THE ROSENBERGS (AN OPERA) Opens At Boston Playwrights' 4/14

By: Apr. 09, 2018

Performances of the North American premiere of The Rosenbergs (An Opera) begin this week. The special event is produced by Boston University and Brandeis University, and presented by Boston Playwrights' Theatre (BPT).

This tragic love story-set during the United States' Communist witch-hunt of the 1950s-is based on the lives of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed for atomic espionage. The Rosenbergs was recognized as Denmark's Best Opera of 2015 by online journal Copenhagen Culture.

Christie Lee Gibson and Brian Church portray Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Gibson is a performer, director, and the General Director of OperaHub. Locally, she's been seen in The Edge of Peace at Central Square Theater and in OperaHub's The Four-Note Opera and L'Incoronazione di Poppea, among others. Church is a longtime member of the Choir at King's Chapel and the Cantata Singers, who has appeared in numerous productions with Guerilla Opera and other area groups. Church teaches piano, guitar, bass, and voice at Music 101 Studios in Melrose.

Running from April 12-22, the opera features a score by Joachim Holbek and a libretto by Rhea Leman. Dmitry Troyanovsky directs, with musical direction by Cristi Catt.

Librettist Leman grew up in post-McCarthy era New York City, the child of Jewish left wing activists. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were often mentioned at the dinner table, and years later Leman would find herself searching for a meaning and reason behind the Rosenbergs' decisions and actions as she worked to bring their story to the stage.

"I knew about their political motives but what I discovered was their tremendous love and commitment to each other," Leman says. "Their love became my key to the writing."

BPT Artistic Director Kate Snodgrass describes The Rosenbergs as "moving and alive without being overtly political, and it speaks to Ethel and Julius's relationship-which is something that gets short-shrift when we think of this period in our nation's history. . .We forget that there are real people behind these big stories-people with dreams and loves and deep fears just like us. Whether we think of the Rosenbergs as heroes or traitors, in the end they were people living out a tragic love story."

A post-show conversation with Snodgrass, Holbek, Leman, Troyanovsky, Catt and the cast will follow the April 14 performance. After the conclusion of The Rosenbergs's run at BPT, the production will move to Brandeis University for three performances there.


Founded in 1981 at Boston University by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, Boston Playwrights' Theatre (BPT) is an award-winning professional theatre dedicated to new works. At the heart of BPT's mission is the production of new plays by alumni of its M.F.A. Playwriting Program, the latter in collaboration with Boston University's renowned School of Theatre. The program's award-winning alumni have been produced in regional and New York houses, internationally, as well as in London's West End. BPT's productions have been honored with numerous national, regional, and Boston awards, including IRNE Awards for Best New Script and Boston Critics' Association Elliot Norton Awards.


Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. BU consists of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school's research and teaching mission.


JOACHIM HOLBECK was born 1957 in Lyngby, Denmark, but moved with his mother to Norway and spent his early childhood close to Oslo. He moved back to Copenhagen with his family in 1968 and started playing drums in rock and jazz bands in 1972. Holbek worked as a musician, drum teacher, and musician for dance classes through the 70's and 80's. He began writing music for dance and performances in the 80's and had his first theatre production at the Jytte Abildstrøm Teater in 1984. Holbek composed his first dramatic film score for Medea by Lars von Trier in 1988, and his first grand scale opera commission by the Royal Theatre (Løvehjerte) in 2005. Both have been followed by numerous successful productions both nationally and abroad. Throughout the years he has made music for more than 50 film and theater productions working alongside directors such as Lars von Trier, Lone Scherfig, Ole Bornedal, Henrik Sartou, and Simon Staho to name but a few.


