Poul Ruders (1949)

Libretto by Paul Bentley (based on the novel by Margaret Atwood)

Conductor, Joana Carneiro 

Director, Annilese Miskimmon 

Opens Monday 4 April 2022 (6 Performances)

Under 21s come free: Under 21s can get free opera tickets to all ENO performances at every level of the theatre, and 21-35 year olds can get discounted opera tickets. 

This April, the English National Opera’s (ENO) Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon will make her company directorial debut with a powerful new production of Poul Ruders’ The Handmaid’s Tale. Based on Margaret Atwood’s seminal novel, this outstandingly relevant work was last staged at the London Coliseum in 2003 when it received its first English language debut. 

This rarely staged opera is based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece of the same name, the basis of the hugely successful Hulu TV series starring Elisabeth Moss. The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a totalitarian state in which women, stripped of their identities and rights, are subjected to the whims of a patriarchal republic. This thought-provoking work magnifies the issues of state control and the fragility of freedom.  

By 2000, Danish composer Poul Ruders’ had turned Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale into an operatic depiction that keeps audiences on the edge of their seat. Ruders’s score, influenced by minimalism, mediaeval chanting and gospel music, is filled with tension and unease, reflecting the visceral brutality of the regime. The haunting atmosphere is created and built from the repetitive chanting of the Handmaids. Ruders’ music accurately represents the emotions depicted in the award-winning novel and mirrors its complexity and discomfort. 

Annilese Miskimmon is known for her commitment to modern works. This production of The Handmaid’s Tale will be presented in a visually new and gripping way by the female led creative team. Prior to joining the ENO, Miskimmon was Director of Opera for the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet (2017-2020), Danish National Opera as Artistic Director (2012-2017), and Artistic Director of Opera Theatre Company Ireland (2004-2012). She has won multiple awards and has worked extensively as a director with many prestigious international opera companies, including Royal Swedish Opera, Glyndebourne Festival, Garsington Opera, Welsh National Opera, Opera Holland Park, and Landestheater Salzburg. 

Annilese Miskimmon, Director and ENO’s Artistic Director, says: ‘Many of the greatest operas ever written have been inspired by the cultural phenomenons of their day. Since its publication in 1985, the power and relevance of Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece The Handmaid’s Tale has grown and grown, aided by the impact of the hugely successful television series. It is not an easy or pleasant story but great art should not only comfort but challenge us. Unlike most operas, this piece puts a woman and the experience of women at its heart and is a story of immense courage and survival against incredible odds. This reflects the reality of many lives across the world today.’

Joining the ENO Orchestra in the pit is acclaimed Portuguese conductor Joana Carneiro who is highly sought after for her specialism in contemporary works. Carneiro is the Principal Guest Conductor of the Real Filharmonia de Galicia and the Artistic Director of the Estágio Gulbenkian para Orquestra, a post she has held since 2013. Prior to this, she was the Principal Conductor of the Orquestra Sinfonica Portuguesa at Teatro Sao Carlos in Lisbon (2014 to January 2022), the Music Director of Berkeley Symphony (2009-2018), and the official guest conductor of Gulbenkian Orchestra (2006-2018). She is making a welcome and highly anticipated return to the ENO following her ‘superbly’ (The Guardian), ‘vigorously and sensitively’ (The Observer) conducted The Gospel According to the Other Mary in 2014. 

Acclaimed and ‘outstanding’ (The Times) American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey is making both her role and ENO debut as heroine Offred. Lindsey is an alumnus of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Programme and she has appears regularly at many of the world’s leading opera companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Teatro alla Scala, Seattle Opera, Vienna State Opera, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Royal Opera House, and for the Glyndebourne, Salzburg and Aix-en-Provence festivals. 

British soprano Emma Bell is making her role debut singing the role of Aunt Lydia. Bell has a wide and varied career, performing with companies including the Bayerische Staatsoper, Zurich Opera House, Hamburg State Opera, the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne Festival, where her performances are met with critical acclaim. Bell is making a welcome return to the ENO following her ‘outstanding’ (Culture Whisper) performance in the November 2021 new production of Wagner’s The Valkyrie in the role of Sieglinde. 

