Powerful...Stunning...
An ambitious, immersive staging by Anne Bogart
and a fantastic cast and chorus.
- The Boston Globe

"Unquestionably the finest,
most creative and unforgettable
production in BLO's storied history."
- South Shore Critic

Powerful...Stunning...
An ambitious, immersive staging by Anne Bogart
and a fantastic cast and chorus.
- The Boston Globe

"Unquestionably the finest,
most creative and unforgettable
production in BLO's storied history."
- South Shore Critic

THE HANDMAID’S TALE | MAY 5–122019-05-30T14:26:52-03:30

THE HANDMAID’S TALE

Music by Poul Ruders
Libretto by Paul Bentley
Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood
Sung in English with English surtitles

Performance time is approximately 3 hours, with one intermission.

TALKBACKS will be held immediately following the performances on May 8, May 10, and May 12.

 

SUN 5 | 3:00 PM
WED 8 | 7:30 PM
FRI 10 | 7:30 PM
SUN 12 | 3:00 PM

Please note due to the nature of this production, any patrons who arrive after the start of the show may not be able to access their ticketed seats and any patrons who get up during the performance will not be able to return to their original seat until after the intermission. Alternative seating will be provided.

MIND-BLOWING PRODUCTION | STUNNING CONTEMPORARY SCORE | TIMELY CAUTIONARY TALE

Bear witness to the story of Offred: one woman of many stripped of her name, identity, and personhood by a cruel and oppressive government regime. Offred desperately preserves her story, a simple act of defiance and resistance as dangerous as it is riveting. Margaret Atwood’s extraordinary, important novel—set in Boston and Cambridge—becomes one of BLO’s largest-ever productions, directed by theater icon Anne Bogart with a hypnotic, evocative score that bends the tenets of traditional opera and leaves audiences breathless.
First performances of a new edition by composer Poul Ruders, commissioned by Boston Lyric Opera

The Handmaid’s Tale contains scenes of violence, misogyny, and sexual assault. In order to help you best prepare for the opera, please note that this synopsis contains plot details and events.

2021 AD. After multiple disasters cause environmental ruin and widespread infertility, the United States has been taken over by an extremist Christian sect and reborn as the Republic of Gilead, where women have been returned to their “rightful” place in society.
They are prohibited from holding property or working and are divided into a strict class system: Aunts are in charge of re- education and the enforcement of social codes, Marthas work as cooks and housekeepers, Wives are the property of elite men, and Handmaids are women designated to bear the children of the leaders of Gilead.
continue reading…

also read about BLO’s 2019 Community Partnerships
with BARCC and Casa Myrna…

MARGARET ATWOOD

Author,
The Handmaid’s Tale

POUL RUDERS

Composer

PAUL BENTLEY

Librettist

CREATIVE TEAM

DAVID ANGUS

Conductor

ANNE BOGART*

Stage Director

SHURA BARYSHNIKOV*

Movement Director

JAMES SCHUETTE

Set & Costume Designer

BRIAN SCOTT*

Lighting Designer
(bio)

J JUMBELIC

Sound Designer

ADAM THOMPSON*

Video Designer

TOM WATSON

Wig-Makeup Designer
THIS PRODUCTION WAS MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH THE
SPONSORSHIP OF THE HANDMAID’S CIRCLE. WE RECOGNIZE
AND THANK THEM FOR THEIR GENEROUS SUPPORT OF THIS LANDMARK PRODUCTION.

We additionally thank the following sponsors:
Linda Cabot Black, with special support for David Angus, conductor
Sandra A. Urie & Frank F. Herron, with special support for Anne Bogart, stage director
Willa & Taylor Bodman, with special support for James Schuette, set & costume designer,
and Brian Scott, lighting designer
Susan & Dennis Shapiro, with special support for the Boston Lyric Opera Chorus

BOSTON LYRIC OPERA ORCHESTRA ANNIE RABBAT Concertmaster
BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CHORUS BRETT HODGDON‡ Chorus Master
REHEARSAL COACH/ACCOMPANIST NATHAN SALAZAR†
ASSISTANT STAGE DIRECTOR MIKHAELA MAHONY*
STAGE MANAGER CYNTHIA HENNON MARINO

CAST

JENNIFER JOHNSON CANO
Sponsored by Ms. RoAnn Costin
Mezzo-Soprano

OFFRED

CAROLINE WORRA
Sponsored by Abigail B. Mason
Soprano

AUNT LYDIA

KATHRYN SKEMP MORAN
Soprano

JANINE – OFWARREN

CHELSEA BASLER‡
Sponsored by Miguel and Suki de Bragança
Soprano

MOIRA

MARIA ZIFCHAK*
Sponsored by Alicia Cooney & Stephen Quigley
Mezzo-Soprano

SERENA JOY

JAMES RICARDO MILORD*
Actor

TV PRESENTER

FELICIA GAVILANES‡
Sponsored by Alicia Cooney & Stephen Quigley
Mezzo-Soprano

THE DOUBLE (OFFRED IN THE TIME BEFORE)

