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The Chilling Opera, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, on WRTI: October 11, 1 PM

Soprano Patricia Racette sings Dolores, and bass-baritone Wayne Tigges sings Joe St. George.

The San Francisco Opera presents a world premiere! Desperate. Passionate. Trapped. Dolores Claiborne is willing to do whatever it takes to save herself and her daughter—even if that means taking a life. One of the most compelling characters to emerge from the imagination of Stephen King, the feisty Maine housekeeper is a natural fit for opera—and specifically for the dark theatricality of American composer Tobias Picker.

Memorably played by Kathy Bates in the 1995 movie, Dolores is sung by Patricia Racette, "an artist at the peak of her powers" - (Opera News). Saturday, October 11, 1 to 3:30 pm.

***This broadcast contains explicit language that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Listener discretion is advised.


DOLORES CLAIBORNE, an opera by Tobias Picker
Libretto by J. D. McClatchy
Based on the novel Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King


Dolores Claiborne: Patricia Racette     
Selena St. George: Susannah Biller     
Vera Donovan: Elizabeth Futral     
Joe St. George: Wayne Tigges     
Detective Thibodeau: Greg Fedderly     
Mr. Pease: Joel Sorensen     
Teenage Girl: Nikki Einfeld     
Teenage Boy: Hadleigh Adams     
Maid: Jacqueline Piccolino     
Maid: Nikki Einfeld     
Maid: Marina Harris     
Maid: Laura Krumm     
Maid: Renée Rapier     
Mr. Cox: Robert Watson     
Mr. Fox: Hadleigh Adams     
Mr. Knox: A.J. Glueckert

George Manahan conducts.


Winter 1992: The grand staircase of Vera Donovan’s manor house on Little Tall Island, off the coast of Maine. Vera lies at the bottom of the stairs. Dolores Claiborne, her maid and housekeeper for forty years, is standing with an object raised over Vera. A young woman enters and screams, “Mother!”

The next day: The interrogation room of the local police station. Detective Thibodeau questions Dolores about Vera’s death. Dolores confesses that she hated Vera but denies murdering her. During the questioning, Dolores reveals details about her life of servitude, her dead husband and estranged daughter, and her relationship with Vera.

Spring 1950: Vera’s estate. The newly-hired Dolores helps the other maids, learning what it takes to please her new boss. Vera watches the girls, scolding and mocking them, and she asks Dolores about her life.

Fall 1962: Dolores’s run-down house. Dolores’s husband, Joe St. George, is looking for a hidden bottle of whiskey and broods about the frustrations in his life. Their daughter, fifteen-year-old Selena, returns home from school. Joe begs for her affection, but she runs from the room as Dolores returns home from work. When Joe bends over to find his bottle, she laughs at his split britches; he viciously lashes out at her. Dolores staggers to her feet and strikes back at Joe. A violent argument ensues as Selena watches.

Winter 1963: The deck of the Little Tall Island ferry. Selena is sitting on a bench, when Dolores unexpectedly appears. Dolores tries to discover why her daughter has been so sullen and distant with her. Selena pushes her mother away but Dolores demands to know the truth, which she understands after Selena dissolves into tears.

Winter 1992: The interrogation room. Thibodeau is determined to force Dolores to confess to Vera’s murder, but Dolores will only speak of how miserable Vera was in her last years.

Spring 1963: The local bank. Determined to save her daughter and escape from her abusive husband, Dolores demands the money she has been saving. The manager, Mr. Pease, explains that Joe has recently withdrawn all of her money. She bullies Pease into showing her Joe’s new account, and she vows to get the money back.

July 4, 1963: The annual lawn party at Vera’s estate. Maids scurry around with drinks and canapés while the hostess circulates. Dolores drops a tray of drinks and is scolded by Vera. Dolores breaks down in tears and Vera tries to comfort her. Dolores confides that her husband has been beating her and, worse, he has stolen all of her money. Vera recalls her own marriage and reminds Dolores that “accidents can be an unhappy woman’s best friend.” She also informs Dolores that a full solar eclipse is happening very soon—a darkness during which anything might happen. Dolores tells Vera that something even worse has happened at home, where we now see Joe sitting alone with Selena, molesting her.


July 20, 1963: The day of the solar eclipse. Selena and Joe come out of the house playing with eclipse-viewing boxes. Selena goes off, and Dolores treats Joe to whiskey and sandwiches. The day begins to darken, and Dolores accuses Joe of molesting Selena; he responds violently. She tells him that she has taken back the money he stole. Joe demands to know where it is and Dolores says she has hidden it in the woods. The sky blackens and Dolores leads Joe into the trap she has laid—an abandoned well.

The same day. In the dark, Selena is alone. She wonders about the stars coming out in the middle of the day and expresses feelings of something not right in her life.

Several days later: The wooded area behind Dolores’s house. Townsmen are removing Joe’s body from the abandoned well, and Dolores identifies the body. Selena runs in demanding to know what happened to her father. Dolores tells her she will now be safe, but Selena only responds with anger and rushes off.

Winter, 1992: The interrogation room. Thibodeau is losing patience with Dolores and tells her that everyone knows she killed her husband.

A few days earlier: Vera’s bedroom and Selena’s Boston apartment. Now aged and senile, Vera begins to hallucinate about her dead husband, and Dolores comforts her. Meanwhile, alone in her apartment Selena voices her anger over not hearing from her mother on her birthday and decides to go to Maine.

A few days later: The interrogation room. Thibodeau continues to question Dolores when Selena enters. Acting as her mother’s attorney, Selena demands the interrogation end at once. Thibodeau produces a file providing proof of Dolores’s guilt: Vera’s will. She has left everything to Dolores. Selena notes the document is seven years old. It is merely evidence of the fondness the two women had for each other. Dolores says she doesn’t want the money; Selena demands that the charges be dropped and the two women leave.

The next day: Dolores’s abandoned home. Selena teases her mother about giving all of Vera’s money to an orphanage and mocks Dolores for a life that has added up to nothing. Dolores tells her that all she did was so that Selena could have a better life. Selena asks her about what really happened the night Vera died.
In Vera’s bedroom that final night, Dolores brings Vera her dinner. Vera makes a shocking confession and a desperate plea, and we see the events as they unfolded that fateful night.
As the memory fades back to the present, mother and daughter try to come to terms with their relationship. In the end, Selena walks out and Dolores is left alone.