AUGUST 11, 2017

Under Greg Carpenter's leadership, Opera Colorado brilliantly brought The Scarlet Letter to life in May 2016. A generous grant from The Sorel Organization enabled us to capture the live performance for this CD, which Naxos released on August 11, 2017. Librettist David Mason and I are so grateful to conductor Ari Pelto, chorus master John Baril, the stellar cast and creative team, as well as recording engineers Marlan Barry and Jamey Lamar, for their efforts in producing this exceptional recording. We are so honored to be part of Naxos' catalogue of American Opera Classics.



Donald Rosenberg reviews the CD in the Oct 2017 issue of Gramophone Magazine, writing:

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter has inspired several operas, including rarely performed versions with music by Walter Damrosch, Fredric Kroll and Margaret Garwood. The most recent, Lori Laitman’s rapturous adaptation set to elegant verses by David Mason, received its world premiere in May 2016 by Opera Colorado. The Naxos recording of the work is drawn from those initial performances, which – at least in purely sonic terms – appear to have done great honour to this deeply affecting creation.

The first thing that leaps into one’s ears is the sheer beauty of the music. Laitman has devoted much of her career to the art song, and her ability to meld words with lyrical, often soaring lines is on abundant display in her opera. The score pinpoints the distinctive qualities of the characters. Hester Prynne, forced to wear the letter ‘A’ as a symbol of her adultery, sings in urgent, rhapsodic phrases, while her lover, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, ranges from anxious reflections to dramatic outbursts, and Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s estranged husband, strikes sinister notes on his vengeful path. The people of the Puritan community reveal their moral pretensions in passages of reverent rigidity.

The Opera Colorado production benefits from the presence of splendid principal singers and a fine chorus. Laura Claycomb uses her radiant soprano to poignant effect, especially when revealing the woman’s strength in the vocal stratosphere. As Dimmesdale, tenor Dominic Armstrong is forceful and touching, and baritone Malcolm MacKenzie brings grave intensity to Chillingworth. Mezzo-soprano Margaret Gawrysiak is a vibrant terror as the town witch, Mistress Hibbons.

Led by Ari Pelto, the Opera Colorado Orchestra play Laitman’s score with the refinement and urgency needed to catapult this impressive and fervent opera.


OperaWire wrote: For lovers of modern music, this is an intriguing new recording that must be experienced.

John Campbell of Artsong Update reviews the CD in November, 2017, writing: 

The subject of this opera is an essential part of American history. Based on Nathaniel Hawthorn's (1804-1864) novel, David Mason's beautiful verse adaptation portrays a love triangle set in the Puritan society of 17th century New England. Hester Prynne has a child out of wedlock and is shamed for adultery—thus the scarlet “A” over her breast. The intrigue of the situation is her unwillingness to reveal the father. Society, then as now, thrives on gossip but out of love for him she continues to shield the father, Arthur Dimmesdale, who is pastor of the local congregation. The other man, Roger Prynne, is Hester's long lost husband, living under a false identity as Roger Chillingworth.

I usually prefer having a live staged performance or a DVD for my first exposure to a new opera. With only a CD and a downloadable libretto available so far, I found together they created an intense experience for me. The powerfully expressive music was enthralling, from it's choral beginning to the shattering end. Lori Latiman's music is lyrically expressive, capturing the intricate psychology of three flawed people in an early American setting. The music is dense, complex and intense, using instrumental colors to illuminate penetrating psychological insights and vivid characters. Drawing on her wide experience of writing art songs, Ms. Laitman has crafted a rich opera of great depth. Out of her understanding of how to set the voice she has created a stunning opera for the 21st century.

Soprano Laura Claycomb's intensely passionate singing was just right. In The Scarlet Letter a rigid religiosity comes in contact with an untamed wilderness. As an outcast from the community, she develops a deep sense of her individuality, retaining her innocence and purity of spirit. Believing her husband was lost at sea, she is seduced into a loving relationship with Arthur Dimsdale. Hester's focus is on raising her daughter as a free spirit. Her strength of character reveals a true moral sense that contrasts sharply with the weakness of her husband and her lover, weakness that ultimately leads to their self-destruction. 

