The BU Opera Institute presents an original production of a new version of the Tobias Picker opera Dolores Claiborne in its New England premiere as the first opera in the state-of-the-art Joan & Edgar Booth Theater, February 21st–24th.
Based on Stephen King’s 1992 realistic novel comprising the testimony of a 65-year-old Maine island housekeeper accused of murdering her wealthy employer, “It’s about humanity at its most challenged, and I don’t want to say depraved, but certainly its most raw,” says director Jim Petosa, College of Fine Arts professor of directing and dramatic criticism and School of Theater director. Suspected of killing Vera Donovan, Dolores Claiborne tells police the story of her life, harking back to her disintegrating marriage and the suspicious death 30 years earlier of her violent husband, Joe St. George.
Picker’s operas have been produced to critical acclaim by such respected companies as the Metropolitan Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, and the San Francisco Opera. But the Opera Institute remains at the top of Picker’s list. “They’ve done some of the best productions of my operas that have ever been done,” Picker says. “The Thérèse Raquin they did is, I think, the most extraordinary production of any opera of mine that I’ve ever seen, anywhere.”
Owing to BU Opera Institute’s decade-long relationship with the composer through previous productions of not only Thérèse Raquin (2009) but Emmeline (2017), Picker and his publisher Schott Music Corp invited the Opera Institute to co-commission a chamber version of Dolores Claiborne with the New York City Opera, which premiered in its original version at San Francisco Opera in 2013 and in its chamber version by NYCO in 2017.
The gripping thriller, to a libretto by J.D. McClatchy, will be directed by Petosa and conducted by William Lumpkin (artistic director of the Opera Institute). Lumpkin and Petosa tell how, for the first operatic experience in the new Booth Theater, “we found a perfect companion in Picker’s setting of King’s Dolores Claiborne. Along with our previous productions of the the composer, this psychological thriller and human drama completes an operatic triptych which, while unplanned when we first began our exploration of the imaginative work of Picker, now yields clear connective tissue amongst these three endeavors. From the dramatic to the musical to the visual, a throughline emerges that deepens our commitment to exploring the new and unknown, all while emphasizing the ability of music and theater to powerfully and unequivocally connect performers and audience through our shared emotional journey as the play unfolds. Picker’s music is, on the page, rhythmically complex, disjunct, angular, well-thought-out. But the whole impact is that it’s coming from the way an actor would deliver a line.”
“Like everything done here at the Joan and Edgar Booth Theater, the space invites exploration and experimentation.”
Composer: Tobias Picker
Librettist: J.D. McClatchy
Conductor: William Lumpkin
Stage Director: Jim Petosa
Scenic Designer: Paul J. Dufresne, Costumes: AJ Jones
Lighting: Marcella Barbeau
Joan & Edgar Booth Theater
820 Commonwealth Ave.
Thursday February 21, 7:30p
Friday February 22, 7:30p
Saturday February 23, 7:30p
Sunday February 24, 2p
$15 General admission
$10 BU alumni
$7.50 Brookline residents
The Thursday and Saturday performances feature Meghan Callahan, Frank Rosamond, Julia Wolcott, Emilie Faiella, and Dongwhi Baek, and in the Friday and Sunday cast are Rebecca Printz, Leroy Y. Davis, Ashlee Lamar, Ann-Marie Iacoviello, and Eric Carey
Lumpkin conducts the 15-piece orchestra comprising School of Music grad students along with a couple of undergrads.