It has been said that we are living in the golden age of the feminist dystopia. Head to the library and you will find shelves full of them: in Vox (2018), by Christina Dalcher, women in the United States are permitted to speak only 100 words per day. In Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God (2017), evolution starts to work backwards; pregnant women find themselves under siege by the panicked government. Bina Shah’s Before She Sleeps (2018) takes place in a Middle Eastern city where women die en masse, and those who survive are forced into polygamous marriages. Yet even as these fictional tales proliferate, it remains highly unusual to see a similar story on the operatic stage. Why are there so many feminist dystopias in fiction, and so few in opera? And can The Handmaid’s Tale, as both an opera and the foremother of these recent novels, bridge this gap?
On October 5, 2017, The New York Times published an explosive story about sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. As is now well known, Weinstein abused his power in order to harass young, talented women, luring them to officesLizaVollPhotography-8224_V2 or hotel rooms and threatening to destroy their careers if they refused his advances. Later that month, I attended BLO’s production of Tosca; on the stage of the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, I watched a powerful man corner a young, talented woman in his private apartment and try to rape her. The similarities were purely coincidental, but they were chilling. It was as if the quasi-historical Rome depicted in Puccini’s opera was being overlaid onto the present day, the distance between the two collapsing into a frightening sameness. I wasn’t sure how to reconcile my many reactions: appreciation for the beauty of Puccini’s music, admiration for the singers’ talent, and guilt for thinking about anything other than the opera’s depiction of attempted sexual assault. What was I supposed to feel? How should I respond?
Strolling through the streets of the city as he flits about from house to house and job to job, Figaro, the title character of The Barber of Seville, enjoys a freewheeling lifestyle limited only by his own imagination. The circumstances of Rosina, the opera’s principal female character, could hardly be more different. Her movements are restricted to the house of Doctor Bartolo, her guardian, and she fears that she may be trapped there forever, as Bartolo intends to marry her. But when Figaro learns that his friend Count Almaviva is smitten with Rosina, he devises a plan to bring them together, and at first it seems to work brilliantly. The nobleman disguises himself as a poor student named Lindoro to ensure that Rosina loves him for who he truly is, not for his title. She reciprocates his feelings and proclaims that “Lindoro shall be mine.” What could go wrong?
Crossing the Line joins a long tradition of staged performances that dramatize the African American past. Black performing artists have long recognized that the stage is a vitally important platform for the telling of historical stories. As the African American theater critic Lester Walton wrote in 1903, “The stage is the medium by means of which ideas – whether true or false – are disseminated; where many opinions are molded…. The stage will be one of the principal factors in ultimately placing the negro before the public in his true and proper light.”
Get to know the final three composers featured in BLO's upcoming community concert series, Crossing the Line to Freedom, created in partnership with Castle of our Skins. In the spotlight this week: Adolphus Hailstork, Nkeiru Okoye, and Anthony R. Green!
Get to know three of the composers featured in BLO's upcoming community concert series, Crossing the Line to Freedom, created in partnership with Castle of our Skins. In the spotlight this week: Margaret Bonds, Undine Smith Moore, and Dorothy Rudd Moore--three incredible women with equally powerful stories to share!
“I’m knee deep in my opera idea TROUBLE IN TAHITI and loving it,” wrote Leonard Bernstein in a letter to Helen Coates, his childhood-piano-teacher-turned-personal-secretary. The year was 1951, and Bernstein was happily ensconced in bucolic Cuernavaca, Mexico, seeking inspiration and solitude as he worked on his latest project. “I am discovering the beauty of aloneness,” he continued. “I’ve cut off my hair, eat like a pig, sit in my beloved Laurel of India tree, and find that there is a lot of life I know nothing about, especially the life inside me.” Aloneness was a rarity for Bernstein. He was a perennially busy man, in constant demand as a conductor, composer, and educator...