Composer: Samuel Barber
Librettist: Gian Carlo Menotti
Other Artistic Personnel: Gian Carlo Menotti (Director)
Cecil Beaton (Scenic Designer)
Original Cast: Eleanor Steber (Vanessa)
Rosalind Elias (Erika)
Regina Resnik (The Old Baroness)
Nicolai Gedda (Anatol)
Giorgio Tozzi (The Old Doctor)
George Cehanovsky (Nicholas)
Robert Nagy (Footman)
Work Web Site:
Premiere Date: January 15, 1958
Producing Company: Metropolitan Opera
Description: Vanessa has lived as a shut-in-with her mirrors covered for 20 years since her lover Anatol deserted her. Her mother, the Old Baroness, will not speak to her and her only companion is her niece, Erika. As the opera opens, they are preparing for Anatol's return. When he arrives at the door, Vanessa declares her love for him-then faints when she discovers that it is not he, but his son, also named Anatol. Anatol explains that his father has died, but he wanted to meet the woman that haunted his father for so many years. Meanwhile, Erika has fallen in love with Anatol. He seduces her. When he turns his attentions toward Vanessa, Erika discovers that she is pregnant. Vanessa and Anatol announce their plans to marry while Erika flees from the house, causing her to miscarry. Vanessa and Anatol depart from the house as Erika covers all the mirrors.

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Character List (Major): Vanessa (s)
Erika (mz)
Anatol (t)
The Old Baroness (con)
The Doctor (bar)
Character List (Minor): The Major-Domo (bb)
Bit Parts: A Footman (t) The Young Pastor (mute)
Reviews: The New Yorker, Andrew Porter, 7-11-88; The New York Times, Michael Kimmelman, 6-14-88; Chicago Sun-Times, Robert C. Marsh, 2-6-84; The New York Times, John J. O'Connor, 1-31-79; The New York Times, Donal Henahan, 1-28-79; The New York Times, Harold C. Schonberg, 5-29-78
Comments: Detailed Scene Breakdown
Act I
Vanessa, Erika, and the Baroness await the arrival of Anatol, a man who had been Vanessa's lover twenty years before. After he left, she covered up all the mirrors of the house until his expected return, unwilling to face looking at her aging self. Thinking that the man who arrives and who is called Anatol is her former lover, Vanessa refuses to reveal her face to him until he says he still loves her. He says that he does, but she does not recognize him. It is the young Anatol who has come, his father now dead. Upset, Vanessa leaves the room, and Erika and Anatol now enjoy the meal and wine meant for Vanessa and his father.

Act II
Erika tells the Baroness that the young Anatol seduced her on his first night in the house and the Baroness scolds her. Erika has fallen in love with Anatol, but resists his marriage proposal because she doubts his sincerity. Not knowing that Erika loves the young man and in her delusionary state of mind, Vanessa tells her niece that she still loves him, despite Erika's warning that he is not her former lover. The Baroness tells Erika to fight for Anatol. She is unsure if he is worthy of her efforts. Again, he proposes, and, again, she declines.

The doctor is drunk at a New Year's Eve ball. The Baroness and Erika refuse to come to the party to hear his announcement of Anatol and Vanessa's engagement. The doctor goes to fetch them, while Vanessa tells Anatol her fears. Finally Erika, who, unbeknownst to everyone else, is pregnant, comes downstairs, but faints, clutching her stomach, while the doctor is making the announcement. She recovers and flees into the freezing weather in order to abort her child. (In the original she says, "His child! It must not be born!" which makes clear her motivation for going out into the cold, but this line is dropped in the revision.)

Act IV
Vanessa is happy when Erika is found alive, and she asks Anatol why Erika is acting so strangely and whether he thinks that she loves him. He explains that she does not. Continuing in her delusionary state, Vanessa begs Anatol to take her away. Meanwhile, Erika confesses to the Baroness that she had been pregnant, but is no longer. As Vanessa and Anatol finalize their preparations to move to Paris, Vanessa asks Erika why she ran away. The niece replies that she was just being foolish, and Vanessa tells her that she may never come back to the house where she has been living. After the couple leaves, Erika covers the mirrors and closes up the house, just as Vanessa had done before her. She says that it is now her turn to wait.

622.jpg is a photo of Vanessa

Video Clip:
Length: 02:00
Total Acts: 2
Chorus: SSAATTBB (AGMA minimum 24)
Orchestration: 2 fl(picc), 2 ob(Eng Hrn), 2 cl(bcl), 2 bsn - 4 hrn, 3 tpt, 3 tbn, 1 tba - timp, perc - hp - str, stage band: 1 fl, 1 ob, 2 cl, 2 bsn - 2 hrn, 1 tpt - perc - pf, cel, org, can - str, Alt Red Ver: 1 fl(pic), 1 ob(Eng Hrn), 2 cl(bcl), 2 bsn - 3 hrn, 2 tpt, 2 tbn(btbn), 1 tba - syn - timp, perc - hp - str, stage band: 1 fl, 1 ob, 1 cl, 1 bsn - 2 hrn, 1 tpt - snare dm - str
Musical Style: Predominantly neo-romantic; metric flexibility; some dissonance; accessible, lyrical melodies
Contact: G. Schirmer, Inc.
Address: 257 Park Avenue South, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10010
E-mail Address:
Phone: 212-254-2100
Composer Web Site:
Publisher Web Site:
Schedule of Performances Listings
Vanessa (Barber)
Saturday, September 21, 2013 - West Edge Opera
Vanessa (Barber)
Saturday, March 10, 2012 - Sarasota Opera
Vanessa (Barber)
Friday, February 11, 2011 - Nevada Opera Association
Vanessa (Barber)
Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - Boston University - CFA
Vanessa (Barber)
Sunday, November 4, 2007 - New York City Opera
Vanessa (Barber)
Friday, February 23, 2007 - Academy of Vocal Arts Opera Theatre
Vanessa (Barber)
Friday, August 4, 2006 - Chautauqua Opera
Vanessa (Barber)
Saturday, July 2, 2005 - Central City Opera
Vanessa (Barber)
Saturday, April 16, 2005 - San Diego Opera Association
Vanessa (Barber)
Saturday, November 27, 2004 - Los Angeles Opera
Vanessa (Barber)
Saturday, June 30, 2001 - Des Moines Metro Opera
Vanessa (Barber)
Thursday, April 26, 2001 - Curtis Institute of Music Opera Theatre
Vanessa (Barber)
Saturday, February 27, 1999 - Seattle Opera
Vanessa (Barber)
Friday, October 30, 1998 - PITTSBURGH OPERA CENTER
Vanessa (Barber)
Saturday, May 10, 1997 - Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Vanessa (Barber)
Friday, January 7, 1994 - Dallas Opera
Vanessa (Barber)
Wednesday, December 11, 1991 - Juilliard Opera Center
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