BLO's new production of The Handmaid's Tale, which will be performed at the Ray Lavietes Pavilion at Harvard University, a basketball gymnasium, is a rare opportunity to see an opera in the physical location in which it is set. In the fictional world of the novel by Margaret Atwood and opera by Poul Ruders and Paul Bentley, as the new totalitarian government is established, our narrator finds herself in a reeducation center known as the Red Center to be indoctrinated as a Handmaid, which she notes used to be a school gymnasium. Later, renamed as Offred and now the Handmaid of a high-ranking commander, her occasional opportunities to go out of the house and her memories of the “time before” identify her location as Cambridge, Massachusetts, and specifically many iconic Harvard University buildings—thus making us wonder if perhaps the gymnasium that BLO has chosen as the venue for its production is the very one Atwood had in mind as she was writing. Spaces that were once accessible to students and the public, such as dormitories and the boathouse on the Charles River, are now off-limits to all except Gilead’s Secret Police, nicknamed the Eyes. Shops, which once dotted Church Street, and entertainment centers, such as the Brattle Theatre, have been turned into memories for Offred. The most notable location is the Harvard Wall that encloses the university, which is now where bodies hang.
THE HANDMAID’S TALE Music by POUL RUDERS | Libretto by PAUL BENTLEY | Based on the novel by MARGARET ATWOOD First performances of a new edition by the composer, commissioned by Boston Lyric Opera Sung in English with English surtitles Length: Approximately 3 hours, with one intermission WHO’S WHO JJC_Worra_ZifchakJENNIFER JOHNSON CANO as Offred CAROLINE WORRA as Aunt Lydia MARIA ZIFCHAK as Serena Joy Conducted by DAVID ANGUS, Directed by ANNE BOGART, Scenic & Costume Design by JAMES SCHUETTE, Lighting Design by BRIAN SCOTT, Sound Design by J JUMBELIC, Video Design by ADAM J. THOMPSON, and Movement Director SHURA BARYSHNIKOV.
Lucretia made the ultimate sacrifice in order to reclaim her body and her story. Yet, despite her intent, both continue to be the canvas upon which artists’ interpretations play out, with different versions and different points of view rewriting her narrative. At Boston Lyric Opera’s production of The Rape of Lucretia, this lobby installation was conceived and designed by director Sarna Lapine, Michelle Lapine McCabe of Hivemind, and John Conklin, dramaturg and BLO’s Artistic Advisor. The fragments of Lucretia’s story are deconstructed elements from canonical Old Masters paintings, linked in full below. The installation itself reminds the audience that stories are manipulated by arrangement, interpretation, emphasis, and absence. The artists, the composer, the director and the designers all contribute to the reconstruction of Lucretia’s story onstage, while moving through the visual space of the lobby and into the lyrical space of the opera, the audience too participates in the taking of Lucretia’s tale and making it their own.
Whether you live in the city or are just visiting there are always new places to explore and discover. Why not pair your trip to the opera with a day of new experiences? Our next opera, The Rape of Lucretia, will be held at the Artist for Humanity EpiCenter in Fort Point and just a few minutes from the South Boston Seaport. Be sure to buy your tickets then check out our suggestions for things to do, eat, and visit before or after your show:
Our Spring Season begins with the powerful story of Lucretia, a woman whose choice to speak up sparked change. Hear General and Artistic Director Esther Nelson discuss why BLO selected this opera and why you should witness this remarkable story. Watch the video or read the transcribed copy. “This Season, we really celebrate the power of the human spirit, particularly when faced with adversity or injustice. So this Season, we look at a wide range of stories going back to 2500 years ago [with] a historical- or based on a historical- Roman legend of a woman who dares to speak out against her rapist and her offender. And 2500 years ago she is heard. In fact, that particular incident launched a succession that ultimately toppled the government at that time. So there is incredible power. Why I would encourage anyone to come to this opera is that it isn’t actually the act of rape [that] is theatrically central. It is the impact. And it is an incredibly powerful story and music about empathy. You will walk away from this opera feeling empowered and enriched and, I believe, with a deeper sense of understanding. I do believe this is the right time, and I invite all our patrons to make the leap if you are hesitant. You will not regret it.”
THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA Music by BENJAMIN BRITTEN Libretto by RONALD DUNCAN After the play by ANDRÉ OBEY By arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., publisher and copyright owner Sung in English with English surtitles Length: Approximately 110 minutes, with no intermission WHO’S WHO KELLEY O’CONNOR as Lucretia | DUNCAN ROCK as Tarquinius Kelley and DuncanConducted by DAVID ANGUS, Directed by SARNA LAPINE, Scenic Design by MIKIKO SUZUKI MACADAMS, Costume Design by ROBERT PERDZIOLA, Lighting Design by JOEY MORO, Intimacy/Movement Director YURY YANOWSKY, and Dramaturg JOHN CONKLIN. THE RAPE OF LUCRETIAMusic by BENJAMIN BRITTENLibretto by RONALD DUNCANAfter the play by ANDRÉ OBEYBy arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., publisher and copyright ownerSung in English with English surtitlesLength: Approximately 110 mi...