RHEA LEMAN was born and raised in New York City where she studied dance and theater before moving to Denmark in 1981. Since then, she has been working as playwright, screenwriter as well as theater, radio and TV director. Her plays have been performed throughout Europe and the U.S.A. Her most recent awards include Best Opera 2015 by CphCulture for The Rosenbergs; an award from the Danish Committee for the Performing Arts (2014) for her direction of the play The Story Behind the Wall; and, in 2013, the Allen Prize from the Danish Screen and Stage Writers Guild for "excellent dramatic writing." The Reumert Committee nominated Leman for Best Playwright of 2013 for her play about the global financial crisis, Gorilla. In 2003, for a four-year period, Leman was appointed by the Danish Cultural Minister as the chairwoman of The Danish Theater Council and as a member of The Danish Arts Council. The Rosenbergs is her first opera and she dedicates it to her parents who had two passions-opera and politics. Leman and Holbek have been working together and producing numerous theater and TV projects for the past 35 years.


DMITRY TROYANOVSKY stages productions, teaches workshops, and develops new theatrical material at national and international institutions. Recently Dmitry directed Marius von Mayenburg's The Ugly One at the Shanghai Drama Arts Center in China, Charlotte's Web at the American Repertory Theater, and Exit the King at Actors' Shakespeare Project in Boston. Dmitry's opera credits include Tchaikovsky's Evgeny Onegin at Opera Idaho (conducted by Grammy nominee Sara Jobin) and a semi-staged version of a rarely performed Schubert opera, Fierrabras, for Bard Music Festival. Dmitry's work has been seen at Asolo Rep Theater, Baryshnikov Arts Center, American Repertory Theatre Institute, Shanghai Theatre Academy, Moscow Art Theatre School, 92 Street Y in New York, New York University, Pushkin Theater (Moscow), and Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center. Prominent international productions include a Chinese language version of Sara Kane's play 4:48 Psychosis at the Shanghai Drama Arts Center. Dmitry has an M.F.A. from the A.R.T./MXAT Institute for the Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University. Dmitry is on the faculty at Brandeis University. Online portfolio:


CRISTI CATT has served as music director and/or vocal coach for numerous productions of musicals, operas, new works, and Shakespearian plays in Chicago, New York, and the greater Boston area as well as in Latvia and Sweden. She is a co-founder of the acclaimed vocal ensemble Tapestry, known for their recordings with Telarc International and German Label MDG. An active performer, she has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, Russia, and South America. Cristi teaches at New England Conservatory, Berklee College of Music, and Merrimack College. She is the author of The Kinesthetic Singer: Lessons on Singing from Yoga and Basketball. For more information please visit:


Brian Church (Julius) enjoys a busy performance schedule around Boston with a wide variety of groups. He is a longtime member of the Choir at King's Chapel as well as the Cantata Singers. With Guerilla Opera (GO), Brian has taken part in 12 productions, including 10 premieres. He is featured on GO's recording of Nicholas Vines' Loose Wet Perforated which was released on Navona Records. Brian recently returned from Alaska where he performed with Callithumpian Consort at the University of Alaska at Anchorage. He also sings and plays guitar with Renaissance Men. In the past, Brian has performed with Boston Opera Collaborative, Roomful of Teeth, BMOP and many others. For 11 years, Brian played bass, sang, and toured with the avant-noise punk group Tristan Da Cunha. He teaches beginning piano, guitar, bass, and voice at Music 101 Studios in Melrose. He is the father of two boys, Elias and Quentin. His second album Then That Soon I See is available on Bandcamp:

Christie Lee Gibson (Ethel) is a multidimensional performing artist, stage director and General Director of OperaHub. Previous credits include Sister Ignatia in Sister Anonymous (Second ACT Productions); Margaret in The Edge of Peace (Central Square Theater); Mother/Cat in Brundibar & But the Giraffe! (Underground Railway Theater); Jeanne in Jeanne's Fantasy, Sue in Sunday with Joy, Narrator in La Grenouille à grande bouche (Fort Point Theatre Channel); Hamlet/Gertrude in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Actress 2 in Enjoy (Apollinaire Theatre Company); Socrate, The Four-Note Opera, The Choose-Your-Own Opera, Der Zwerg, L'Incoronazione di Poppea (OperaHub); The Magic Mirror and Light and Power (Juventas New Music). Directing credits include Der Vampyr and La Hija de Rappaccini with OperaHub and The Good Person of Setzuan with Fort Point Theatre Channel. She regularly performs Venez dans mon royaume, a concert of French music, and is producing and performing in Laura Neill's DIVAS with OperaHub in June.