“Emmeline” in New Production at Opera Theatre of St. Louis
On June 13, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis mounts a major new production of Tobias Picker’s Emmeline, the first new full-scale staging of the work since its premiere in 1996. The production, led by George Manahan and directed by James Robinson, stars soprano Joyce El-Khoury in the tour-de-force role of Emmeline Mosher, alongside contralto Meredith Arwady, tenor John Irvin and bass-baritone Wayne Tigges.
Based on the novel by Judith Rossner and with a libretto by J.D. McClatchy, Emmeline is an American retelling of the Oedipus myth from the mother’s viewpoint. The opera begins in 1841, when 13-year-old Emmeline is sent to work in a Massachusetts mill. Seduced by the factory supervisor, she gives birth to a child, who is then swiftly given away. Twenty years later, Emmeline marries a young man only to discover too late that he is in fact her son. She becomes irrevocably ostracized by society. Commissioned by The Santa Fe Opera, the premiere production of Emmeline was directed by Francesca Zambello and starred Patricia Racette in the title role, with George Manahan conducting.
Heidi Waleson (The Wall Street Journal) hailed Emmeline as “continuously gripping” and “without a wasted note or word.” In the wake of its original productions at Santa Fe Opera and New York City Opera, Waleson wrote, “it has been a measure by which I assess the theatrical impact of other new operas.” Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s new production runs from June 13 through June 27 at the Loretto-Hilton Center in St. Louis, MO.
Visit opera-stl.org for more information on the production.
Emmeline in the press:
I saw Tobias Picker’s powerful first opera, Emmeline at its Santa Fe Opera premiere in 1996, and again at the New York City Opera in 1998. Ever since, it has been a measure by which I assess the theatrical impact of other new operas. With its poetic, streamlined libretto by J.D. McClatchy and Mr. Picker’s vivid score, this two-hour opera is continuously gripping, without a wasted note or word…
– Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal
Tobias Picker's Emmeline at the New York City Opera is of modest scale and manageable ambition. It deals with plain people and serious matters, neither overreaching nor understating its agenda. An admirable sense of self results in affecting simplicity. The City Opera should put Emmeline in its permanent repertory. It is a model of its kind.
– Bernard Holland, The New York Times
[Emmeline is] blessed with music that unerringly illuminates character and situation...
– John von Rhein, The Chicago Tribune
Tobias Picker has written a sensational, satisfying first opera based upon dramatic material of a distinctly Grimesian mould. Emmeline, in its world premiere at the Santa Fe Opera, is one of the most successful American operas in years. Picker's palette vibrates with wit, pathos and power, ranging from a berserk solo cello to represent doomed erotic tension, to powerful, unapologetic dissonance at the catastrophe.
– Jamie James, The Times (London)
An important work that should put composer Tobias Picker at the forefront of the contemporary scene.
– David Patrick Stearns, USA Today
A gripping piece... It is worthwhile viewing for anyone who cares about American opera.
– Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Don't miss [Emmeline] — it's one of the most powerful American operas to have appeared in this half-century.
– Leighton Kerner, The Village Voice