Premiering this week at the San Francisco Opera.
As anyone who glances at my bookshelf knows, I love Stephen King (even though I hate him for writing the book I wished I’d written, more or less, when he produced Carrie, but there it is, he did it, though even he admits his wife helped with the girl parts). The manic energy of his drunk and coked-up years is gone, and I don’t snatch up a new title the way I used to, but no one has his natural ear for dialogue or his brutal talent for showing that the real horrors of life are not about various monsters or plagues but about what people do to each other. It used to be fashionable to deprecate him, if you wanted to be thought sophisticated, but I think all but the most pretentious academics have figured out the man knows his craft.
Dolores Claiborne straddles the gap between the word-processor-on-crack (perhaps literally) of his late boozy period, when he did tend to get a little prolix and maudlin, and his afterlife when human drama took the foreground over crap-your-pants terror. The rough trilogy of those years — Gerald’s Game, Dolores Claiborne and Rose Madder — partook at times a little too much of abused-woman scripts lifted from support group meetings, but he made them work, and Claiborne was the most successful by me.
It never occurred to me someone might turn it into an opera.
I know the composer’s work only from a programmatic piece called Old and Lost Rivers:
I’ll take him.
Here is a bit of the librettist’s work.