JESSE DARDEN‡**
Sponsored by Gerard & Sherryl Cohen
Tenor

LUKE

LYNN TORGOVE
Mezzo-Soprano

RITA

MICHELLE TRAINOR‡
Sponsored by Janet & Irv Plotkin
Soprano

OFGLEN

DANA BETH MILLER
Sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Timothy & Jessica Donohue
Mezzo-Soprano

OFFRED’S MOTHER

MATTHEW DIBATTISTA
Sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. E. Lee Perry
Tenor

THE DOCTOR

OMAR NAJMI‡
Sponsored by Dr. Joseph & Mrs. Anita Loscalzo
Tenor

NICK

DAVID CUSHING‡
Sponsored by Allison K. Ryder & David B. Jones
Baritone

THE COMMANDER

VERA SAVAGE‡
Mezzo-Soprano

NEW OFGLEN
OFFRED & LUKE’S DAUGHTER

SAMANTA WILLISTON* (MAY 5 & 10)
BEATRICE EDDY* (MAY 8 & 12)

SUPERNUMERARIE
ORCHESTRA
CHORUS
HANDMAIDS, AUNTS, GUARDS, ETC.

CHELSEA BACCAY
JESSICA JOHNSON BROCK†
Sponsored by Mr. Edward J. Leary
JORGEANDRÉS CAMARGO
FRED FURNARI
HEATHER GALLAGHER‡
KIRSTEN HART
TAYLOR HORNER
JAIME KORKOS
CHRIS MAHER
MICHAEL MILLER
BRIANNA J. ROBINSON†
VANESSA SCHUKIS
EMMA SORENSON‡

PRODUCTION/ARTISTIC STAFF
ROAD CREW

*Boston Lyric Opera Debut
†Boston Lyric Opera Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist
‡Boston Lyric Opera Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist Alumnus
**Principal Artist-in-Residence

 

Harvard University Ray Lavietes Pavilion

45 North Harvard Street, Boston

Harvard University Ray Lavietes Pavilion

The Handmaid’s Tale will be staged in a gymnasium that recalls the infamous Red Center from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel

Harvard’s refurbished and rededicated arena for men’s and women’s basketball – The Ray ’36 and Estelle Lavietes Pavilion, formerly called the Briggs Athletic Center – stands among the most historic venues in the sport. The facility underwent multiphase renovation in recent years, completing its transformation prior to the 2017-18 season.

Learn more about how we’ve redesigned spaces to create immersive productions
BLO Blog: Transforming Spaces for Opera

Directions and Parking

ACCESSIBILITY
The Lavietes Pavilion can accommodate both wheelchair and companion seating. Restrooms are located on the main level. Assisted listening devices are available at the box office.

COAT CHECK
Please note there will not be a coat check of any kind for this production.

FOOD & BEVERAGE
Concessions will be served at all performances, including sandwiches & wraps, light bites, and desserts. Beer, wine, and nonalcoholic beverages will also be available for purchase.

This is not a Harvard University event and is not controlled, presented, or supervised by Harvard University or any of its schools or programs.

Beyond the Stage: An Intern’s Perspective on Community Engagement at Boston Lyric Opera

By |May 18th, 2019|

I began writing this blog post a couple of weeks prior to the opening of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in March, Boston Lyric Opera’s third production of the Season, opening. Since then, Emerson College, where I attend graduate school, has come under fire after several unidentified students posted a list of names of students who violated the sexual misconduct policy. As I’m writing this today, the New York Times published an article about Swarthmore College fraternity members historically and presently committing acts of sexual violence that have been repeatedly ignored by the administration.

Modern Opera, Contemporary Creators: Sitting Down with Composer Poul Ruders

By |May 12th, 2019|

The Danish composer Poul Ruders first came to the United States in 1986, the year after Margaret Atwood published her novel The Handmaid’s Tale. It was then that the late composer/conductor Oliver Knussen brought Ruders to Tanglewood for the American premiere of his craggy orchestral work, Manhattan Skyline. Ruders didn’t read The Handmaid’s Tale that summer – he points out that was long before that he calls the “Hulu-baloo” about the TV series based on the book. But it was there that he met the first and fiercest of his American champions, the guitarist David Starobin and his wife Becky. Ruders has since composed a significant repertory for Starobin and his instrument. The Starobins also run a record company, Bridge, that has to date produced 20 worthwhile CDs featuring Ruders’ music.

