Opera Colorado, Director: Beth Greenberg, Photo: Matthew Staver


Critic James H. North named The Scarlet Letter one of 2018's top 5 CDs in the Nov./Dec. 2018 issue of Fanfare Magazine. "Lori Laitman has written brilliantly scored music...eminently singable vocal lines...she avoids the basic pitfall of new American opera: dumbing the music down to insure audience acceptance...A fine rhymed libretto; terrific, well-crafted music." 


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.


Tom Williams, of Utah Public Radio, interviewed me during my recent residency at Utah State University in Logan, UT. His wide-ranging interview touches on The Scarlet Letter, Vedem, Are Women People? and The Three Feathers. You can listen by clicking here


In October 2017 I had the pleasure of being interviewed by David Osenberg, host of the award-winning show Cadenza. The interview will air on January 25, 2018 at 10 pm EST. You can listen live by clicking here, or listen at your convenience, starting on January 26, 2018, by clicking here

On Sunday, January 28, 2018, The Scarlet Letter will be WWFM's Sunday Opera Broadcast, starting at 3 pm. You can listen live by clicking here.


Records International, August 2017

Laitman is one of the most prolific and fluent song and opera composers of our time, with a gift for effortless melody and for getting to the emotional heart of her texts. In her opera on Hawthorne’s classic novel she is greatly assisted by David Mason’s supremely skilful rendering of the story into verse. Laitman’s lyrical, eloquent score, firmly tonal, belongs to the tradition of the great opera composers of the past, with vividly portrayed characters whose dramatic trajectory and development is reflected in music so finely descriptive as to render staging all but redundant. Dimmesdale’s progressive disintegration of spirit, Chillingworth’s duplicitous self-deception and above all Hester’s resolve and strength of character are presented as a psychological drama of devastating insight through the power of meticulously crafted dialogue and exquisite musical color and shading. This is not a work of introverted self-examination, though; the judgmental societal mores of the day provide a dramatic backdrop in powerful choral scenes and the interaction of secondary characters. © 2017 Records International


Gregory Berg reviews the CD in the May/June 2018 issue of The Journal of Singing

Lori Laitman is a revered name in the NATS community, and with good reason. She has composed more than 250 art songs in a dizzying array of styles and at a remarkably consistent level of excellence. It is difficult to think of another composer before the public today who equals — let alone exceeds — Laitman’s love for and understanding of the human voice, or her profound sensitivity to both poetic and prose text. She continues to be an astounding gift to singers everywhere.

Creating opera is a very different venture from composing art song. Opera is a thorny genre that involves a more expansive canvas as well as a plethora of musical, theatrical, and visual elements that must be handled with care. A composer who excels in the intimate collaborative circle of art song may struggle in the more complicated universe of opera. Fortunately, Lori Laitman would appear to be one of those art song composers whose gifts flourish just as emphatically in this arena. Granted, her ventures into opera and oratorio can be counted on one hand, but each has been a promising success.

Laitman’s chief collaborator for more than half of these projects has been the award winning poet David Mason. The two met at the 2005 West Chester Poetry Conference, a year after Laitman had been commissioned (along with two other composers) to set Mason’s poignant “Swimmers on the Shore” to music. She loved his poem, he loved her setting of it, and a friendship and artistic collaboration was born. The two collaborated on the poignant oratorio Vedem, based on poems written in secret by some of the so-called “boys of Terezin,” and are currently working on an operatic setting of his novel Ludlow.

It was the aforementioned song, “Swimmers on the Shore,” that played a crucial role in the creation of their opera, The Scarlet Letter. That song was performed by baritone Robert Holden, a voice teacher at the University of Central Arkansas, at the 2006 Songs Across the Americas Festival. Holden was so taken by the song that he asked for Laitman and Mason to create an opera together. The pair selected Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter as the basis for the libretto, and they were able to complete the score in time for its initial premiere at UCA. The opera quickly attracted the attention of Opera Colorado, but their plans to mount the work in their 2012-2013 season were upended by funding difficulties. Laitman used the three-year postponement to make a number of alterations to the score, some of which were necessitated by the withdrawal of Elizabeth Futral and sebsequent casting of Laura Claycomb in the central role of Hester Prynne. Laitman also took the opportunity to refine the orchestration and expand the palette of colors it ultilized. What seemed to be a disappointing delay was ultimately a blessing in disguise, and the opera was a markedly improved work by the time of its triumphant professional premiere in 2016.

