- Barbara B. Heyman
Opera in four acts, op.32, by Samuel Barber to a libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti ; New York, Metropolitan Opera, 15 January 1958.
Inspired by Isak Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales, Vanessa is set in a country manor in an unnamed ‘northern country about 1905’. The story unfolds about two women, Vanessa (soprano), ‘a lady of great beauty’, and her beautiful young niece, Erika (mezzo-soprano). Vanessa has for 20 years awaited the return of her only love, Anatol. In a sombre gothic dreamscape, in which chandeliers are dimmed and mirrors draped against the reflection of Vanessa’s advancing age, the wizened Baroness (contralto), Vanessa’s mother, condemns her daughter’s withdrawal from life through her silence. Another Anatol (tenor), the errant lover’s fatally charming son, a bounder and opportunist, enters the manor. Vanessa, mistaking the young man for his father, passionately inquires if he still loves her; she is devastated upon realizing the visitor is not her lover. Erika entreats the impostor to leave, but he refuses....