Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why Not [DeYoung / S. Cooke / Another Mezzo]?

John Marcher asks some questions about why Patricia Racette is stepping is for Dolora Zajick in next months's world premiere of Dolores Claiborne, rather than Michelle DeYoung, Sasha Cooke, or another first-class mezzo-soprano.

Well, here's what I know or have seen mentioned elsewhere:
  • Tobias Picker's first choice for Dolores was reported in Opera News to have been Racette (via Parterre Box).
  • Racette has worked with Picker in two of his previous operas. (h/t JK for the correction here)
  • She's here through October 4.
  • Catherine Cook is said on Parterre Box to have done all of the stage rehearsals to date.
  • Zajick withdrew from participation at the Orange Festival earlier in the summer.
So, an opera company has to make plans. Zajick's withdrawal from the Orange Festival is specifically called out in the SFO press release as having alerted the company to a possible problem. She has a history of knee problems going back a few years. Here's a 2005 Playbill item noting her withdrawal from a production back then.

My speculation: with the possibility of Zajick withdrawing, SFO started considering alternatives. As Picker's first choice for the role, Racette would have been a candidate to take over in any event. Her presence here would have made the logistics easier than otherwise. (Never mind that she's singing two roles in another opera rehearsing and playing simultaneously!) Picker would have started preparing soprano alternatives to the mezzo lines earlier this month some time, and for all we know, Racette has been working on the new role since she arrived in SF for Mefistofele rehearsals.

The thing is, we actually do not know whether SFO tried to engage a star mezzo for this role. They're not going to tell us whether there were negotiations that fell through, or how many singers or management companies they talked to. It's also good to remember that there aren't that many singers willing to jump in on a month's notice to learn demanding new-to-everybody roles and who are logistically able to fit in the rehearsal period and performances.


Joshua Kosman said...

Bravo, I think you've covered it exactly. One tiny correction: "his two previous operas" should be "two of his previous operas." There were also The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Thérèse Raquin, both of them, um, Pat-free.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thanks, Joshua. I will make that correction. I had a vague feeling as I wrote that about doing more research....

Lisa Hirsch said...

One further thought on this: if I were looking for a star mezzo to replace Zajick, it wouldn't be DeYoung or Cooke. Love 'em both, but: the obvious choice would be Stephanie Blythe, who sang Fricka (and other roles) in Seattle this month and presumably started rehearsals for the Ring in June or July.

Vajra said...

I love Dolora Zajick Stephanie Blythe would be sublime. Patricia Racette is a goddess.
OK. So I'm easy...just don't let it get around.

John Marcher said...

Yes, you're right, Blythe would be the obvious alternative choice except for, as Josh put it so aptly in his recent Walkure review from Seattle and was evident in Met's Ring, there's the "Stephanie Blythe problem." Can the rest of that cast match her formidable voice and presence? No, which could really be distracting and end up capsizing the entire thing, or it could also make it beyond great. Blythe would have been much more interesting than Zajick, that's for sure. One more thing, I can't think of anyone who would want to take the role after Blythe. She'd probably own it until she dies.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I am reading the novel right now and I think that an outsized voice and personality would work really well; the character of Dolores completely dominates the novel, which is in the first person. I obviously have not seen the libretto, but the opera could almost be done as a monodrama.

I hope Blythe gets to sing it some time even though it wasn't written for her. She would kill the role. (I actually think Zajick would too as the character is not exactly subtle.)

Lisa Hirsch said...

Vajra, yeah: I know what you mean. I'm easy too. :)