BLO to stage ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and operas by Machover, Britten, Rossini

Boston Lyric Opera, clearly aiming to stake a flag for opera in the broader cultural zeitgeist, has programmed two of next season’s four operas around the theme of violence against women. Next spring will feature the company’s first production of Benjamin Britten’s opera “The Rape of Lucretia,” to be followed by a new production of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” an opera by Danish composer Poul Ruders after the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. 

“By lifting women’s voices in the unique way only art can, we begin to create awareness of the structural imbalances of stories within the opera canon,” said BLO’s general and artistic director Esther Nelson in a statement accompanying details of its 2018-19 season. “We create a path to address the many interconnected issues — from gender and race, to violence and social justice — as we continue producing traditional works alongside contemporary operas that tackle the challenging issues of our time.”

Having left its home at the Shubert Theatre in 2016, the company is now approaching its third itinerant season, and accordingly, the new crop of offerings will be staged in both traditional and nontraditional venues. The season will open in the Cutler Majestic Theatre with Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” (Oct. 12-21), in a new production directed by Rosetta Cucchi. Following the popular opera buffa will be the premiere of “Schoenberg in Hollywood” (Nov. 14-18), a new BLO-commissioned opera by Tod Machover with a libretto by Simon Robson, inspired by the life of the composer Arnold Schoenberg, who spent his final decades in Los Angeles after fleeing Nazi Germany in 1933. That production, to be directed by Braham Murray and presented at the Paramount Center’s Robert J. Orchard Stage, will feature baritone Omar Ebrahim in the title role.


Britten’s “Rape of Lucretia” (March 11-17, 2019) will be staged at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, a venue BLO previously turned to for its 2013 production of James MacMillan’s “Clemency.” Kelley O’Connor sings the role of Lucretia. And no venue has yet been announced for “The Handmaid’s Tale” (May 3-11, 2019). The opera premiered in Copenhagen in 2000. BLO’s production, to be directed by Anne Bogart, will feature a newly reorchestrated score. 

Together with next year’s offerings, BLO has also announced that its music director, David Angus, has signed a three-year contract extension. Angus is slated to conduct all four of next season’s productions. 

Jeremy Eichler can be reached at or follow him on Twitter @Jeremy_Eichler