Modern Opera, Contemporary Creators: Sitting Down with Actor, Writer & Librettist Paul Bentley

By |May 12th, 2019|

Paul Bentley is the very model of a modern multi-purpose man. He is an actor, an author, a singer, an historian and an opera-lover; his interests range from the Byzantine Empire to King Ludwig of Bavaria, to the 20th century scientist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In conversation he will burst into “Fair Moon To Thee I Sing” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore in voice still steady and clear and even touch on the Forging Song from Wagner’s Siegfried, complete with pitch-perfect high C. He will tell you that his principal regret in life is that he was not endowed with the kind of voice with which he could have performed all the principal Wagnerian Heldentenor roles.

Director’s Notes on The Handmaid’s Tale

By |May 11th, 2019|

We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. - Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Bogart Anne_PHOTO Nana Dakin_CropWelcome to the Lavietes Pavilion on the campus of Harvard University, the world’s second oldest basketball court. It may be true that novelist Margaret Atwood had exactly this spot in mind in The Handmaid’s Tale when she described what she called the Red Center, the place where all of Gilead’s Handmaids are trained as potential breeders. According to Atwood, the Secret Service of Gilead was housed in the Widener Library and it was the Harvard Yard wall where she imagined the hanging bodies of the executed. In Atwood’s novel, fertile women are taught how to act and how to present themselves at the Red Center. This is also the place where they are told that, because they were women, they no longer have the agency to make any personal choices.

Opera in the Golden Age of the Feminist Dystopia

By |May 10th, 2019|

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?

THEN AND NOW: How the Landscape has Changed since 1985’s The Handmaid’s Tale

By |May 7th, 2019|

Since Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985, abortion and contraception access have remained politically, religiously, and emotionally charged issues. Though the reproductive rights of women are not specifically addressed in the U.S. Constitution, through critical case decisions the Supreme Court has created legal precedents that define how reproductive rights function in our society today. These rights could include an individual’s right to plan a family, terminate a pregnancy, use contraceptives, learn about sex education in public schools, or access reproductive health services—an extensive list that goes far beyond abortion and contraception access alone. However, these two crucial and controversial aspects of reproductive health can serve as benchmarks for how things have—or have not—changed since 1985.

A Walk Through The Handmaid’s Tale

By |May 3rd, 2019|

Boston resident, English scholar, and The Handmaid's Tale aficionado Rachel Greenhaus took Boston Lyric Opera on a walking tour through Cambridge in preparation for the presentation of Poul Ruders' operatic adaptation of Margaret Atwood's famed novel. Greenhaus discusses the research behind her mapping of locations from the novel, and talks about the resonance of The Handmaid's Tale as a Boston resident today. -------- Margaret Atwood's 1985 dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale is a book I have read many, many times. I even used to teach it back when I was running undergrad English and writing classes in graduate school. Although my relationship with the book has grown complicated over the years as I have come to think more critically about its limited version of [white] feminism, I still find powerful resonances in its storytelling and the poetry of its language. I still highly recommend it as a work of art, particularly for anyone who lives in or around Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the book is set. Reading The Handmaid's Tale has been an even richer experience for me since moving to the area. I can walk through Harvard Square and see glimpses of Gilead superimposed upon the walls or ready to rise from beneath the surface of the streets, like the palimpsest that Atwood herself evokes on the first page of the novel.

Intense Drama: Longtime friends Caroline Worra and Maria Zifchak on their challenging HANDMAID’S TALE roles

By |April 29th, 2019|

Soprano Caroline Worra met mezzo-soprano Maria Zifchak in 1998. Both had been chosen for the Merola Program, the San Francisco Opera’s prestigious institute for advanced operatic training; the two of them also appeared in the Western Opera Theatre touring production of Verdi’s La Traviata. They have remained friends ever since, and at one point Worra rented a first-floor apartment in Zifchak’s house in the Bronx. But they have never been onstage together since until Boston Lyric Opera engaged both of them for its forthcoming production of Poul Ruders’ operatic adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s cautionary dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood published her book in 1985; it became a best-seller and eventually a classic – and a highly controversial one, after it began to appear on college and high school reading lists. The subsequent 34 years have brought a movie, several stage adaptations, an opera, a graphic novel, and a ballet, and recently Hulu produced an award-winning TV series. Atwood herself worked or advised on some of these projects, and now, after a long interval, has produced a sequel which will appear in September.

Connections: Harvard, Puritanism, and The Handmaid’s Tale

By |April 18th, 2019|

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.

