San Francisco Opera presents a world premiere performance at the city’s War Memorial Opera House this evening. Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne, commissioned by SF Opera and General Director David Gockley, is based on the 1993 novel by award-winning author Stephen King, with libretto by J D McClatchy, and presented by arrangement with Andrew Welch.
This powerful theatrical presentation is the latest opera by American composer Tobias Picker, and the first Stephen King novel to be adapted for the lyric stage. The title role - played by Kathy Bates in the film adaptation of 1995 - will be shared by Patricia Racette and Catherine Cook, and the cast also includes soprano Elizabeth Futral as Vera Donovan, Susannah Biller as Selena St George, Wayne Tigges as Joe St George, Greg Fedderly as Detective Thibodeau and Joel Sorensen as Mr Pease.
The production is directed by James Robinson, and conductor George Manahan - in his Company debut - leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
Picker’s darkly theatrical opera is set on a working class island in rural Maine, and the action takes place between the spring of 1950 and winter of 1992,. The title character is a feisty, passionate Maine housewife, described as one of the most compelling characters created by King. Fiercely striving to deal with the adversity which she faces, Dolores Claiborne - desperate and trapped - will do anything to save herself and her daughter, even if it involves taking a life.
"The role of Dolores is a kind of American Tosca,” says Picker. “She is forced to make cataclysmic choices to save the one she loves.” “She is not your average operatic heroine,” explains librettist J D McClatchy. “She is complex: not always likeable, but always sympathetic. It was a challenge, but an absolute delight, to help bring her to life on stage.”
American soprano Patricia Racette - who appears on September 18, 22 and 25 - celebrates her 24th anniversary with San Francisco Opera this season. A participant in the Adler Fellowship and Merola Opera Program, she has sung 28 roles with the Company, most recently the title role of Tosca, the three heroines of Puccini’s Il Trittico, and Marguerite in Faust. Having performed in two of Tobias Picker’s earlier operas, Emmeline and An American Tragedy, Ms Racette is no stranger to his works. Described as "an artist at the peak of her powers" by Opera News, she also appears for SF Opera this season in Mefistofele, in the title role of Madama Butterfly, and makes her debut as Julie La Verne in Show Boat.
Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook - who sings the title role of Dolores Claiborne on October 1 and 4 - has appeared with San Francisco Opera in more than forty roles since her Company debut in 1991. Ms Cook - a graduate of the Merola Opera Program and a former Adler Fellow - chairs the voice department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She returns to SF Opera in November to sing the role of Berta in The Barber of Seville - a role she last sang with Houston Grand Opera in the 2011-12 season. Amongst her appearances in the 2012-13 season, Catherine Cook returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Marthe in Faust, and appeared as Mistress Hibbons in the world premiere of Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter with Opera Colorado.
San Francisco Opera presents Dolores Claiborne on September 18, 22 and 25, and on October 1 and 4. For more information and tickets, please visit the SF Opera website
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