New Opera Revisits ‘Scarlet Letter’ from Hester Prynne’s Point of View

Maureen O'Flynn

(LENOX, Mass.) – Pearl, a modern retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s timeless novel The Scarlet Letter, told from the viewpoint of the daughter of Hester Prynne, in operatic form and with a libretto by feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan, will get its first workshop production in the Tina Packer Playhouse at Shakespeare & Company on Monday, August 13 at 7:30 p.m. Performers in the opera include Maureen O’Flynn and John Cheek, both regulars on the Metropolitan Opera stage, and soprano Marnie Breckenridge. The composer is Amy Scurria, who has had pieces commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, among others

The project of Pearl was initiated by Grammy Award-nominated conductor Sara Jobin, a Berkshire resident, who was the first woman to conduct the San Francisco Opera.

O’Flynn was last seen at Shakespeare & Company in 2010, when she starred in the world-premiere of Joan Ackerman’s critically acclaimed play The Taster.

Carol Gilligan, who co-wrote the libretto with her son Jonathan Gilligan, also penned a stage adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, which was produced by Shakespeare & Company in 2002 and was directed by Founding Artistic Director Tina Packer.

Marnie Breckenridge

“Realizing that there was a dearth of opera featuring strong female characters who thrive and survive, one of us [Sara Jobin] suggested that opera would be, in many ways, a better medium in which to explore the complex and emotional relationships we portray,” says Carol Gilligan.

“The opera focuses on Pearl, Hester, and Dimmesdale, and the changes in Pearl’s perception of the events she witnessed as a child and what she comes to understand looking back on them as an adult. The basic tensions — between the private and public aspects of erotic relationships, between one’s role as a parent, as a lover, and as a citizen, and between moral codes and personal passion — are as fraught and important today as they were in the mid-seventeenth century.”

Pearl is Opus 1 of the Different Voice Opera Project, founded in 2008 by Sara Jobin in collaboration with Carol Gilligan and named after Carol Gilligan’s book In a Different Voice.

Tickets are $25 for general admission and $50 for reserved section seats. To view a complete schedule, receive a brochure, or inquire about discounts, call the Box Office at 413.637.3353.



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