Singing the role of The Commander is the ‘magnetic’ (The Guardian) British bass-baritone Robert Hayward. Hayward has performed at the Royal Opera House, Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, Frankfurt Opera, Stuttgart Opera, Welsh National Opera, Opera North, Scottish Opera and Glyndebourne Festival Opera in a wide repertoire. He is returning to the ENO following his performance as Jupiter in the October 2019 staging of Orpheus in the Underworld where he ‘excelled’ (The Observer). 

Making her ENO debut is the ‘extraordinary’ (The New York Times) American contralto Avery Amereau singing the role of Serena Joy. Amereau studied at The Juilliard School where she was a proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship Programme. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2016 and has since appeared at the Glyndebourne Festival, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, the Salzburg Festival, Opera de Lille and Opera de Lyon.  

American tenor Frederick Ballentine is singing the role of Nick. He is a recent graduate of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Programme and the Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Programme. Ballentine made his UK debut in the ENO’s 2018 production of Porgy and Bess where he was ‘excellent’ (Evening Standard) singing the role of Sportin’ Life, a role he also performed at the Metropolitan Opera and at Dutch National Opera. He has also appeared at houses including Seattle Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival and Cincinnati Opera. 

Singing the roles of Janine/Ofwarren is the captivating and versatile Welsh soprano Rhian Lois. Lois is a former ENO Harewood Artist and is making a welcomed return to the London Coliseum stage. In 2018, she brought her ‘crystalline and warm’ voice to the ‘winning’ (The Sunday Times) role of Susanna in the ENO’s The Marriage of Figaro

South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza is singing the role of Moira. She is making a welcome return to the London Coliseum following her ENO debut singing the Fox in The Cunning Little Vixen this 2021/22 season. Matshikiza is an alumnus of the Jette Parker Young Artists’ Programme and her voice has been described as ‘velvet smooth and rich’ (Financial Times). Matshikiza has an established career in international opera houses and is an exclusive Decca Classics recording artist.

Welsh soprano Elin Pritchard is singing the role of Ofglen. She is a Samling Artist and is also in high demand on the operatic and concert platforms. Pritchard previously performed the role of Miss Jessel in the ENO’s The Turn of the Screw staged at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in 2018 where she sang ‘the part superbly’ (The Sunday Times). 

The ‘wonderful’ (The Guardian) British mezzo-soprano and former ENO Harewood Artist Madeleine Shaw is singing the role of Rita. She is making a welcome return to the London Coliseum following her performance in the role of the Forester’s Wife and the Owl in The Cunning Little Vixen this 2021/22 season. 

Also returning following his performance as both the Schoolmaster and the Mosquito in The Cunning Little Vixen this 2021/22 season, is the renowned British tenor Alan Oke with his ‘compelling stage presence’ (The Guardian), who is singing the role of The Doctor. He last performed with the ENO in 2019 singing the role of John Styx in Orpheus in the Underworld.

The ‘sensational’ (The Spectator) British mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley is singing the role of Offred’s Mother. Bickley is recognised for her wide repertoire and is regarded as one of the most accomplished mezzo-sopranos of her generation. She has previously been awarded the prestigious Singer Award at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards (2011). Singing in The Handmaid’s Tale is Bickley’s second engagement with the ENO this season having previously performed the role of Fricka in The Valkyrie.

Current ENO Harewood Artist and British tenor John Findon is singing the role of Luke. Following his performance in the ENO’s 2021 televised Handel’s Messiah on BBC Twohe was lauded as ‘a rising young tenor’ (The i). The Handmaid’s Tale will be Findon’s second engagement with the ENO this season following his role as both the Innkeeper and the Cock in The Cunning Little Vixen

Annemarie Woods is the Set and Costume Designer, Paule Constable is the Lighting Designer, Imogen Knight is the Movement Director and Intimacy Coordinator, Akhila Krishnan is the Video Designer, and Yvonne Gilbert is the Sound Designer.  

The Handmaid’s Tale opens on Monday 4 April for 6 performances: April 4, 6, 8, 12, 14 at 19.30. April 10 at 15.00. 

Tickets start from £10 (plus booking fee*)

*£2.25 booking fee applies to online and telephone bookings.

The suggested age guidance for The Handmaid’s Tale is 15+. This production contains scenes of sexual violence and strong language. 

