Friday, October 04, 2013

SFO: Dolores Claiborne

The night after seeing Mefistofele at San Francisco Opera, I was back for Tobias Picker's new opera Dolores Claiborne, meaning I saw soprano Patricia Racette tackle her 3rd role within 24 hours. She seemed impressively secure, considering that she stepped into the role barely 3 weeks before the opera's premiere the previous week. The opera is based on the Stephen King novel & follows the structure of the book, using a police interrogation as a frame & moving back & forth in time. The production is very pictorial. The detailed sets, wide projections & rapid scene changes give it a cinematic, hyper-real look. There are striking moments when the entire set pans horizontally.

The cast all gave strong performances. Ms. Racette is a terrific actress. Her Dolores remained sympathetic even while ready to commit murder. Soprano Elizabeth Futral sounded solid as the dowager Vera Donovan, though the character is not as intimidating in the opera as she is in the book. Soprano Susannah Biller was convincing as both the teenage & adult versions of Selena, Dolores's uneasy daughter. Her singing was clear & bright. The opera settles on the mother-daughter relationship as its closing theme, though without the reconciliation implied in the novel's epilogue. Bass-baritone Wayne Tigges sang Joe, Dolores's abusive husband, lyrically, yet his portrayal was so believably brutish that he received some booing when he took his curtain call. Tenor Greg Fedderly sang the role of the interrogating detective with urgency & had very clear diction.

The libretto is straight-forward & clear. It preserves the novel's salty language, & the audience laughed when Ms. Racette sang certain 4-letter words, even though these words did not appear in the supertitles. The music has an even texture throughout & is atmospheric & busy. It often conveys a vague feeling of menace. A dreamy arioso for Dolores, onboard a ferry, is time-stoppingly beautiful & received applause. I also liked the jabbering ensemble of maids hanging the wash & the boistrious trio for 3 male guests at a fancy lawn party. The vocal lines seem difficult, & there are cruelly high passages for Vera, Selena & the detective. The audience was engaged & gave Ms. Racette a warm ovation when the curtain came up for her diva bow. Composer Tobias Picker took a bow with the cast.

§ Dolores Claiborne
An opera by Tobias Picker
Libretto by J. D. McClatchy
Based on the novel Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: George Manahan

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

Director: James Robinson
Set Designer: Allen Moyer
Costume Designer: James Schuette
Lighting Designer: Christopher Akerlind
Projection Designer: Greg Emetaz
Chorus Director: Ian Robertson
Fight Director: Dave Maier

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