Poulenc’s “Dialogues des Carmélites”: “Salve Regina,” An Ode to Martyrs

Francis Poulenc’s 1957 opera, Dialogues des Carmélites, tells the story of the Martyrs of Compiègne, sixteen Carmelite nuns who were executed at the guillotine during the final days of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Driven from their convent and arrested, the nuns elected to take a vow of martyrdom rather than renounce their vocation. One of opera’s principal tragic heroines is Blanche de la Force, a woman from an aristocratic family who enters …

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