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Work of the Week – Tobias Picker: Thérèse Raquin

Paris 1866: The perfect setting for a romantic love story with long walks along the Seine. At least you might think so. But Tobias Picker’s opera Thérèse Raquin is not only about love, but also deals with murder, intrigue and revenge. The libretto, which was written by Gene Scheer, is based on the novel of the same name by Émile Zola. Christian Thausing will stage the European premiere at the Theater an der Wien on 16 December 2021. The premiere will take place in English with German surtitles.

Tobias Picker’s spectacular opera Thérèse Raquin

Married Parisian couple Thérèse and Camille Raquin are reunited with an old friend, Laurent. It soon becomes clear that Thérèse and Laurent are more than old friends as heated confessions of undying love arise between the two. Together they conspire to murder the sickly Camille and succeed in dumping him into the Seine to enable the consecration of their love. The guilty couple soon become the object of torment by both their own guilty consciences and the ghost of Camille.

Thérèse and Laurent are human brutes, nothing more. I have sought to follow, step by step, throughout the career of these brutes, the secret working of their passions, the promptings of their instinct, the cerebral disorders following a nervous crisis. I had but one desire: given a powerful man and an unsated woman, seek the animal within them, even see nothing but the animal, cast them into a violent drama, and scrupulously note the acts and sensations of these beings. Émile Zola

Thérèse Raquin was co-commissioned by the Dallas Opera, L’Opéra de Montréal and the San Diego Opera. The next performance of the opera at the Theater an der Wien will take place on 18 December. Picker’s operas are still largely unknown in Europe. Reduced castings are available for Dolores Claiborne (after Stephen King) and Emmeline. The children’s opera Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the novel by Roald Dahl, is not only about how a fox tricks people, but is also a statement against the exploitation of ecosystems.


photo: Royal Opera House, London 2006