So far, the reviews of San Francisco Opera's Dolores Claiborne (Patricia Racette as Dolores Claiborne on the Little Tall Island ferry pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) are not impressive.
* Notes *
Tobias Picker's Dolores Claiborne (Act I Scene 3 pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) had a world premiere at San Francisco Opera on Wednesday night. The opera is compelling. The narrative, based on Stephen King's novel, is rather dark. Picker's music is ornate, there are many twists and turns in the musical line, and many duets, trios, and ensembles. Though the music is lyrical, it eschews sentimentality. J.D. McClatchy's libretto is neither cloying nor awkward, and has a refreshing directness. The tiered set is cinematic, the many scenes flow easily, and though there are projections, they do not dominate the production.
George Manahan kept the orchestra together. The singers were all able to float above the sound of the orchestra. The chorus sounded characteristically good.
The opera features many female voices. Patricia Racette was fairly strong, though much of the singing seemed a bit lower in her tessitura than we are accustomed to hearing. Susannah Biller sounded clear and bright as Selena St. George. Elizabeth Futral sounded harsh and shrill as Vera Donovan, which was extremely effective for this role.
Wayne Tigges was an utterly alarming Joe St. George, his voice is pretty but his music is disquieting. Jacqueline Piccolino, Nikki Einfeld, Marina Harris, Laura Krumm, and Renée Rapier did a fine job as Vera Donovan's other maids. Robert Watson, Hadleigh Adams, and A.J. Glueckert were amusing as Cox, Fox, and Knox.
There were some opening night difficulties, which are sure to be ironed out in the coming weeks. Some of the singing did not seem precisely together. At one point in the ferry scene (Act I Scene 5) Selena angrily asks her mother to let her go, but Racette had not yet grabbed on to Biller's arm.
* Tattling *
There was lot of clapping between scenes, even if music was clearly still being played.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was Mr. Picker's guest. Her security detail sat at the very back of the orchestra level and the railing behind them was cordoned off from standees.
* Notes *
The final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Dolores Claiborne (Patricia Racette as Dolores Claiborne pictured left, photograph by Scott Wall) was held this afternoon at the War Memorial Opera House. The pacing of Tobias Picker's music is good, the drama does not lag, and J.D. McClatchy's libretto is much less clumsy than other recent contemporary commissions by San Francisco Opera. The orchestra sounds fine, as do the singers. The staging is particularly impressive as well. Catherine Cook sang the title role, while Patricia Racette did all of the acting on stage. This was a little surreal, especially when the assistant stage director was visible, carefully watching Racette's every move and giving her notes.
* Tattling *
Arriving two hours before curtain was overkill and I was alone by the north doors for a very long time.