
Cardenas said “Les Miserables” is more commercial than Poulenc’s opera because it has more melodies and is simpler to a certain degree.
Cardenas said the music is not as challenging as that of “Dialogues of the Carmelites.”
The voice has to be trained for the kind of music of “Dialogue of the Carmelites,” while a student might find it easier to prepare for “Les Miserables,” Cardenas said.
The music that Baylor students will be singing this week for the show isn’t something a person would be singing while in their car, he said.
“That would be a little weird,” he added.
Cardenas said this would be a good opera for Christians to see, as it’s about martyrdom and takes place in a time when Christianity was not allowed to be professed in public.
Waco junior Hannah Powers, who plays a nun named Sister Valentine, said she has never personally been afraid of death, but the characters of the opera go through a big spiritual struggle because they’re giving up their lives for the Lord. They’re faced with death, but they’re not supposed to be afraid of death because they have God. That’s what they live for.
“It’s kind of this idea that, you know, Christ gives you strength and not being afraid of that, but in reality I’m glad that I don’t have to face that,” Powers said. “That is kind of a neat thing when you think about how much faith you have to have.”
Cardenas encouraged Baylor students to come and see the show which will be sung in English, according to the wishes of Francis Poulenc. Cardenas said that students won’t find it as boring as they may expect.
“The last scene is a very, very, very beautiful scene,” he said. “I won’t tell you what happens at the end, but the end is epic.”
Tickets are available through the Baylor Theatre box office and are $15. Students may call the box office for more information or visit www.baylor.edu/theatre.