PROMISE is relatively inexpensive to produce, not only because of the flexibly small instrumental ensemble, but also in terms of set requirements. The opera can be adapted to fit proscenium, black box and partial or full-surround settings. A pit is helpful but not required. It is very effective to allow the Violinist and Clarinetist to enter the scenic action. Likewise, staging the opera in museums and galleries has been quite powerful, as it places the audience inside the artists’ world. When performing without a pit, it is useful for the Conductor to be a Clarinetist who plays all of the Clarinet underscoring for the dialogues. This gives the ensemble Clarinetist a necessary break from the Clarinet-heavy score, and allows the Conductor to enter the scene. The ensemble player would also double on Bass Clarinet, (and also on Soprano Saxophone, if possible).
In order for the audience to grasp the significance of Camille Claudel’s work, photographs of her sculptures should be included in the production in some way. (Many photos are public domain. Contact Artist Rights Society with inquiries.) One method for the Destruction Scene involves projecting slides of Camille’s sculptures on paper screens that can be slashed by a knife. This allows ”ghostly” images of the sculptures to remain somewhat visible following their destruction. Alternatively, the Destruction scene can be choreographed using dancers as the sculptures being destroyed/murdered. Slides, small platforms and lighting effects can help suggest the rapid changes in time. Dancers can also be cast as models and sculptures in many other scenes, as well, and they can be creatively involved to help with rapid scene changes.
For the role of Camille, an operatic actress with excellent acting skills is needed to portray the extensive age range of the character, (67 years). Ideally, two performers can split this role between the 1905 scenes and the flashbacks. For the Epilogue duet sung by Young and Old Camille, the two performers can thus sing together. If only one singer covers Camille, a recording of her voice singing the Act 1 aria that appears in the duet can be used while she sings live in the Epilogue, and a dancer dressed as Young Camille fulfills the actions in the script.
The Women’s Ensemble can be covered by the singers cast as Louise Claudel, Rose Beuret and Young Camille. In this way, the minimum casting requirement is for 3 men and 5 women. Alternatively, for academic programs seeking numerous women’s parts, the casting number can be increased to 3 men, 11 women and 4+ dancers—with no doubling.
PROMISE is well-suited for college and conservatory opera programs, where its interdisciplinary nature can attract the cooperation of Opera, Theatre, Dance, Music, Art, French, Literature, Psychology, Religion, and Women’s Studies departments. As noted above, the large number of women’s roles lends itself to the casting needs of college programs. Racial blind casting is encouraged.
Young and Old Camille Claudel: Soprano and/or High Mezzo
Louise Claudel: Mezzo
Rose Beuret: Mezzo
Paul Claudel: Tenor
Auguste Rodin: Baritone
Louis-Prosper Claudel: Baritone
Ensemble: 2-4 Mezzi, 2-4 Soprani
Sculptures: 2 women, 2 men
Instrumentation: 2 B-flat Clarinets, (doubling on B-flat bass clarinet and soprano saxophone), 1-8 violins, 1-4 celli and piano.