Boston Lyric Opera Announces Spring 2019 Season - THE HANDMAID'S TALE, LUCRETIA, and More!

Boston Lyric Opera's (BLO) season of rebels and dissenters continues into Spring 2019 with tales of strong women helmed by women directors. BLO's productions of THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA and THE HANDMAID'S TALE tell startlingly relevant stories -- both with extraordinary music, and both produced in distinctive, non-traditional spaces. Artistic and General Director Esther Nelson says the spring season highlights stories from which female characters emerge as moral and societal touchstones.

BLO's production of Benjamin Britten's 1946 masterwork, THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA, led by director Sarna Lapine, highlights the story's modern resonance with an intimate, immersive staging that brings audience members into the drama. Lucretia will be presented March 11-17, 2019 at Artists for Humanity's newly expanded EpiCenter facility in Fort Point.

An adaptation of writer Margaret Atwood's zeitgeist-grabbing novel THE HANDMAID'S TALE gets a new production May 5-12, 2019 at Harvard's Lavietes Pavilion athletic facility, helmed by theater and opera director Anne Bogart with a revised orchestration by composer Poul Ruders commissioned by BLO. The Lavietes Pavilion, a basketball gymnasium, stands in for Atwood's fictional "Red Center" and other locations from her dystopian novel.

"This spring, Boston Lyric Opera tells urgent stories that are intimate, like Lucretia -- with a small cast and a chamber ensemble -- or grand in scope, like Handmaid's Tale, with its breathtaking source material and a thrilling, diverse score performed by a large chorus and orchestra." Nelson says. "Both operas offer opportunities for modern-day discussion. To help spark those conversations, our season includes important community initiatives and valuable partnerships."

The challenging subject matter this spring prompted BLO to work closely with community partners in Boston to shape educational, informative and supportive programs for the public and the production teams. [See "Offstage Support" below.]

THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA, March 11-17, 2019 Benjamin Britten's chamber opera, sung to an English libretto by Ronald Duncan, is drawn from the history of ancient Rome and the oft-told tale of Lucretia. Rome is under Etruscan rule and the king's son Tarquinius leads a joint army in a battle against Greece. Aroused and challenged by stories of the unimpeachable virtue of Lucretia -- the wife of his Roman general, Collatinus -- Tarquinius rides back to the city and attempts to seduce her. When she rejects him, he rapes her. The next morning, Lucretia calls Collatinus back to witness her testimony and, in his presence, commits suicide. In the aftermath another general, Junius Brutus, uses Lucretia's accusation and self-sacrifice as a rallying cry against the Etruscans; a popular uprising drives the occupiers from Rome. The monarchy is overthrown and a republic is formed.

The Rape of Lucretia is considered among composer Britten's most skillful, concentrated and theatrical works. Guardian music critic Andrew Clements called it "a model of economy, creating a sound world of vivid evocation...interweaving self-contained numbers." With librettist Duncan (who drew from Andre Obey's 1931 play), Britten explores the brutal nature of political and sexual power, and casts Lucretia's trauma as an act of violence that she turns on herself in order to make public what Tarquinius's act has cost her.

"The myth of Lucretia is filled with complex and dramatic ambiguities, as well as disturbing moral and psychological interpretations that have fascinated numerous writers, painters, composers and philosophers for 2,500 years," says director Sarna Lapine, who notes that the majority of depictions and interpretations have been rendered by men. "The Rape of Lucretia is a tragedy born of ancient Rome that would, perhaps, be easier to examine as an artifact of its time, were it not for its current resonance."

David Angus conducts the production at Artist for Humanity's newly expanded EpiCenter facility in South Boston. Kelley O'Connor (BLO's 2012 Madama Butterfly) sings the role of Lucretia, Duncan Rock (BLO's 2015 Don Giovanni) plays Tarquinius, Nancy Maultsby (BLO's 2009 Rusalka) plays Bianca. Brandon Cedel (BLO's 2015 La Bohème) returns to BLO to play Collatinus, David McFerrin (BLO's 2017 Burke & Hare) sings Junius, and Jesse Darden and Antonia Tamer sing Male Chorus and Female Chorus respectively.

Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams is set designer for Lucretia, Robert Perdziola designed the costumes, and lighting design is by Joey Moro.

Lapine is a New York-based director and developer of new work. In addition to helming the upcoming Kate Hamill adaptation of Little Women at Primary Stages, Lapine recently directed productions of Noises Off (Two River Theater), Into the Woods (Juilliard), Frost/Nixon (Bay Street Theater), You Are Here, a new musical (Goodspeed Musicals); Photograph 51, (Japan premiere at Umeda Arts Theater); Sondheim on Sondheim with the Boston Pops and the L.A. Phil; and the critically-acclaimed Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park With George, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford. Lapine directed the second national tour of Lincoln Center Theater's South Pacific and was Associate Director of The National Theatre's WarHorse for its North American Tour and its Japan production. She started out at Lincoln Center Theater as assistant director to Bartlett Sher on The Light in the Piazza. She worked with him on the Tony Award-winning revival of South Pacific, the new musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing! She holds an MFA from Columbia University.

Lucretia performances are Mon Mar 11, 2019 @ 7:30pm; Wed Mar 13, 2019 @ 7:30pm; Fri Mar 15, 2019 @ 7:30pm; Sat Mar 16, 2019 @ 7:30pm; Sun Mar 17, 2019 @ 3:00pm. Post-show discussions about the work take place after each performance.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE, May 5-12, 2019

Danish composer Poul Ruders and librettist Paul Bentley's monumental 2000 opera The Handmaid's Tale, based on the novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, gets its East Coast U.S. debut in a new BLO production staged at Harvard's Lavietes Pavilion. The Handmaid's Tale will be helmed by Obie, Bessie and American Theater Wing award-winning director Anne Bogart, who serves as Co-Artistic Director of New York's Siti Company and has been a leader in theater education around the world for more than three decades.

Like the book and the hit television adaptation, the story of the opera 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.

BLO commissioned a re-orchestrated score from Ruders and obtained permission to rethink the opening and closing scenes from the 2000 work. The score blends folkloric music, a cinematic sound world of hypnotic and ominous repetition, moments of minimalism, haunting choral singing, and duets and trios that break the tenets of traditional opera.

"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."

Bogart says her team envisions the production as an immersive audience experience, giving the gymnasium a detention center feel, with guards stationed around a brick-and-searchlight interior, and a large, three-quarter-round stage space that transforms into more than a dozen locations.

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.

David Angus conducts. Set and costume design is by James 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 opera works include Handel's Alcina, Dvorak's Dimitrij, Kurt Weill's Lost 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.

OFF-STAGE SUPPORT The Rape of Lucretia and The Handmaid's Tale include stories of women victimized for seizing control to change their destinies; they bring issues of power, control and violence affecting women to the forefront. Esther Nelson says Boston Lyric Opera saw an opportunity to create a platform for community dialogue about these issues by presenting the works side by side. BLO also identified two leading partner organizations - the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) and Casa Myrna - to help drive that dialogue with resources and community programming ideas that put the content of the shows in context.

"Their work with us will provide training that strengthens our internal grasp of the issues," Nelson says. "and will help build capacity to support our creative teams, our staff, and our audience members who surely will have a variety of personal experiences with the issues at hand."

BARCC representatives will be on hand at all Lucretia performances, to answer questions and provide context in post-show discussions on stage, provide support to anyone who feels affected by the production, and to give audience members guidance in accessing help for themselves or someone else.

TICKETS Tickets to The Rape of Lucretia and The Handmaid's Tale are $25-$182, depending on performance and seat location. Tickets may be purchased 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.

"Spring Duet" subscription packages start at $90 for two productions, including all subscriber benefits.

A limited number of "BLO Book Club" packages, including discounted tickets to both shows, and copies of book club selections The Power (2017) by Naomi Alderman and The Handmaid's Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood are available now at www.blo.org/bookclub.

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

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