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The Opera House is the second-largest theater in the Center, with 2,362 seats. It was designed for ballet, opera, and musical theater. Over the years, the Opera House has welcomed dozens of the world's great dance and opera companies and has hosted some of the most important artistic events of the last quarter century. With its distinctive red and gold chandelier, a gift from Austria, the Opera House makes an elegant setting for the annual Kennedy Center Honors, the nation's highest award for lifetime achievement in the arts.

Now performing in the Opera House :

Image for Washington National Opera: <i>Dialogues of the Carmelites</i>

Washington National Opera: Dialogues of the Carmelites


Dialogues of the Carmelites (1957)

(Dialogues des carmélites)                            
Libretto by the composer, after a play by Georges Bernanos
Company premiere
WNO production, originally produced by Opéra National de Paris
"Wonderful psychological complexity… a hymn to the powers of sisterhood and the strength of female solidarity"--The Toronto Star
Faith is put to the ultimate test in Poulenc's powerful 1957 opera about an order of Carmelite nuns who refuse to renounce their beliefs in the wake of the French Revolution. With social unrest rippling through Paris, a timid young woman leaves her aristocratic family to seek refuge at a convent in northern France. She strives to align with her fellow sisters, who soon discover they must either abandon their monastery or face certain execution. Their act of defiance in the face of fear becomes a gripping, emotional story of loyalty, redemption, and sacrifice.
At turns hymnal and haunting, Dialogues of the Carmelites soars with exquisite harmonies, a sublime a cappella "Ave Maria," and wrenching twists, including a chilling final tableau. Directed by WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello--and performing an English translation approved by the composer--the stellar cast includes three fast-rising sopranos: the WNO debuts of Leah Crocetto as steadfast leader Madame Lidoine and Layla Claire as impressionable new nun Blanche de la Force, plus Ashley Emerson (Papagena in WNO's The Magic Flute) as optimistic Sister Constance.
Additionally, star mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick (Adalgisa in WNO's Norma) makes her role debut as Madame de Croissy, the ailing prioress of the monastery, while mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop (Brangäne in WNO's Tristan and Isolde) portrays martyrdom-driven Mother Marie, a role she has performed to great acclaim. 
Madame Lidoine: Leah Crocetto*
Blanche de la Force: Layla Claire*
Madame de Croissy: Dolora Zajick 
Mother Marie: Elizabeth Bishop
Sister Constance: Ashley Emerson
Marquis de la Force: Alan Held
Chevalier de la Force: Shawn Mathey
The Chaplain: Robert Baker
Conductor: Antony Walker
Director: Francesca Zambello
Set Designer: Hildegard Bechtler*
Costume Designer: Claudie Gastine
Lighting Designer: Mark McCullough
*WNO debut

Sung in the composer's approved English translation by Joseph Machlis with projected English titles. Titles may not be visible from the rear of the orchestra.

Performance Timing: approximatley 3 hrs. (Act I: 86 minutes; Intermission 20 min.; Act II; 73 minutes)

Musicologist Saul
Lilienstein leads the Thursday, March 5 Opera Insight, starting 1 hour and 15 minutes before the performance and lasting 35–40 minutes. All other Opera Insights start 1 hour before the performance and last 20–25 minutes. Informative and entertaining, Opera Insights take you inside the composer's mind, behind the scenes of planning a production, and into the history and social context of each opera.
These lectures are free, but patrons must present a ticket from any performance of Dialogues of the Carmelites.

Following these performances:

Monday evening, February 23
Sunday matinee, March 8
Join WNO artists for a unique opportunity to ask questions about the production.
All discussions begin immediately after the performance and are free with your ticket.