THE HANDMAID’S TALE | MAY 5–122019-04-18T20:20:55-03:30


Music by Poul Ruders
Libretto by Paul Bentley
Sung in English

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.


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


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 a series of disasters causes 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…

Conductor David Angus
Stage Director Anne Bogart
Set & Costume Designer James Schuette
Lighting Designer Brian Scott
Sound Designer J Jumbelic
Video Designer Adam J. Thompson
Movement Director Shura Baryshnikov

Jennifer Johnson Cano as Offred, THE HANDMAID'S TALE, Boston Lyric Opera, MAY 5–12 | 2019
Jennifer Johnson Cano as Offred
Caroline Worra as Aunt Lydia, THE HANDMAID'S TALE, Boston Lyric Opera, MAY 5–12 | 2019
Caroline Worra as Aunt Lydia
Maria Zifchak as Serena Joy, THE HANDMAID'S TALE, Boston Lyric Opera, MAY 5–12 | 2019
Maria Zifchak as Serena Joy
Matthew DiBattista as The Doctor, THE HANDMAID'S TALE, Boston Lyric Opera, MAY 5–12 | 2019
Matthew DiBattista as The Doctor

With Dana Beth Miller, David Cushing, Michelle Trainor, Jesse Darden, Kathryn Skemp Moran, Chelsea Basler, Felicia Gavilanes, Vera Savage, Lynn Torgove, Omar Najmi

Harvard University Ray Lavietes Pavilion

65 North Harvard Street, Boston

Harvard University Ray Lavietes Pavilion

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.

Directions and Parking

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.

A self-serve coat check will be available.

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.

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.