In the second act Roger admits that ”We've done each other wrong...I plucked your budding youth away and wedded you to my decay.” He has became obsessed with finding out who her lover was. Malcom MacKenzie's (Chillingworth) baritone had a cunning warmth to convince Arthur Dimmesdale (Dominic Armstrong) of his friendship. Because he chooses to remain in his official role as minister, Dimmesdale's guilt destroyed his heart by suppressing his natural love for Hester and their child, Pearl. He confesses to the community on Election day, embraces his beautiful child and her mother, standing together as a family. His heart bursts and his death cheats Chillingworth of his revenge.

Other characters include Mistress Hibbons, a witch, unforgettably sung by mezzo-soprano Margaret Gawrysiak, tenor Kyle Knapp as the elder minister John Wilson, and Governor Billingham, baritone Daniel Belcher.

Lori Laitman has written over 250 art songs, a children's opera and an oratorio and her experience prepared her well to compose The Scarlet Letter. The singers are well chosen for their roles. I highly recommend this CD (NAXOS 8.669034-35, available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble) and I hope that Tidewater Opera Initiative will consider a production soon.

To order the CD, please click here





The Scarlet Letter premiere took place with Opera Colorado on May 7, 2016 at The Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, CO, before a sold-out crowd. 

Critical Acclaim: 

"[A]ll around superb ... everything one could hope for in a new opera ... Mason's adaptation ... is astoundingly brilliant ... Director Beth Greenberg, who has collaborated with Mason and Laitman from the outset, provides a stark, riveting frame ... Laitman has grown and nurtured a score that already seems to belong to the standard repertoire the first time one hears it ... [M]odern, but eminently operatic, taking close consideration of the singers and listeners." — Kelly Dean Hansen of Boulder's DAILY CAMERA

For the full review, please click here.

"A brilliant new addition to the opera world ... The singing, the staging, the story — it all adds up to a grand night of opera." — Claudia Carbone of EXAMINER.COM

For the full review, please click here.

Laitman's music and librettist David Mason's words ... spin one of the best-known pieces of literature into a whole new form adding sensible and sensitive dimensions that shed new light on the story ... What Laitman and Mason understand, and respect, is ... that audiences want to be challenged but also entertained. And that difficult work can come in agreeable packages and maintain a high quality ... [Laitman's] composing voice is clean and confident, impassioned and likeable ... Mason ...deconstructs Hawthorne's thick prose with his own hand ... [A]ccessible, compelling and audience-pleasing ..." — Ray Mark Rinaldi of THE DENVER POST

For the full review, please click here

On May 10, 2016, PBS NewsHour picked up the local Colorado Public Radio station story on The Scarlet Letter. Please click here


Below: Some photos from the orchestra dress rehearsal. 





 Photo Credit: Matthew Staver/Opera Colorado



Click here to watch tenor Dominic Armstrong (Arthur Dimmesdale) and pianist Keun-A Lee perform "Our Nights" from The Scarlet Letter for Colorado Public Radio. 

Click here to watch baritone Malcolm MacKenzie (Roger Chillingworth) and pianist Keun-A Lee perform an excerpt from Chillingworth's Lament, "Now Truly Know Me" for Colorado Public Radio.

Click here to watch the rehearsal video from April 25, 2016.

Click here to watch a 3 minute excerpt from the orchestra dress on May 5, 2016.



The professional world premiere of The Scarlet Letter by Opera Colorado will take place on May 7, 10, 13 and 15 of 2016. 

Laura Claycomb, Malcolm MacKenzie and Dominic Armstrong will portray Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale. Margaret Gawrysiak sings the role of Mistress Hibbons, with Daniel Belcher appearing at Governor Bellingham and Kyle Erdos-Knapp as John Wilson. This spectacular new production will be directed by Beth Greenberg and conducted by Ari Pelto. Erhard Rom is the set designer, Robert Wierzel and Amith Chandrashaker are the lighting designers, Terese Wadden the costume designer and Topher Blair is the projection designer. Keun-A Lee is serving as Music Staff. For up-to-date information, please visit




To watch the Rocky Mountain PBS "Arts District" show about Opera Colorado's Young Artists preparing for the premiere of the abridged one-hour version of the opera (for five singers and piano), please click here. The segment begins at 1:27.



