1 February – 15 February 2024 (5 Performances)
Poul Ruders (1949)
Libretto by Paul Bentley (based on the novel by Margaret Atwood)
Conductor, Joana Carneiro
Director, Annilese Miskimmon
Revival Director, James Hurley
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. Tickets for everyone begin at £10.
‘One of the most powerful operas of the century’ (Financial Times) returns to the English National Opera (ENO) this February for its first revival, Annilese Miskimmon’s (ENO’s Artistic Director) acclaimed production of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Following its premiere in April 2022, this production won the Broadway World Award for Best Classical/Opera Production, and was nominated for both the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards in the Opera and Music Theatre Award category and the International Opera Awards in the New Production category.
This rarely staged and outstandingly relevant opera is based on Margaret Atwood’s seminal dystopian novel of the same name, and is the basis of the hugely successful Hulu TV series. 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 is presented in a visually gripping way by the female led original creative team. Miskimmon has won multiple awards and has worked extensively as a director and intendant with many prestigious international opera companies, including Den Norske Opera Oslo, Danish National Opera, Royal Swedish Opera, the Liceu Barcelona, Warsaw National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival, Garsington Opera, Scottish National Opera and Welsh National Opera.
Returning to conduct the ENO Orchestra is the acclaimed 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. She returns to the ENO following her ‘magnificently controlled’ (The Arts Desk) conducting in The Handmaid’s Tale in April 2022.
Reprising her award-winning and ‘stunning central performance’ (The Times) as heroine Offred is American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey. Lindsey is an alumnus of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Programme and she has appeared 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, and Royal Opera House.
Making a role debut is British soprano Rachel Nicholls who is performing the role of Aunt Lydia. Nicholls returns to the ENO following her performance in Richard Jones’ The Valkyrie in the 2021/22 Season, where she performed the role of Brünnhilde which was ‘brightly and firmly sung with razor-sharp clarity’ (The Telegraph).
American bass James Creswell is performing the role of The Commander. Creswell returns to the ENO following his ‘superb’ (The i) performance as Fafner in Richard Jones’ award-winning The Rhinegold during the 2022/23 Season.
Reprising her role as the ‘superbly creepy’ (The Observer) Serena Joy is the ‘extraordinary’ (The New York Times) American contralto Avery Amereau. Amereau made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2016 and has since appeared at the Glyndebourne Festival, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, the Salzburg Festival, Bayerische Staatsoper, Opera de Lille and Opera de Lyon.
British soprano and former Harewood Artist Nadine Benjamin makes her role debut as Moira. Benjamin returns for her second engagement this season following her ‘impressive’ (The Stage) performance in Marina Abramović’s opera project 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, and her award-winning performance as The Mother in Blue during the 2022/23 Season.
Harewood Artist and South African tenor Zwakele Tshabalala is performing the role of Nick. Tshabalala is returning to the ENO for his second engagement this season following his performance as Gastone in La traviata, and his ‘frighteningly convincing’ (Bachtrack) performance as The Son in Blue during the 2022/23 Season.
Reprising her ‘heart-rending’ (The Arts Desk) performance as 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.
Former Harewood Artist and ‘gleaming-toned’ (The i) British soprano Eleanor Dennis is performing the role of Ofglen. Dennis returns to the ENO following her most recent performances as Woglinde in Richard Jones’ award-winning The Rhinegold, and the critically acclaimed semi-staged concert performance of Gloriana in the 2022/23 Season.
The ‘wonderful’ (The Guardian) British mezzo-soprano and former ENO Harewood Artist Madeleine Shaw is reprising the role of Rita. She returns to the ENO following her recent performance in the role of the Fricka in Richard Jones’ The Rhinegold.
With his ‘compelling stage presence’ (The Guardian), renowned British tenor Alan Oke returns to reprise the role of The Doctor. Oke last performed with the ENO during the 2022/23 Season in Annilese Miskimmon’s The Dead City (Die tote Stadt).
The ‘sensational’ (The Spectator) British mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley is reprising 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. Bickley returns to the ENO following her recent performance in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard during the 2022/23 Season.
Reprising his role as Luke is Harewood Artist and British tenor John Findon. Findon returns to the ENO for his second engagement this season following his ‘outstanding’ (Opera Wire) performance as Bob Boles in Peter Grimes, and he will return again for his third engagement as Steva in Jenůfa in March 2024.
Completing the cast is ENO Chorus member and British born Bulgarian-Turkish mezzo-soprano Annabella Vesela Ellis who is reprising the role of New Ofglen. The cast will be joined by the ENO Chorus.
James Hurley is the Revival Director, Annemarie Woods is the Set and Costume Designer, Paule Constable is the Original Lighting Designer, Marc Rosette is the Revival Lighting Designer, Imogen Knight is the Original Movement Director and Intimacy Coordinator, Anjali Mehra is the Revival Movement Director, Akhila Krishnan is the Video Designer, Yvonne Gilbert is the Sound Designer, and the Libretto is by Paul Bentley.
The Handmaid’s Tale opens on Thursday 1 February for 5 performances: Feb 1, 8, 15 at 19.30. Feb 3, 10 at 18.30.
Signed Performance: Thursday 8 February at 19.30.
Tickets start from £10 (plus booking fee*)
*£3.75 booking fee applies to online and telephone bookings.