Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think Of Boston Lyric Opera's THE HANDMAID'S TALE?
This weekend Boston Lyric Opera concluded the run of THE HANDMAID'S TALE - the first performances of a new edition by composer Poul Ruders, commissioned by Boston Lyric Opera. The production starred Jennifer Johnson Cano and Caroline Worra.
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.
What did the critics have to say? Check out the reviews below!
David Allen, New York Times: Although it is challenging to stage an opera in a sports arena, especially one with a large cast and a very large orchestra, the challenges are surmounted by the director Anne Bogart, the movement director Shura Baryshnikov and the designer James Scheutte. The action takes place at center court, surrounded on three sides by seats and bleachers, and on the fourth by the orchestra, piled in where one hoop ought to be. The buzzer is repurposed as if it were a prison bell. The set is bare; the few props are wheeled on and off by Gilead's riot police. The sound is better than it has any right to be, helped by a hint of amplification and decent balancing by the conductor, David Angus.
Zoë Madonna, Boston Globe: Among the other cast members, the stentorian mezzo Dana Beth Miller makes the most of dated material as Offred's first-wave feminist mother, while soprano Michelle Trainor is no-nonsense as the covertly rebellious Ofglen. Bass-baritone David Cushing, as Offred's captor, the Commander, sings with the disturbing lightness of a man who knows the woman next to him literally can't say no. And the Handmaid headmistress Aunt Lydia is played with terrifying, almost campy zeal by Caroline Worra, who condemns the iniquities of the world in coloratura flights that are even more impressive for her unleashing them while storming around the stage.
Katrina Holden-Buckley, The Art Fuse: Caroline Worra, as the handmaids' trainer Aunt Lydia, maintains an intensely menacing presence physically and vocally by way of an exacting diction even in a fairly high tessitura. Felicia Gavilanes as Offred in flashbacks also brought considerable pathos to her role. Her duet with Johnson Cano - as they recall her lost daughter - is a well-rendered and emotionally moving highlight.
Douglas Hall, Glide: BLO has surpassed their charge to "translate this story in the moment for the audience" as stated by renowned theater and opera director Anne Bogart, who joined BLO's creative team at the helm of "The Handmaid's Tale" production. Ms. Bogart immediately visualized this storyline with current relevance "in the ethos" of our society.
Yunkyo Kim, Huntington News: Even though the female characters are brutally and relentlessly tortured, the production makes clear that their voices come first. All male performances are stoic and almost insipid, drab among the crimson garb of the handmaids. In creating these contrasts, the opera, which was written by two men, honors the integrity of the novel. The adaptation is successfully able to carry on the subversion of gender narratives and female empowerment in an art form traditionally dominated by men. This is what makes "The Handmaid's Tale" a victory in musical adaptation.
Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal: Boston Lyric Opera's staging of Poul Ruders's operatic adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel gives the audience an up-close view of a horrifying near-future. In the last two years, a television adaptation of "The Handmaid's Tale," Margaret Atwood's dystopian 1985 novel, has pushed the story to the forefront...