The reviews are in for Minnesota Opera’s ‘Doubt’

This weekend Minnesota Opera launched the world premiere of “Doubt,” an operatic version of what has been both a stage play and an Oscar-nominated film.

The opera features a libretto by John Patrick Shanley and a score by composer Douglas Cuomo.

Most critics find this new opera to be ‘deft,’ ‘subtle’ and ‘complex’, but one complains sections are ‘overlong and unoperatic.’

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Christine Brewer as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the school principal and Adriana Zabala as Sister James, a teacher and a nun in Minnesota Opera’s Doubt

Photo by Michal Daniel

From Ron Hubbard at the Pioneer Press:


“Doubt” is quite the atypical opera. There are no clear heroes or villains, no romance or obvious betrayal, and no one dies.

But John Patrick Shanley’s 2005 play and 2008 film have plenty of conflict and emotional intensity, the characters dueling over essential ideas like truth, justice and religious ideals. And Douglas Cuomo’s music serves to expand the emotional palette of Shanley’s words, layering levels of meaning onto exchanges and adding extra shadings to an already complex tale.

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Matthew Worth as Father Brendan Flynn, a parish priest in Minnesota Opera’s Doubt

Photo by Michal Daniel

From Larry Fuchsberg at the Star Tribune:


Cuomo’s music is of quiet power, most moving when most intimate; he knows how to insinuate what cannot be spoken. Though unmistakably American in sound, with echoes of Copland, Bernstein and John Adams, he avoids both pop cliché and music-theater razzmatazz. If Cuomo’s vocal lines sometimes seem awkward, his pacing is remarkably deft: the potentially tedious closing scene of Act 1, for example, which veers from a theological critique of “Frosty the Snowman” to oblique charges of impropriety, is a masterpiece of timing.

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Christine Brewer as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the school principal and Matthew Worth as Father Brendan Flynn, a parish priest in Minnesota Opera’s Doubt

Photo by Michal Daniel

From the Associated Press:


On first hearing, it’s hard to say how much of the project’s success is due to the strength of Shanley’s play and how much to Cuomo’s musical setting…The composer, who has written one previous opera called “Arjuna’s Dilemma” and is perhaps best known for the theme music to TV’s “Sex and the City,” is clearly talented. He has an ear for subtle dissonance, and his inventive orchestrations are enhanced by judicious use of saxophone, piano and celeste. Shanley has rewritten a lot of the text to make it more singable and has opened up the play by adding choruses for children and for the churchgoers at St. Nicholas parish in the Bronx of 1964.

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Adriana Zabala as Sister James, a teacher and a nun and Christine Brewer as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the school principal in Minnesota Opera’s Doubt

Photo by Michal Daniel

From Heidi Waleson at the Wall Street Journal:


Much of Act I is made up of brief scenes that set up the atmosphere of the school and its boisterous young pupils (an able group of child singers) and reveal the bits of evidence about Father Flynn’s supposed crime, with the young teacher Sister James (the bright soprano Adriana Zabala) as an unwilling witness and informant. The three-way confrontation that ends the act is overlong and unoperatic: a missed opportunity for ensemble writing, of which there is little in the piece.

“Doubt” runs through February 3 at the Ordway in St. Paul. Have you seen it? If so, what’s your review?

  • Rob

    God-awful, and truly a very bad choice for an opera. The play, the movie superb. The opera excruciatingly unengaging, horrendously drawn out, with a screeching soprano to boot. On eof the worst operas I have seen in decades. Completely disappointed.