#ENOHandmaid

Poul Ruders (1949)

Libretto by Paul Bentley (based on the novel by Margaret Atwood)

Conductor, Joana Carneiro 

Director, Annilese Miskimmon 

Opens Monday 4 April 2022 (6 Performances)

Under 21s come free: Under 21s can get free opera tickets to all ENO performances at every level of the theatre, and 21-35 year olds can get discounted opera tickets. 

This April, the English National Opera’s (ENO) Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon will make her company directorial debut with a powerful new production of Poul Ruders’ The Handmaid’s Tale. Based on Margaret Atwood’s seminal novel, this outstandingly relevant work was last staged at the London Coliseum in 2003 when it received its first English language debut. 

This rarely staged opera is based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece of the same name, the basis of the hugely successful Hulu TV series starring Elisabeth Moss. The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a totalitarian state in which women, stripped of their identities and rights, are subjected to the whims of a patriarchal republic. This thought-provoking work magnifies the issues of state control and the fragility of freedom.  

By 2000, Danish composer Poul Ruders’ had turned Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale into an operatic depiction that keeps audiences on the edge of their seat. Ruders’s score, influenced by minimalism, mediaeval chanting and gospel music, is filled with tension and unease, reflecting the visceral brutality of the regime. The haunting atmosphere is created and built from the repetitive chanting of the Handmaids. Ruders’ music accurately represents the emotions depicted in the award-winning novel and mirrors its complexity and discomfort. 

Annilese Miskimmon is known for her commitment to modern works. This production of The Handmaid’s Tale will be presented in a visually new and gripping way by the female led creative team. Prior to joining the ENO, Miskimmon was Director of Opera for the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet (2017-2020), Danish National Opera as Artistic Director (2012-2017), and Artistic Director of Opera Theatre Company Ireland (2004-2012). She has won multiple awards and has worked extensively as a director with many prestigious international opera companies, including Royal Swedish Opera, Glyndebourne Festival, Garsington Opera, Welsh National Opera, Opera Holland Park, and Landestheater Salzburg. 

Annilese Miskimmon, Director and ENO’s Artistic Director, says: ‘Many of the greatest operas ever written have been inspired by the cultural phenomenons of their day. Since its publication in 1985, the power and relevance of Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece The Handmaid’s Tale has grown and grown, aided by the impact of the hugely successful television series. It is not an easy or pleasant story but great art should not only comfort but challenge us. Unlike most operas, this piece puts a woman and the experience of women at its heart and is a story of immense courage and survival against incredible odds. This reflects the reality of many lives across the world today.’

Joining the ENO Orchestra in the pit is acclaimed Portuguese conductor Joana Carneiro who is highly sought after for her specialism in contemporary works. Carneiro is the Principal Guest Conductor of the Real Filharmonia de Galicia and the Artistic Director of the Estágio Gulbenkian para Orquestra, a post she has held since 2013. Prior to this, she was the Principal Conductor of the Orquestra Sinfonica Portuguesa at Teatro Sao Carlos in Lisbon (2014 to January 2022), the Music Director of Berkeley Symphony (2009-2018), and the official guest conductor of Gulbenkian Orchestra (2006-2018). She is making a welcome and highly anticipated return to the ENO following her ‘superbly’ (The Guardian), ‘vigorously and sensitively’ (The Observer) conducted The Gospel According to the Other Mary in 2014. 

Acclaimed and ‘outstanding’ (The Times) American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey is making both her role and ENO debut as heroine Offred. Lindsey is an alumnus of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Programme and she has appears regularly at many of the world’s leading opera companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Teatro alla Scala, Seattle Opera, Vienna State Opera, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Royal Opera House, and for the Glyndebourne, Salzburg and Aix-en-Provence festivals. 

British soprano Emma Bell is making her role debut singing the role of Aunt Lydia. Bell has a wide and varied career, performing with companies including the Bayerische Staatsoper, Zurich Opera House, Hamburg State Opera, the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne Festival, where her performances are met with critical acclaim. Bell is making a welcome return to the ENO following her ‘outstanding’ (Culture Whisper) performance in the November 2021 new production of Wagner’s The Valkyrie in the role of Sieglinde. 

