Opera Colorado to Present Professional Premiere of New American Opera, The Scarlet Letter May 4-12, 2013
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Classic Set to Music by Composer
Lori Laitman, With Libretto by Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason
Soprano Elizabeth Futral to Star as Hester Prynne
Staging is the Culmination of Company’s 30th Anniversary Season
DENVER, CO—November 13, 2012—Opera Colorado will present the professional premiere of The Scarlet Letter by composer Lori Laitman and librettist David Mason, May 4-12, 2013. This new adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s iconic American novel will be part of Opera Colorado’s 30th anniversary season, and marks the first time the work will be presented by a major, professional operacompany. Known for presenting contemporary and rarely performed works as well as more traditional productions of classic operarepertoire, Opera Colorado is the preeminent grand opera company in the Rocky Mountain region.
“We believe that supporting new work is essential for keeping the art form always moving forward, speaking to contemporary audiences, and retaining opera’s place as a vital part of our cultural landscape,” noted General Director Greg Carpenter. “Part ofOpera Colorado’s mission is to make opera exciting and accessible, and by staging a contemporary work like The Scarlet Letter we are able to bring a classic American story to life in an electrifying new way. Lori Laitman and David Mason’s brilliant adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel speaks to issues that continue to resonate today and we are thrilled to present this new work in Denver, where our audiences have come to expect the unexpected.”
Opera Colorado’s production of The Scarlet Letter will be the first professional staging of the opera, which was commissioned by The University of Central Arkansas in 2007 and performed by students and faculty in 2008. For the production at Opera Colorado, Laitman has updated the opera’s score, including new vocal lines tailored for the Denver performance, and the addition of interstitial music between scenes to allow for set changes. Under the direction of Beth Greenberg, who is making her Opera Colorado debut, and with set design by Erhard Rom and costume design by Terese Wadden, Opera Colorado’s premiere of The Scarlet Letter will feature soprano Elizabeth Futral as Hester Prynne; baritone Morgan Smith as Roger Chillingworth; tenor James Valenti as Arthur Dimmesdale; mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook as Mistress Hibbons; baritone John Hancock as Governor Bellingham; and tenor Joel Sorensen as John Wilson. The cast will include a 24-person chorus comprised of 12 women and 12 men, including all five of OperaColorado’s 2012-2013 Young Artists in featured roles.
Opera Colorado has also commissioned Laitman to create a one-hour, one act version of The Scarlet Letter, which the company’s Young Artists will present in Colorado schools in fall 2013 following the main stage production. Young Artists are emerging operaprofessionals who come to Denver for a seven-month residency, during which they receive training and coaching from Opera Colorado staff and guest artists. Young Artists perform in schools and education programs throughout the Rocky Mountain region, and often perform supporting roles in the company’s three main stage productions.
“I am thrilled to have The Scarlet Letter receive its professional debut at Opera Colorado under the visionary direction of Beth Greenberg,” said composer Lori Laitman. “Over the past year, I have re-orchestrated the work to take advantage of Denver’s larger, more acoustically grand Ellie Caulkins Opera House. I am grateful to Opera Colorado for assembling such an unparalleled cast and artistic team, and I cannot wait for everyone’s creative energy to bring this opera to life.”
“The drama at the heart of The Scarlet Letter still resounds with America at large,” noted librettist David Mason. “I’m grateful thatOpera Colorado will be giving this work its professional premiere in the Rocky Mountain Region, allowing my fellow Coloradoans to be the first to experience this wonderful new opera.”
“Staging a new work, especially one as beautiful and resonant as The Scarlet Letter, is one of the most exciting challenges for a director,” said Director Beth Greenberg. “I heard about ten seconds of Lori’s music, stopped the CD, and immediately called her. Her musical voice is so clear, so compelling, and so original. Together, Laitman and Mason are an extraordinary team— they get straight to the heart of a character, resulting in a listener’s effortless engagement.”
Laitman and Mason’s collaborations also include Vedem, an oratorio based on writings by children from the Terezin concentration camp and a new opera, Ludlow, based on Mason’s epic verse novel about the tragic Colorado mining town massacre that took place in 1914. Laitman and Mason began working together in 2004, when Laitman was asked by The West Chester University Poetry Conference to set Mason’s poem Swimmers on the Shore to music. When the University of Central Arkansas approached Laitman about creating a new opera, she asked Mason to write the libretto, and together they chose The Scarlet Letter. The Scarlet Letter was first performed as a faculty and student performance at the University of Central Arkansas in 2008. Excerpts of the work were performed at the Clinton Presidential Library in 2009 and at the OPERA America Salon Series.