Closer look: Zola partout*

The French writer still resonates today, in a number of art forms

Long Beach Opera launches their 2015 season this weekend, with the erotic thriller Thérèse Raquin at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.  The opera by American composer Tobias Picker first debuted in 2001, with a libretto by Gene Scheer that is based on the novel by Émile Zola (1840-1902).  The creators made it clear when the opera premiered that their version is a retelling rather than a close adaptation. Picker also admitted at LBO’s November sneak peek that he’s felt some pressure as an American adapting such a hallowed French writer.  But the opera’s return to the Southland (after San Diego’s 2003 run) is another reminder of the ongoing importance of Zola’s work, both in his homeland and elsewhere, as evidenced by the unusual attention his extensive oeuvre continues to receive.

Zola was the most popular French novelist of the late 19th century: he was the author of some 35 books, an important political activist and two-time Nobel Prize nominee. He dubbed himself the artistic father of French naturalism, a movement that approached literature with a sort of scientific mindset, creating realistic descriptions through the dissection of characters, including their social standing, heredity and environment as inescapable forces. Zola himself was probably best known for his involvement in the infamous Dreyfus Affair, but this was one of several incidents of very public political involvement that led to numerous attempts on his life, possibly including the chimney problem that finally killed him in 1902.

This particular novel, first published in 1867, is a dark and steamy story of awakening and murder, which has been adapted for theater, opera and several films, including In Secret, the 2013 vehicle featuring Jessica Lange as the villainous mama.  The title character, trapped in a desperately unhappy marriage, starts an affair with her husband’s friend which ends in brutal murder and the madness of guilt.  This new production at LBO is sure to raise eyebrows, and Picker’s full-throated score is always worth a listen. Check out the video below for a taste of what this show’s stars are doing with it:

Duet from <em>Thérèse Raquin</em> by Tobias Picker
Duet from Thérèse Raquin by Tobias Picker —
Courtesy of Long Beach Opera
*Fr. “everywhere”

Long Beach Opera presents Tobias Picker’s 

Thérèse Raquin

Saturday January 24, 8pm
Sunday, February 1, 2:30pm

Warner Grand Theatre
478 W. 6th Street, San Pedro
Map & Directions

Details and tickets


Originally published in Next 7 — Vocal events through 1/29/15

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