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Commentary

Image by Liza Voll courtesy of Boston Lyric Opera
28 Mar 2019

Boston Lyric Opera's East Coast Premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale

Anne Bogart directs East Coast premiere of Ruders & Bentley’s take on Margaret Atwood’s novel.

Boston Lyric Opera's East Coast Premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale

Press release by Boston Lyric Opera

Above image by Liza Voll courtesy of Boston Lyric Opera

 

The Handmaid’s Tale opera was written by Danish composer Poul Ruders and librettist Paul Bentley in 2000. Like the book and the hit television adaptation, the story takes place in Gilead, a dystopian society formed by American Christian fundamentalists who assassinate the President and construct a rigid class system for women. The Handmaid’s Tale is anchored by the story of Offred, a woman who rebels against theocratic patriarchal rules through alliances and secretive friendships that she hopes will uncover the fate of her husband and child. Stories of other handmaids, the tyrannical Aunts who run the Rachel and Leah Center, the men who control Gilead, and Offred’s life in “the Time Before” complete the narrative.

“Of all the projects I’ve ever done, this is the one that least needs an explanation of why we are doing it,” said Bogart. “Every once in a while, a piece of literature, a fiction, or a painting becomes so meaningful to a culture that everyone pays attention, and the culture is changed because of it. In theater and in opera we create a democratic space with an audience watching something together that speaks to what’s on the collective mind. The Handmaid’s Tale and the concerns it raises is on everyone’s minds right now.”

Ruders’ score blends folkloric music, a cinematic sound world of hypnotic and ominous repetition, haunting choral singing, moments of minimalism, and duets and trios that break tenets of traditional opera.

The Handmaid’s Tale boasts one of BLO’s largest principal casts in several seasons and includes nearly 40 chorus members. Jennifer Johnson Cano (BLO’s 2015 production of Don Giovanni and 2016’s Carmen) sings the pivotal role of Offred.Caroline Worra (BLO’s 2016 Greek, 2010 Agrippina and 2013 Lizzie Borden) returns as Aunt Lydia. Metropolitan Opera regular Maria Zifchak, in her BLO debut, is Serena Joy. Matthew DiBattista plays The Doctor.David Cushing is the Commander and Michelle Trainor is Ofglen.

Additional performers include Chelsea Basler,Jesse Darden, Felicia Gavilanes,Dana Beth Miller, Kathryn Skemp Moran,Omar Najmi, Vera Savage and Lynn Torgrove.

David Angus conducts the BLO orchestra. Set and costume design is byJames Schuette. Lighting design is by Brian Scott. Adam Thompson does projection and video design. Sound design is by J Jumbelic and movement direction is by Shura Baryshnikov (daughter of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jessica Lange).

Bogart is Co-Artistic Director of the ensemble-based SITI Company, head of the MFA Directing program at Columbia University, and author of five books. With SITI, Bogart has directed more than 30 works in venues around the world. Her recent operas include Handel’s Alcina, Dvorak’s Dimitrij, Kurt Weill’sLost in the Stars, Verdi’s Macbeth, Bellini’s Norma, and Bizet’s Carmen. Her many awards and fellowships include three honorary doctorates (Cornish School of the Arts, Bard College and Skidmore College), a Duke Artist Fellowship, a United States Artists Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller/Bellagio Fellowship, and a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency Fellowship.

The Handmaid’s Tale performances are Sun May 5, 2019 @ 3:00pm; Wed May 8, 2019 @ 7:30pm; Fri May 10, 2019 @ 7:30pm; Sun May 12, 2019 @ 3:00pm.

Tickets to The Handmaid’s Tale are $25-$182, depending on performance and seat location. Tickets are available online at www.blo.org/tickets, by phone at 617-542-6772 (Mon.-Fri, 10 am to 5 pm) or by email at boxoffice@blo.org.

BLO offers a variety of discounts at each performance for students, young professionals, community members and groups of 10 or more. Contact Audience Services at 617.542.6772 or boxoffice@blo.org.

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