Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

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):