The Sorel Organization has awarded their 2016 Recording Grant to Opera Colorado to record The Scarlet Letter by Lori Laitman. 

The opera will be recorded live, and Naxos will be releasing the CD.

For more information about The Sorel Organization, please click here.



As part of the preparations for the professional world premiere of The Scarlet Letter by Opera Colorado in May, 2016, I was commissioned to create a one-hour touring version of the opera, The Scarlet Letter, Abridged. This version is for five singers and piano and will premiere on March 8, 2015 at 2 pm at The Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, CO, in a performance conducted by Ari Pelto. 

I will be in residence for a week prior, working with the young artists and conductor Ari Pelto. Librettist David Mason will join me and Ari for a post-performance discussion, led by General Director Greg Carpenter.

The outstanding young performers are:

Leah Bobbey as Hester Prynne

Brett Sprague as the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale

Andrew Paulson as Dr. Roger Chillingworth

Katherine Sanford as Mistress Hibbons 

Daniel DeVicente as Governor Bellingham

and Allan Armstrong on piano.

For more information and to purchase a ticket, please click here.


In June 2014, Listen Magazine published an article entitled "Libretto, Liberated" by poet/librettist Ernest Hilbert, which featured a sidebar on The Scarlet Letter


The Washington National Opera's Young Artists performed "The Prison Scene" from The Scarlet Letter on April 6, 2014 at 3 pm at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum.



“We are thrilled to have the support of the NEA for this very important, truly American opera,” noted General Director Greg Carpenter. “Opera Colorado selected Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter as the first in our history main stage premiere because of Lori’s incredible talent for writing sensitive lyrical music, and for librettist David Mason’s intensely dramatic verse. We are deeply appreciative of the NEA’s commitment to supporting new American opera, and to keeping this wonderful art form alive for future generations.”

"I am proud to announce these 832 grants to the American public including Opera Colorado’s new production of this pillar of American literature," said Chairman Landesman. "These projects offer extraordinary examples of creativity in our country, including the creation of new work, innovative ways of engaging audiences, and exemplary education programs." Since 2006, Opera Colorado has received funding from the NEA for education initiatives and the commission of La Curandera, a bilingual opera by composer Robert Xavier Rodriguez for the Opera Colorado Outreach Ensemble.




Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter is a dramatic new adaption of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, set to a libretto by Colorado’s former Poet Laureate David Mason. 

Opera Colorado will present the professional World Premiere of Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter in May 2016, in a production directed by Beth Greenberg, conducted by Ari Pelto, with costumes by Terese Wadden, set designs by Erhard Rom and lighting design by Robert Wierzel.

A superb cast has been assembled: Elizabeth Futral as Hester Prynne, Dominic Armstrong as Arthur Dimmesdale, Malcolm MacKenzie as Roger Chillingworth, Daniel Belcher as Governor Bellingham and Margaret Gawrysiak as Mistress Hibbons. 

The performance runs approximately 2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission. It will be performed in English with English and Spanish subtitles at every seat.

Please check for more information.

Interested co-producers may contact General Director Greg Carpenter at or 303-778-0095.


The Scarlet Letter, Abridged Version

Opera Colorado has commissioned a one-hour, abridged version of The Scarlet Letter for their Young Artists to present in schools prior to the main-stage production. This abridged version is scored for 5 voices:


Hester Prynne – soprano

Arthur Dimmesdale – tenor

Roger Chillingworth – baritone

Mistress Hibbons – mezzo-soprano

Governor Bellingham – baritone


Distilling my two hour opera into a work half that length, and with substantially reduced forces, presented a number of dramatic and musical challenges. I wanted to present the story as faithfully as possible, but needed to create a new dramatic arc with its own timeline, and one that would work with a reduced number of characters. I also wanted to keep as many of the big arias as possible: because these tunes are more readily recognized.


I had to make a number of large cuts, and I also wrote some new musical "bridges" to tie everything together.  While there is much from the complete work that I "miss", I think I have succeeded in creating a miniature version that retains the strong, universal story, as well as the core of the music. This story is as relevant today as ever, and I believe that students will be able to able to recognize that the behavior of the characters of The Scarlet Letter has some interesting parallels in today’s world.



