From the Desk of Artistic Director Jonathan Pell – California – Part 1

by Jonathan Pell

San Francisco-20130924-00110

I am in Los Angeles this morning after two days in San Francisco where I attended back to back performances of Boito’s rarely performed opera MEFISTOFELE and the third performance in the world premiere run of Tobias Picker’s new opera DOLORES CLAIBORNE, both starring Patricia Racette.

It was an astonishing feat when Ms. Racette agreed just three weeks before opening night to take on the demanding title role of the Picker premiere after the originally scheduled artist, Dolora Zajick, withdrew from the project after rehearsing the opera for several weeks.

Pat Racette was in San Francisco rehearsing MEFISTOFELE, which opened the San Francisco Opera season, and bravely agreed to learn the part and save the day.  It was a daring thing to do (particularly considering that there were several performances in the schedule where the productions were on consecutive nights) and from the audience’s reaction last night, also a very smart move on her part.  It is a real “tour de force” and she certainly deserved the ovation that greeted her at the curtain call.

The production was imaginatively staged by James Robinson, and ably conducted by George Manahan.  The rest of the cast, including Elizabeth Futral (cast against type as “Vera Donovan”, the difficult and demanding woman “Dolores” works for) all gave fully committed performances, but the opera is really all about the title character.

The audience seemed deeply involved from beginning to end and one could have heard the proverbial pin drop during the murder scene where “Dolores” does away with her abusive husband.

All in all a wonderful night in the theatre and a very successful production of an intriguing  new opera.

I also heard most of the new young singers in the San Francisco Opera renowned young artists program audition yesterday afternoonn including Laura Krumm, who received her masters degree from the University of North Texas, which also happens to be Pat Racette’s alma mater.

I will hear the young singers from the Los Angeles Opera program this afternoon and attend a performance of CARMEN this evening, then head back to Dallas tomorrow, where our own production of CARMEN begins rehearsals on Monday.

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