Cardiff-based conservatoire the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) has announced that Poulenc’s three-Act opera Dialogues des Carmélites (Dialogues of the Carmelites, 1957) in a new English-language version will comprise part of its packed programme of music and drama for its spring 2023 season.

Poulenc’s second opera, Dialogues des Carmélites is set in 1794 during the closing days of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. It tells a fictionalised version of the story of the Martyrs of Compiègne, Carmelite nuns who were guillotined in Paris for refusing to renounce their vocation.

Poulenc also wrote the libretto, after a 1949 work of the same name by Georges Bernanos.

The fearful Blanche de la Force is forced to seek sanctuary in a convent of Carmelite nuns to escape the terror. Their faith is tested, and the horror of the Revolution’s Reign of Terror comes to pass. This powerful and heart-breaking English-language version of the opera is presented by the performers of the David Seligman Opera School.

Dialogues des Carmélites is a gripping and tragic tale, brought wonderfully to life with the sumptuous harmonies and powerful music-drama of French composer Francis Poulenc,” RWCMD’s director of music, Tim Rhys-Evans, commented.

“The opera includes a large cast and chorus plus a 60-piece orchestra. These forces will be amassed on stage so it will be a thrilling theatrical experience.”

The production is directed by award-winning stage director Rachael Hewer. Conductor, pianist and coach James Southall wields the baton.

Performances take place at Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre at 7pm on 25 and 27-29 March 2023. Tickets are on sale now and cost £13-£21; half-price tickets are available for the under-25s.

Dialogues des Carmélites forms part of the college’s programme of music and drama for its spring 2023 season. Musical highlights include pianist Lucy Parham returning to Royal Welsh College with Elegie: Rachmaninoff, A Heart in Exile on 9 March. The production chronicles the life of the composer with narration from Olivier award-winning actor Henry Goodman and Parham performing some of his best-loved solo piano works.

Award-winning kamancheh (Persian violin) player Kayhan Kalhor and renowned baglama (Turkish lute) player Erdal Erzincan present their exciting and intensely spiritual musical partnership in a concert on 19 January.

Jazz highlights include trumpeter and composer Byron Wallen drawing inspiration from contemporary and indigenous cultures, as well as the likes of Miles Davies and Wayne Shorter, for a special performance on 27 January. BBC Young Jazz Musician winner Xhosa Cole and his quartet return to Cardiff on 3 March to celebrate the work of Thelonius Monk.

The Royal Welsh College Symphony Orchestra has several concerts lined up. On 8 February it will play pieces by Welsh composer Grace Williams, as well as Douglas Lilburn and Sibelius – music which portrays nature, unity and collective strength.

On 16 February the orchestra will perform music by trumpeter Philip Jones, who formed the first modern classical brass ensemble, and on 22 March it pays musical tribute to a former colleague, teacher and highly respected composer David Harries.

There will also be special musical celebrations for St David’s Day on 1 March, featuring Welsh favourites such as Sosban Fach and Men of Harlech, and International Women’s Day on 8 March, featuring the likes of Judith Bingham and Welsh composer Rhian Samuel.

Taking place over 3-4 March, RWCMD’s Big Bash Weekend is a series of events aimed at children and younger audiences. Workshops and concerts will provide an introduction to percussion.

The full programme is available from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.



An English-language version of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is the operatic highlight of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama’s 2023 season.