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‘Dialogues of the Carmelites’ explores fear in the ‘Reign of Terror’

While most Belmont students will learn about the French Revolution and its effects in a general education history class, this year students will be able to experience the “Reign of Terror” on stage.

“Dialogues of the Carmelites,” a 1956 French Opera based on the Carmelite order of nuns during the French Revolution, will be shown Nov. 8, 9, 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. in Belmont’s Troutt Theater.

“This is a true story and easy to emotionally connect with,” said Bevin Gregory, a sophomore music student who plays a nun in the performance. “Hopefully the audience will realize that these nuns were persecuted and eventually killed just because of their beliefs.”

“Dialogues of the Carmelites” revolves around the unrest of the French Revolution and a nun named Blanche de la Force. Force faces a crisis of faith, fear, and searches for courage throughout the production.

“The religious idea is that she is bearing the fear of the world,” said Kristi Whitten, creative director of the production. “What we are trying to get across is that she is consumed by fear.”

While Banche de la Force is a fictitious character, every story within the opera is based off a book of memoirs of a nun found by German writer Gertrude Von Le Fort.

“All the stories about these 16 nuns are true,” said Whitten. “Historically, this is based on a specific Carmelite order where all 16 of them were canonized and martyred at the guillotine.”

As a result of the dramatically strong voices needed for this tragic opera, faculty members and graduate students are included in the cast.

“We invited a faculty member to play a role that needed a stronger, more mature voice,” said Whitten.

Dr. Jennifer Coleman, who has performed with the Nashville Opera and the New York City Opera, is a full-time classical voice professor at Belmont and will be accompanying her students on the stage.

Along with added faculty, graduate students are also included in this cast to fill roles that call for an especially strong voice.

Students will experience the talent of Belmont’s classical music students and also French history with an edge.

“It’s informative of what they’re being taught in their history class, but also of basic human psychology and religious doctrine,” said Whitten.

While Whitten said she does not want to choose for the audience what they take away from the show, she hopes the core ideas are expressed well.

“We want them to take away an insight as to why that can happen as a result of fear and further that feeling of never wanting it to happen again,” said Whitten.

For attending the opera, students will receive Culture and Arts Convocation and MUG credit.

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