David Mason's The Scarlet Libretto now available!

The Scarlet Libretto is the libretto for Laitman's The Scarlet Letter. Award-winning poet and librettist David Mason, author of Ludlow and other books, gives new life in verse to Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel. By distilling the book’s narrative line and adding a charged lyricism of his own, Mason has created another magnificent work in his ongoing poetic portrait of America.

Click here to purchase at Amazon or here to purchase at Barnes & Noble.



Prior news: 

For Release: May 19, 2011

Media Contact: Rex Fuller,, 303.778.0214

DENVER, CO - Greg Carpenter, General Director of Opera Colorado, will announce that Opera Colorado will produce the professional world premiere of the opera The Scarlet Letter created by composer Lori Laitman and librettist David Mason. The new production of the opera will debut in May of 2013 as part of Opera Colorado’s thirtieth anniversary season. 


“The opera first came to our attention last year,” Carpenter said. “I was struck by the lyrical beauty of this work and how it dramatically reflects the piece of classic American literature it is based upon.” The full-length opera in two acts was inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 romantic novel set in 17th century Puritan Boston. “The opportunity to work with a composer of Lori Laitman’s stature, as well as with Colorado’s Poet Laureate, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Opera Colorado. We are excited to bring this new opera to life,” Carpenter continued. 


“I am thrilled that Opera Colorado will be presenting the professional world premiere of The Scarlet Letter in 2013,” Laitman said. “Opera Colorado's dedication to excellence and education, under Greg Carpenter's visionary leadership, is truly inspiring. I cannot imagine a more perfect home for my opera than at the beautiful Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver.”


Mason agreed, commenting, “I have admired Opera Colorado for years and to have these extraordinary people and this great theatre for the first professional production of our opera is simply marvelous. I can’t wait for my fellow Coloradoans to discover just how great Lori Laitman’s music is, and of course the drama of The Scarlet Letter is perennially important to America at large.”


Laitman is one of America’s most prolific and widely performed composers of vocal music, with over 200 songs to her credit as well as two operas and an oratorio. Laitman and Mason's recent composition, Vedem, an oratorio based on writings by children from the Terezin concentration camp, received its world premiere in 2010 and was released on the Naxos label in May, 2011. Laitman’s works are performed frequently in the U.S. and abroad, including in such venues as Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, The Kennedy Center and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. 


The co-director of the creative writing program at Colorado College, Mason was named to a four-year term as Colorado’s Poet Laureate in 2010. The author of several poetry collections, including The Buried Houses (1991), The Country I Remember (1996) and Arrivals (2004), Mason’s award-winning 2007 novel in verse, Ludlow, describes Colorado’s infamous labor dispute from 1914.


The Scarlet Letter was commissioned by The University of Central Arkansas and received a faculty/student performance in 2008. That performance was followed by a presentation of excerpts from the opera at the Clinton Presidential Library in 2009 and excerpts performed in New York through the OPERA America Salon Series. “There has been a great deal of interest in this work circulating throughout the opera community,” Carpenter said. “I am proud to be partnering with Lori and David to present the professional world premiere of this amazing work.”


Performances of The Scarlet Letter will close Opera Colorado’s 30th Anniversary Season in May, 2013 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Beth Greenberg will direct the production. As Opera Colorado moves toward this historic performance, additional updates will be available at the company’s website:












The NY premiere of excerpts from THE SCARLET LETTER took place on 

Opera America's "Salon Series: Exploring American Voices"

with Sari Gruber, Vale Rideout and Randall Scarlata, accompanied by the composer.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 6 pm

OPERA AMERICA, NY Office, 330 Seventh Avenue, 16th floor

Click here to view the video. The Scarlet Letter excerpt, Act II, Scene 1 ("The Forest Scene") begins at 18:35.



The opera was commissioned in 2007 by The University of Central Arkansas, through Robert Holden and the UCA Opera Program. The world premiere took place at The University of Central Arkansas Opera Theatre on November 6, 2008 at The Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA, Conway, AR.