New York Premiere of Gregory Spears's Fellow Travelers at the PROTOTYPE Festival
Dec. 21, 2017
The timely and turbulent opera, Fellow Travelers by composer Gregory Spears and librettist Greg Pierce receives its New York premiere at the PROTOTYPE Festival January 12 through 14 at New York's Gerald W. Lynch Theater. Fellow Travelers follows the story of Hawk and Tim who become clandestine lovers at the height of the McCarthy Era in 1950's Washington D.C.
Recent college graduate Timothy Laughlin is eager to join the crusade against communism, and a chance encounter with handsome State Department official Hawkins Fuller leads to Tim’s first job—and his first love affair with a man. Drawn into a maelstrom of deceit, Tim struggles to reconcile his political convictions and his forbidden love for Fuller. The piece uses the love affair of Laughlin and Fuller to shed light on the "lavender scare”, an often-overlooked period of McCarthyism that resulted in the mass firings of suspected homosexuals from the United States government. “It’s about a part of our history which was almost invisible,” Spears says of Fellow Travelers, “and I think one of the things opera can do is make invisible things visible.”
Critics have universally praised Fellow Travelers for the boldness of its story and the beauty of Spears’s music. Corinna da Fonseca Wollheim (New York Times) praises Fellow Travelers as “...the most romantic new opera I have seen in years. It’s also one of the most successfully political,” and John von Rhein (Chicago Tribune) declares, “... a poignant and moving meditation.... Fellow Travelers is one of the most accomplished new American operas I have encountered in recent years.” And Alex Ross (The New Yorker) notes "...the intimate power of Spears's musical voice, which is unlike that of any composer now working, is a kind of shivery, fraught simplicity. Spears has an eerie ability to suggest interior landscapes that go unseen, interior lives that go unspoken. In giving us glimpses of hidden selves, his music becomes universal in reach."
(Interview with the Fellow Travelers creative team courtesy of the 2015 New Works Forum)
Kevin Newbury directs and George Manahan conducts the PROTOTYPE Festival’s stellar cast including Aaron Blake as Timothy Laughlin, Joseph Lattanzi as Hawkins Fuller, and Devon Guthrie as Mary Johnson.
(Highlights from the 2016 production of Fellow Travelers at Cincinnati Opera)
Fellow Travelers is a Cincinnati Opera Production, developed and co-commissioned by G. Sterling Zinsmeyer and Cincinnati Opera, and co-presented by PROTOTYPE Festival with John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the American Composers Orchestra. Fellow Travelers was developed through “Opera Fusion: New Works,” a joint venture between Cincinnati Opera and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and made possible in part by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The opera was also made possible by composer residencies awarded to Gregory Spears from the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, NH and Copland House in Cortlandt Manor, NY.
Opera in two acts
Libretto by Greg Pierce
based on the novel “Fellow Travelers” by Thomas Mallon
3 sopranos, tenor, 3 baritones, bass-baritone