At a glance, this work bears some resemblance to Howard Hanson’s Merry Mount, which was based on a Hawthorne short story. That opera proved to be a costly and disappointing failure when it premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1934. The chief culprits were its stiff libretto, stodgy score, and two-dimensional characters. David Mason’s libretto, by contrast, is a much more vibrant affair, and his text captures the spirit of Hawthorne’s novel by using a language that the librettist describes as “simpler and more lyrical” than the original words of the novel. It is these dual qualities of simplicity and lyricism that both allow for and inspire the introduction of music into the mix. Laitman’s music reflects not only the essential truth of the text, but also evolving arcs of the three characters at the heart of the drama. Hester Prynne, the young woman who is ostracized by her community for the sin of adultery; Arthur Dimmesdale, the Calvinist minister who secretly seduced her; and Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s long-missing husband who is determined to learn the identity of the man who has brought about his wife’s shameful situation. Each of the three characters undergoes wrenching emotional turmoil and Laitman’s score conveys that with thrilling vividness. It is especially gratifying to hear a modern opera score that delivers so many moments of transcendent beauty.

Although the work focuses on these three central characters, the community itself is treated as a fourth character, and they collectively comprise a cold and unyielding backdrop before which the central drama gains even more immediacy and impact. The opening scene is especially effective, and one only wishes that the chorus were even more of a presence throughout the score in the way that Britten utilizes the townspeople in Peter Grimes. Laitman’s brilliant choral writing leaves us hungry for more.

It is difficult to believe that the polished performance heard on these disks was not captured in the safety of a studio but rather in the live performances of this work’s premiere production. Laura Claycomb is a radiant Hester whose voice grows still more beautiful as it soars above the staff, and she caresses her melodic lines with true understanding. Her singing of the lullaby to her baby girl is nothing less than sublime. Tenor Dominic Armstrong manages to elicit a surprising amount of sympathy for his duplicitous character and his singing rings with pain. Baritone Malcolm MacKenzie wields his magnificent voice in the role of Chillingworth with conviction and unfailing intensity. Mention must also be made of mezzo soprano Margaret Gawrysiak as Mistress Hibbons, whose searing confrontation scene with Dimmesdale is among the most exciting passages in the opera. Conductor Ari Pelto draws exemplary work from the Opera Colorado Orchestra and Chorus, who sound as if they have been performing this opera for years. The booklet contains an essay on the opera and biographies of all of the principal participants, but the libretto must be found online.

This is a work of rare accomplishment and bodes well for the future contributions that Laitman and Mason are likely to make to the cause of contemporary opera. 


Joanne Sydney Lessner reviews the CD in the January 2018 issue of Opera News, naming it a "Critic's Choice:

Hawthorne’s cautionary tale of puritanical patriarchy, captured live in May 2016 at Opera Colorado, has much to recommend it. Hawthorne’s story is unremittingly harsh as it moves from Hester Prynne’s resolute nobility to her abuse at the hands of her community and the two men in her life. She has no good options: in dramatic terms, there’s nothing to root for. Her illicit lover, the self-absorbed, deluded preacher Arthur Dimmesdale, is no romantic hero. It takes him the entire story to do the right thing and stand by Hester, but he manages to wreck that moment (and any future they might have together) by branding his chest with an “A,” precipitating his demise. Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, is such a bully that it’s easy to see why she’s eager to believe he perished at sea. It isn’t so much that the story is in need of reinvention, satisfying though it would be to see Hester rip off that “A,” grab her illegitimate daughter, Pearl, and get out of Boston. Rather, it’s the potent reminder that its themes are still relevant, with factions in our country continuing to scapegoat women and children, that makes it so grim.

In spite of that, Lori Laitman’s score succeeds with a surging, sweeping, unapologetically tonal landscape that offers carefully etched character portraits, rapturous choral expostulations and lush orchestrations of insistently tuneful melodic motifs. David Mason’s gently rhyming libretto telescopes the plot, and the reflective moments are earned and don’t overstay their welcomes. The opening is stirring and engaging, establishing the sincerity of the townspeople’s conviction in their own rectitude. Hester’s lullaby to Pearl is refreshingly devoid of self-pity and full of maternal wonder, ending on a celestial high C. The tension-filled confrontation, during which Chillingworth poisons Dimmesdale while pretending to cure his illness, is a gripping cat-and-mouse seduction. 

