If I Were You (2019) is an opera in two acts with a libretto by Gene Scheer, loosely based on the 1947 novel Si j’étais vous… by Julien Green (courtesy of the Estate of Julien Green and Editions Fayard). The opera was commissioned by the Merola Opera Program, a first in its 62-year history of training extraordinary young singers.
In this modern telling of the Faust story, the devil (Brittomara) makes a bargain with a dispirited young writer named Fabian Hart. He is given the supernatural power to move his soul and identity from person to person for as long as he likes; but, if he ever returns to his original body, he will die and the devil will collect his soul. On his precarious journey to win the heart of his beloved, he leaves a trail of human wreckage and hollow shells. In the end, will he choose to live forever as someone else, or die for love as himself?
The world premiere was August 1-6, 2019 at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, conducted by Nicole Paiement and directed by Keturah Stickann Doucet. The design team included Liliana Piñeiro (sets), Lucas Krech (lighting), Alina Bokovikova (costumes) and Peter Torpey (projections).
Two casts from the Merola Opera Program’s 2019 roster performed the principal roles, including mezzos Brennan Blankenship and Cara Collins (Brittomara); sopranos Ann-Marie MacIntosh and Esther Tonea (Diana); tenors Michael Day and Nicholas Huff (Fabian); sopranos Elisa Sunshine and Patricia Westley (Selena). Featured in both casts were tenor Brandon Russell (David); bass-baritone Rafael Porto (Putnam); baritone Timothy Murray (Paul); and baritone Edward Laurenson (Cop).
Forces for the opera include 8 roles and a small chorus. The orchestra includes 2 flutes (piccolo), oboe (English Horn), clarinet (bass clarinet), bassoon, 2 horns, 1 trumpet, trombone, bass trombone, 2 percussionists, harp and strings. For the original production, the string count is 6-5-3-3-2. A larger string count is possible.
The commission and original production of If I Were You were supported by generous gifts from Diane B. Wilsey, Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation, Betty Poetz Ferguson Foundation, Ululani Foundation, Jack H. Lund Charitable Foundation, and John & Cynthia Fry Gunn. Additional support was provided by Donna & Nordin Blacker, Barbara Bruser & Richard Clark, Carlyn Clause & Alexander L. Brainerd, Jayne & Peter Davis, Mary & Craig Henderson, Franklin & Catherine Johnson, Bernice Lindstrom, Scott & Susan Lord, James A. Noe III, Mr. & Mrs. Bernard Osher, Bruce & Fran Walker, and Susan York.
For tickets, videos and more information, see Merola’s If I Were You Information Page