Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Patricia Racette as Dolores Claiborne [Photo © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera]
22 Sep 2013

Dolores Claiborne in San Francisco

Dolores Claiborne, the heroine of the book Dolores Claiborne (1992), is a figment of the imagination of prolific pulp horror novelist Stephen King.

Dolores Claiborne in San Francisco

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Patricia Racette as Dolores Claiborne

Photos © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

 

Just now she has been made into an operatic heroine by composer Tobias Picker with one assumes a lot of undocumented help from J.D. McClatchy, his librettist.

But before the opera the fictional Dolores Claiborne became the heroine of a movie (film does not seem the appropriate term) back in 1995 that a lot of people seem to remember even though a lot more films based on Stephen King novels made a lot more money (seventeen of them made more money to be exact).

If these two pop genres are not part of your general culture and opera is, and you happened into the War Memorial Opera House and caught Dolores Claiborne you might have been as aghast as I was.

This poor domestic servant (Dolores) had just emptied the bedpan and changed the diaper of her mean old employer when the bitter old woman was chased down the stairs by the ghost of her murdered husband. A lot happened before this, for example Dolores’ daughter Selena was raped by her father, Dolores’ husband Joe (a big number about “into the well and don’t tell”). But Selena worked hard and became a lonely Boston lawyer after Dolores got Joe drunk during the 1962 eclipse of the sun and pushed him into a well, then hit him on the head with a big rock when he tried to climb out.

SFO_Clai_10.pngElizabeth Futral as Vera Donovan

With all this, and it is only for starters, there was not much time for psychological immersion. Empathy too was out of the question given that the sordid situations these unfortunate figments of Mr. King’s imagination got themselves into were revolting.

The governing tension of the piece is that men abuse women (there is quite a list of ways in the opera) and that God is a man and not interested in women so women must become mean bitches to take care of themselves (these are the words used in the opera). One might take a moment to compare the tensions explored in Werther or Wozzeck (or for nearly any other opera in the repertory), tensions that engender psychological exploration and emotional elaboration.

There is no point in imagining the music that might equal the situations of this libretto, except, just for the fun of it, to imagine music that might be created for a solar eclipse. There was not a hint of any such music. Tobias Picker let the words of the story tell the story in plausible, more or less conventional musical lines supported by appropriate, more or less conventional contemporary sounds emerging from the pit.

There was but one moment of reflection that stood out in the evening. Dolores’ daughter Selena was alone on stage in the starry blackness of the solar eclipse and senses that things are not quite right. It was a beautiful moment before it got musically boring, but it did call attention to the absolutely brilliantly designed set, the work of Allen Moyer. Here it was the projection of an all black abstraction of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” and it was the opera’s only imaginative moment.

SFO_Clai_12.pngSusannah Biller as Selena, Wayne Tigges as Joe St. George and Patricia Racette as Dolores Claiborne

Moyer’s set was the outline of a rural police office elaborated by cinematic projections (by Greg Emetaz), some realistic, some abstractions of physical spaces, and there were stunning landscapes created across the width of the stage, among them a realistic clapboard house sitting in actual coastal marshes of Maine. With effective lighting by Christopher Akerlind the physical production achieved immense emotional atmospheres that were without response in the music. One assumes that stage director James Robinson had much to do with the realization of this superb physical production.

Mezzo soprano Dolora Zajick had the foresight to abandon the project, the role of Dolores Claiborne assumed and achieved, heroically, by diva Patricia Racette. Unfortunately there are already two sopranos in the score. The old woman Vera, vocally conceived as a high, thin aged voice was taken by Elizabeth Futral (in splendid voice). Dolores’ daughter Selena sung by Susannah Biller was the high coloratura voice of youth. Mme. Zajick would have provided welcomed alternative vocal color. Bass Wayne Tigges sang Dolores’ no-good husband Joe, and tenor Greg Fedderly was the not-too-bright country detective.

It was a high-powered cast who gave it their all. It was a waste of important talent. Conductor George Manahan held it together from the pit.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Dolores Claiborne: Patricia Racette; Selena St. George: Susannah Biller; Vera Donovan: Elizabeth Futral; Joe St. George: Wayne Tigges; Detective Thibodeau: Greg Fedderly; Mr. Pease: Joel Sorensen; Teenage Girl: Nikki Einfeld; Teenage Boy: Hadleigh Adams; Maid: Jacqueline Piccolino; Maid: Nikki Einfeld; Maid: Marina Harris; Maid: Laura Krumm; Maid: Renée Rapier; Mr. Cox: Robert Watson; Mr. Fox: Hadleigh Adams; Mr. Knox: A.J. Glueckert. Chorus and Orchestra of the San Francisco Opera. Conductor: George Manahan; Stage Director: James Robinson; Set Designer: Allen Moyer; Costume Designer: James Schuette; Lighting Designer: Christopher Akerlind; Projection Designer: Greg Emetaz. San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, September 18, 2013.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):