As Hester, Laura Claycomb is the work’s shining center. Her soprano is supple and womanly, but its agility, especially in the upper reaches, projects an innocent purity that reaffirms Hester’s moral north star. Laitman writes riskily for her heroine, with important text couched in high-flying lines. It’s difficult to know if other, less nimble sopranos would be as intelligible, but Claycomb is always clear, affecting and sympathetic. Even before the madness of Dimmesdale’s self-dramatizing death, tenor Dominic Armstrong’s aggressive, overwrought delivery lends the tormented minister an unstable, almost villainous cast—not inappropriate, given the character’s moral ambiguity. Malcolm MacKenzie’s dignified baritone makes Chillingworth a ramrod-straight, implacable force, riven with self-loathing. Mezzo-soprano Margaret Gawrysiak is convincingly menacing as the unhinged local harpy, although her unwieldy vibrato makes both words and melody difficult to parse. As the town elders, tenor Kyle Knapp and baritone Daniel Belcher add a revealing layer of prurient interest as they badger Hester to name her lover. The choral singing is particularly strong, and the orchestra, led by Ari Pelto, is polished and precise. 


James H. North of Fanfare Magazine reviews the CD in the December 2017 issue online (print review scheduled to appear in April 2018):

The Scarlet Letter is of course Hester Prynne’s A. In one way, the opera is a bit late; adultery is old hat in the 21st century. On a broader scale, hypocrisy in society is ever present. Lori Laitman writes brilliantly scored music; it’s been a while since I’ve heard such a colorful new American opera. It has many other virtues as well: eminently singable vocal lines in which the words are easily understood—unusual even in English, a credit to the composer and to librettist David Mason as well as to the singers—plus a convincing movement along a dramatic course. Laitman has made her name in art songs, as several positive Fanfare reviews attest. Best of all, she avoids the basic pitfall of new American operas: dumbing the music down to ensure audience—or, more precisely, impresario—acceptance. Let me amend that: the pitfall of new American operas that do make it to performance and recording. Kudos to the University of Central Arkansas, which commissioned the opera, to Opera Colorado and its general director Gregory Carpenter, and to Naxos.

The first act sets the scene and takes much time to define the characters. Hester’s honesty, pride, and love for her child are obvious; the two men in her life are complex characters. Chillingworth, her aged, disfigured husband (whom, missing for years, she had thought lost at sea), is a doctor sworn to protect Hester and her child in prison. He has long lost the ability to love and wishes her no harm, yet he is driven by an inner storm to unearth the child’s father. No one but Hester knows he is her husband. Dimmesdale, a young minister who is the child’s father, is tortured by guilt and fear of exposure, which leads him to increasing psychic and physical illness. Throughout the first act, the two men are close, unknowing friends. Elder minister John Wilson and Governor Bellingham represent two sides of hypocritical society. Long arias in act I tend to be repetitive, making little of their fine basic material. It is part of the story’s spell, and the opera’s, that we cannot be sure just when the husband begins to suspect the minister; nor can we be sure of his intentions.

Act II accelerates the drama and blossoms musically. Hester knows: “You are become a monster, deformed by your desire to ruin someone else. The wisdom I once saw in you has withered like a rotting vine.” She and Dimmesdale meet in the forest and pledge their love, planning to sail together to a new world, a new life. Laitman’s music rises in a long impassioned duet; it’s a scene that could wow an audience at the Met. Her writing is tonal yet new, unconstrained and uninhibited by the past. Back in town (Boston), the story and the music again settle into routine. In the end, of course (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel was published in 1850), conventional morality takes over: Dimmesdale confesses publically and dies, leaving Hester to mourn and Chillingworth to stew “in his impotent rage.” 

Hester is strength and courage, knowledge and understanding; both her men are weaker beings, damaged by convention and prejudice. So are their musics and their performers. Hester is a dramatic, lyric, coloratura soprano rolled into one; Laura Claycomb is a powerful vocal actress and soars through the high tessitura. Both men handle their more limited roles carefully, with superb diction but artificial, operatic accents. Dimmesdale finally has a strong aria as he confesses and dies; tenor Dominic Armstrong rises to the occasion. Minor roles are less clear, in intent and in performance; the “witch” Mistress Gibbons contributes little beyond a second female voice. But it is Hester that matters. The Opera Colorado Orchestra is wonderful; conductor Ari Pelto and recording producer/engineer Marian Barry balance everything perfectly.

A fine rhymed libretto, and terrific, well-crafted music; a little tightening in act I might make The Scarlet Letter a staple of American opera, on a level with Susannah and Baby Doe.

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: Additional photos from the orchestra dress rehearsal.


Opera Colorado, Director: Beth Greenberg, Photo: Matthew Staver


Opera Colorado, Director: Beth Greenberg, Photo: Matthew Staver Opera Colorado, Director: Beth Greenberg, Photo: Matthew Staver




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.


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 www.operacolorado.org.



The Scarlet Letter —  "From Page to Stage" on Rocky Mountain PBS

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 www.operacolorado.org for more information.

Interested co-producers may contact General Director Greg Carpenter at 

gcarpenter@operacolorado.org 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, rfuller@operacolorado.org, 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: OperaColorado.org












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.