- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2016

Lori Laitman hopes that her music will be remembered and performed centuries from now. The resident of Potomac, Maryland, has already written hundreds of songs and several operas, including for the Baltimore Symphony.

Her latest revised work, “The Scarlet Letter,” marries a classic tale of American puritanism with the European all-singing art form.

“I read it like everyone else in high school. I don’t think I understood how revolutionary it was,” Ms. Laitman said of the required reading for teenagers. “Hester Prynne is such a feminist icon because she was able to withstand the judgment of her harsh Puritan community and found a way to live her life and support her child without crumbling. She’s such a pillar of strength.”

Ms. Latiman’s new version of “The Scarlet Letter” will have its world premiere Saturday in Denver courtesy of Opera Colorado, featuring a libretto by David Mason. The production is directed by Beth Greenberg, with conducting duties undertaken by by Opera Colorado’s musical director, Ari Pelto.

The work was initially commissioned by the University of Central Arkansas in 2008. Ms. Laitman has been gradually revising the opera since, often to tailor it to specific talents like Laura Claycomb, who will star in Denver as Hester Prynne, the heroine pilloried by her strict Massachusetts community for adultery.

“It’s a substantially different work than it was in 2008,” the composer said. “I have changed some scenes dramatically, I have rewritten some vocal lines [and] re-orchestrated again as my score grew. And when the great Laura Claycomb stepped in for Elizabeth Futral, who had to withdraw for health reason, I rewrote Hester’s lines to showcase Laura’s extraordinary range.”

“The Scarlet Letter” was supposed to bow in its revised form by Opera Colorado in 2013, but it was delayed because of lack of funds until 2016. 

“Hopefully the show will go to Washington, but the way the opera world works, it’s not up to the composer, it’s up to the company,” Ms. Laitman said of bringing the show home to the District.

When Ms. Laitman was studying at Yale, nearly all of her colleagues were male. Ms. Laitman has advised her daughter, who is now seeking a Ph.D. in composition, and other young composers to “make work that you’re proud of, whether you’re male or female.”

Ms. Laitman is hard at work on another commission for the Baltimore Symphony to premiere in the fall. Meantime, she hopes that “The Scarlet Letter” will become part of the operatic repertoire.

“I’m hoping to add beauty to the world in the best way that I can,” she said. “I hope I’m writing music that is dramatic and can tell a dramatic story.

“These are extraordinary artists, and, as a composer, to have this kind of experience, I think it’s unparalleled. And to see the characters I personified with my music given life on the stage in such a manner is a dream come true.”

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