Campus Life

Workshop takes on challenge

Riveting drama and shattering poignancy mark the operatic offering, The Dialogue of the Carmelites, Feb. 26-27 in the University Theatre.

"This riveting dramatic work is a huge undertaking for student singers – professionals tremble at the prospect of this opera," says Dr. Blaine Hendsbee, Opera Workshop director. "That said, I believe this year, we're be up to the task – and the students are proving me right."

The Dialogue of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc plays Feb. 26-27 at 8 p.m. nightly in the University Theatre.

Set during the French Revolution, The Dialogue of the Carmelites follows an order of nuns and its newest addition, Blanche, through an epic journey of persecution and defiance as they ultimately pay the price to uphold their religious convictions.

"The depth and range of characters appeal to singers," Hendsbee says. "The musical score is complex and the story dramatic. It's about the struggle between religious freedom and society's role. Most poignant is the role faith takes in an individual's beliefs, and how far an individual will go to defend their beliefs."

Performed in English, the opera is a serious undertaking for any opera company.

"The music was written in the 20th century – it's very melodic and tuneful as well as magnificently powerful and very dramatic. It's a heavy night at the opera," he adds.

The scope of the production provides challenges, which Hendsbee and assistant director Dr. Sandra Stringer are ready to meet.

"With 16 different scenes throughout the opera where action takes place, it was a great challenge to ensure the changes happened seamlessly," Hendsbee explains.

A 15-piece orchestra, conducted by Glen Klassen, adds another glorious dimension to Poulenc's recitative.

"Although the opera is about subordination and persecution of women, it's truly an opera of women," he adds. "Men play a supporting role in this opera. The focus is on the relationships and struggles of these nuns."

Transformative and riveting, The Dialogue of the Carmelites transports audiences to a turbulent, dark and stark 18th century.

Tickets are priced at $15 for regular admission and $10 student/senior at the University Box Office, or by calling 403-329-2616.