A Deep Dive into Poul Ruders’ THE HANDMAID’S TALE: Part II

By |March 30th, 2019|

THE COMPOSER p12-15_Poul RudersDanish composer Poul Ruders was mainly known as a concerto specialist before he convinced Margaret Atwood to allow The Handmaid’s Tale to be adapted into an operatic libretto in the mid-1990s. In the 1980s, Oliver Knussen brought Ruders’ name to prominence by conducting and recording his works with the London Sinfonietta and for the BBC. Ruders’ interest in and frequent visits to the U.S. have inspired some of his most successful concert music: Manhattan Abstraction (1982) depicts the New York skyline as seen from Liberty Island in icy January; he set the entire text of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Bells for American soprano Lucy Shelton in 1993; and his Serenade on the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean (2004) was inspired by the writings of Carl Sagan. As he read Atwood’s novel, Ruders heard “long, sustained towering chords, slowly becoming louder and louder,” and the more he read, the more convinced he became that it should be an opera. He contacted a skeptical Atwood: “To me it’s so well suited, because of the inherent drama. It’s packed with human emotions....

A Deep Dive into Poul Ruders’ THE HANDMAID’S TALE: Part I

By |March 29th, 2019|

Musicologist and writer Laura Stanfield Prichard takes a deep dive into The Handmaid's Tale by Poul Ruders in this two-part series! BLO’s Spring Season pairs two modern English-language operas shaped by women’s voices. The first, Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia (1946), deals with the corruption of innocence and the outsider in society, themes that also dominated Britten’s 1945 triumph, Peter Grimes. BLO’s second offering is Poul Ruders’ The Handmaid’s Tale (2000), based on the iconic dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. p12-15_Margaret_Atwood_2015Groundbreaking Canadian author Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939, just 18 months before Britten began working on Grimes. She writes, “Having come to consciousness during World War II, I knew that established orders could vanish overnight. It can’t happen here could not be depended on: anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.” Her controversial, speculative novel The Handmaid’s Tale was begun in 1984, while she was living in wall-encircled West Berlin. She heard daily sonic booms from the East German air force, sensed “the feeling of being spied on,” and was haunted by the many repurposed buildings (“This used to belong to... but then they disappeared.”).

Quickstart: The Handmaid’s Tale

By |March 25th, 2019|

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.

Study Guide

Community Partnerships: Spring 2019

1 in 3 women. 1 in 6 men.1

Sexual violence is all too pervasive throughout the United States.

Those statistics are even more striking here in Massachusetts, our home, where nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lives.2

Sexual violence affects people of all genders, races, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, abilities, religions, and sexual orientations.

And we need to talk about it.

here in Massachusetts, our home, where nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lives.
At BLO, we believe that art can be a catalyst for conversation, for healing, and for action. Our Spring of 2019 Season places issues of sexual violence and power in focus with two new productions:
The Rape of Lucretia | Boston Lyric Opera | March 11 - 17, 2019
Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia explores the impact of a disturbing act of violence against one individual, mining the psychology and circumstances of the offender leading up to the rape, as well as the trauma, courage, and devastation of the survivors in its aftermath.
The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale, an operatic adaptation by Poul Ruders of Margaret Atwood’s classic novel, invokes a dark fictional near-future, set in a fundamentalist theocracy. We see the story through the narrative of one Handmaid of Gilead, a woman stripped of her name and her rights, forced to bear children for the elite.
By presenting these two works side-by-side, BLO is striving to create an inclusive platform for crucial dialogue—but we also recognize that we have much to learn. This Season, we are partnering with two leading social service organizations in the Boston community, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and Casa Myrna. These unique community partnerships will:

  • Deepen BLO’s understanding of the dynamics of sexual and intimate partner violence through workshops and trainings.
  • Provide a variety of supports to the audience experience at the theatre, including trained representatives on site to answer questions, talkbacks with experts alongside BLO artists, and referrals and resources.
  • Enrich our opera performances onstage through artistic consultation and support.

If you are interested in learning more, please visit our partner organizations.

Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
Casa Myrna
1Via BARCC; Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

2Via Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence; data compiled from Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

Reviews

.

“Powerful…Stunning…
An ambitious, immersive staging by Anne Bogart
and a fantastic cast and chorus.”
– The Boston Globe

“Unquestionably the finest,
most creative and unforgettable
production in BLO’s storied history.”
South Shore Critic

“BLO’s ingenious, immersive staging…
ensures that the audience
cannot escape its message.”
Wall Street Journal

“This is a triumph for the Boston company.”
The New York Times

“A powerful gut punch of a production.”
Schmopera

“An effective, strong opera, exceptionally well presented…Striking and moving
Boston Musical Intelligencer

Production Photos

For press images, please visit
The Handmaid’s Tale Media Kit

Cast Photos