Singing the role of The Commander is the ‘magnetic’ (The Guardian) British bass-baritone Robert Hayward. Hayward has performed at the Royal Opera House, Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, Frankfurt Opera, Stuttgart Opera, Welsh National Opera, Opera North, Scottish Opera and Glyndebourne Festival Opera in a wide repertoire. He is returning to the ENO following his performance as Jupiter in the October 2019 staging of Orpheus in the Underworld where he ‘excelled’ (The Observer). 

Making her ENO debut is the ‘extraordinary’ (The New York Times) American contralto Avery Amereau singing the role of Serena Joy. Amereau studied at The Juilliard School where she was a proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship Programme. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2016 and has since appeared at the Glyndebourne Festival, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, the Salzburg Festival, Opera de Lille and Opera de Lyon.  

American tenor Frederick Ballentine is singing the role of Nick. He is a recent graduate of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Programme and the Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Programme. Ballentine made his UK debut in the ENO’s 2018 production of Porgy and Bess where he was ‘excellent’ (Evening Standard) singing the role of Sportin’ Life, a role he also performed at the Metropolitan Opera and at Dutch National Opera. He has also appeared at houses including Seattle Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival and Cincinnati Opera. 

Singing the roles of Janine/Ofwarren is the captivating and versatile Welsh soprano Rhian Lois. Lois is a former ENO Harewood Artist and is making a welcomed return to the London Coliseum stage. In 2018, she brought her ‘crystalline and warm’ voice to the ‘winning’ (The Sunday Times) role of Susanna in the ENO’s The Marriage of Figaro

South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza is singing the role of Moira. She is making a welcome return to the London Coliseum following her ENO debut singing the Fox in The Cunning Little Vixen this 2021/22 season. Matshikiza is an alumnus of the Jette Parker Young Artists’ Programme and her voice has been described as ‘velvet smooth and rich’ (Financial Times). Matshikiza has an established career in international opera houses and is an exclusive Decca Classics recording artist.

Welsh soprano Elin Pritchard is singing the role of Ofglen. She is a Samling Artist and is also in high demand on the operatic and concert platforms. Pritchard previously performed the role of Miss Jessel in the ENO’s The Turn of the Screw staged at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in 2018 where she sang ‘the part superbly’ (The Sunday Times). 

The ‘wonderful’ (The Guardian) British mezzo-soprano and former ENO Harewood Artist Madeleine Shaw is singing the role of Rita. She is making a welcome return to the London Coliseum following her performance in the role of the Forester’s Wife and the Owl in The Cunning Little Vixen this 2021/22 season. 

Also returning following his performance as both the Schoolmaster and the Mosquito in The Cunning Little Vixen this 2021/22 season, is the renowned British tenor Alan Oke with his ‘compelling stage presence’ (The Guardian), who is singing the role of The Doctor. He last performed with the ENO in 2019 singing the role of John Styx in Orpheus in the Underworld.

The ‘sensational’ (The Spectator) British mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley is singing the role of Offred’s Mother. Bickley is recognised for her wide repertoire and is regarded as one of the most accomplished mezzo-sopranos of her generation. She has previously been awarded the prestigious Singer Award at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards (2011). Singing in The Handmaid’s Tale is Bickley’s second engagement with the ENO this season having previously performed the role of Fricka in The Valkyrie.

Current ENO Harewood Artist and British tenor John Findon is singing the role of Luke. Following his performance in the ENO’s 2021 televised Handel’s Messiah on BBC Twohe was lauded as ‘a rising young tenor’ (The i). The Handmaid’s Tale will be Findon’s second engagement with the ENO this season following his role as both the Innkeeper and the Cock in The Cunning Little Vixen

Annemarie Woods is the Set and Costume Designer, Paule Constable is the Lighting Designer, Imogen Knight is the Movement Director and Intimacy Coordinator, Akhila Krishnan is the Video Designer, and Yvonne Gilbert is the Sound Designer.  

The Handmaid’s Tale opens on Monday 4 April for 6 performances: April 4, 6, 8, 12, 14 at 19.30. April 10 at 15.00. 

Tickets start from £10 (plus booking fee*)

*£2.25 booking fee applies to online and telephone bookings.

The suggested age guidance for The Handmaid’s Tale is 15+. This production contains scenes of sexual violence and strong language. 

#ENOHandmaid