Release date: 7/16/2013

San Francisco Opera presents the world premiere of Dolores Claiborne
with music by Tobias Picker and libretto by J.D. McClatchy

Based on the novel by Stephen King
with arrangement by Andrew Welch

Starring Patricia Racette and Catherine Cook in the title role
September 18–October 4, War memorial Opera House

Photos Available
On Wednesday, September 18, San Francisco Opera will present the world premiere of Dolores Claiborne, a new opera based on the novel by Stephen King and marking the Company debuts of American composer Tobias Picker and librettist J. D. McClatchy. The compelling story of a ferocious and independent woman willing to do whatever it takes to save herself and her daughter, the title role will be shared by acclaimed soprano Patricia Racette and mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook. 

As previously announced, mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick, who was originally cast in the title role of Dolores Claiborne, has withdrawn from the production. Ms. Racette, who is appearing in the Company’s current production of Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele and who created starring roles in two of Tobias Picker’s earlier operas—Emmeline and An American Tragedy—will assume the role for the first four performances on September 18, 22, 25 and 28.  San Francisco Opera veteran performer Catherine Cook, who is the designated Dolores Claiborne role cover, will perform the final two performances on October 1 and 4.  (Ms. Racette, who was originally slated to sing the dual roles of Margherita and Elena for all eight of the regularly scheduled Mefistofele performances, will now sing both roles on September 6, 11, 20, 24 and October 2.  At the September 14, 17 and 29 performances, the role of Elena will be sung by Adler Fellow soprano Marina Harris.)
Picker’s opera reconceives award-winning author Stephen King’s 1993 novel Dolores Claiborne for the operatic stage. The book was previously adapted into a feature film starring Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Judy Parfitt in 1995. Spanning a time period from the spring of 1950 to the winter of 1992, the opera takes place on a working class island in rural Maine and follows its title character as she fiercely deals with the terrible adversity she is dealt by those around her.
Dolores Claiborne also features Elizabeth Futral as Vera Donovan and Susannah Biller as Claiborne’s daughter Selena St. George, Wayne Tigges as Dolores Claiborne’s abusive husband Joe St. George, Greg Fedderly as Detective Thibodeau and Joel Sorensen as Mr. Pease.
The creative team for the world premiere production includes critically acclaimed director James Robinson, whose past assignments at the War Memorial Opera House were the 2009 season productions of Il Trittico and Salome. This new production will feature the work of set designer Allen Moyer, costume designer James Schuette, lighting designer Christopher Akerlind and projection designer Greg Emetaz in an inventive multi-level staging.  In his Company debut, renowned American maestro George Manahan will conduct the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Ian Roberston, Chorus Director).

This two-act opera, sung in English, is Picker and McClatchy’s first commission for San Francisco Opera, reuniting them since their first collaboration on Emmeline, for the Santa Fe Opera in 1996. "Dolores is a kind of American Tosca,” says composer Tobias Picker. “She is forced to make cataclysmic choices to save the one she loves.” Adds librettist J.D. McClatchy: “She is not your average operatic heroine. She is complex: not always likeable, but always sympathetic. It was a challenge but an absolute delight to help bring her to life on stage.”
Dolores Claiborne is David Gockley’s sixth commissioned work for San Francisco Opera since his appointment as Company general director in 2006. Previous operas commissioned by Gockley include Appomattox (2007), The Bonesetter’s Daughter (2008), Heart of a Soldier (2011), The Secret Garden (March 2013) and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene (June 2013). San Francisco Opera recently announced the commission of Italian composer Marco Tutino for a new work, La Ciociara (Two Women), based on 20th-century Italian author Alberto Moravia’s novel of the same name, with a libretto by the composer and Fabio Ceresa, adapted from a script by Luca Rossi. La Ciociara will debut at the War Memorial Opera House in June 2015 and will mark the 40th commission of Gockley’s career.
Dolores Claiborne is a gutsy, powerful American verismo work,” says San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley. “It’s an opera that offers very strong challenges and one that asks the singers to respond emotionally. If ever there was a Stephen King novel that had all the makings for the lyric stage, this is certainly the one.”
Sung in English with English supertitles, the six performances of Dolores Claiborne are scheduled for September 18 (7:30 p.m.), September 22 (2 p.m.), September 25 (7:30 p.m.), September 28 (8 p.m.), October 1 (8 p.m.) and October 4 (8 p.m.), 2013.
Bay Area Ancillary Activities
The world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne has inspired a host of ancillary events that will explore the making of the opera as well as various issues addressed in the story.  San Francisco Opera joins with community partners throughout the Bay Area to present interviews, lectures and activities leading up to the opera’s premiere and beyond.  Events include preview discussions with the opera’s cast and creative team members; pre-opera talks with composer Tobias Picker; a Litquake event with librettist J.D. McClatchy; and a panel discussion with the creative team presented in collaboration with The Alliance for Girls.  Visit for more information and event updates.
Tickets for performances of Dolores Claiborne at the War Memorial Opera House are priced from $23 to $385 and may be purchased at or through the San Francisco Opera Box Office [301 Van Ness Avenue (at Grove Street), or by phone at (415) 864-3330] beginning July 8. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; tickets are $10 each, cash only.
The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street. Patrons are encouraged to use public transportation to attend San Francisco Opera performances. The War Memorial Opera House is within walking distance of the Civic Center BART station and near numerous bus lines, including 5, 21, 47, 49 and the F Market Street. For more public transportation information, visit and
Casting, programs, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change. For further information about Dolores Claiborne and San Francisco Opera’s 2013-14 Season, please visit