Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dolores Claiborne Media Roundup and Random Comments

Patricia Racette as Dolores Claiborne
(Photo by Scott Wall;
Courtesy of San Francisco Opera)

The reviews are coming in.
  • Lisa Hirsch, Chicago Classical Review
  • Janos Gereben, SFCV. (Everybody was hoping for the headline Dolores and Dolora, but we didn't get it, did we?)
  • Janos Gereben, Examiner. 
  • Opera Tattler
  • Zachary Woolfe, NY Times. Uh....I have no idea what planet he was on last night, though he's onto to something about Racette lacking a bit in the pugnacity department. She is less salty in stage temperament than I'd imagined Dolores to be.
  • James Tarmey, Bloomberg. WTF? He thinks it's overblown and mediocre.
  • Richard Sheinin, Mercury News. Loves the singing, considers the music a mish-mash.
  • Joshua Kosman, SF Chronicle. Likes the drama and staging, down on the music. Also manages to get "shaggy" and "doggedly" into the same sentence.
  • Robert Commanday, Classical Voice America. Very positive about all aspects of the opera.
  • SF Mike, Civic Center. Very enthused.
  • Cedric Westphal, SFist. Also enthused.
A few things I could not wedge into the review: We're all used to seeing Patricia Racette in glamorous or sexy or youthful roles, say, Floria Tosca; she transforms herself here into a dowdy and defeated character, with a little help from makeup and lighting.

There's a very odd moment when Vera Donovan sings music that sounds straight out of the Rheinmaidens' music in Das Rheingold, but I could not figure out why. (Joshua Kosman identifies this as the Forest Bird's music from Siegfried. Wish I had the Dolores score handy!) The Maids' Chorus joins the opening of Elektra as a great short ensemble for female voices. And apparently one of my self-edits removed a remark about some inexplicable sounds coming out of the orchestra.

Kudos to Racette for the Herculean task of learning this very tough role on very short notice, and to , the musical staff and Racette's spouse Beth Clayton for their help. There were a couple of points last night where stage coordination wasn't perfect; OT calls out a moment when Selena is telling Dolores to let go of her while Racette is still standing three feet from Susannah Biller and hasn't yet touched her, but whatever: these things happen on opening night and will be fine by the second performance.

In her last appearance here, which I never got to writing up, Elizabeth Futral was a chilly and unsympathetic Violetta, a performance I hated in a 1920s production that added absolutely nothing to the story. I was seriously impressed, in a good way, with her sincere, committed, and well-sung Vera. 

As for Dolora Zajick's reasons for withdrawing (physical and musical demands), it's a long role that doesn't seem to be much more physically demanding than a typical operatic role. I own that I have no idea just how troublesome her knees are; the sheer length of the role might be more than they can handle. Musically, yeah, it's different from her usual repertory, and undoubtedly more difficult, but the piece was workshopped last year and she must have had the score at least since early this year.


Steve Hicken said...

Exceptionally well done review, Lisa.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you, Steve.

Michael Strickland said...

Our friend Cedric Westphal is "very enthused" too.


Lisa Hirsch said...

Duly added, thank you.

Cedric said...

In defense of Dolora...The role of Dolores seems more physical off-stage than on (quick dress changes, and going up and down from the multiple levels which is hard on knees)

Lisa Hirsch said...

Fair enough!