When Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, she couldn’t possibly have imagined it as an opera staged in a gym. But this spring, the Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) produced the mesmerizing work, by composer Poul Ruders and librettist Paul Bentley, with a cast of more than 50 singers and 65 musicians, in Harvard University’s Lavietes Pavilion—a basketball arena.
The production was one of a series of operas that the BLO presents in nontraditional spaces as part of an effort to make opera more accessible and engaging to modern audiences, to highlight innovative artistic experiences, and to challenge the creative processes to keep opera a vital art form. Not unexpectedly, each of these spaces brings its own set of acoustical challenges for an opera performance. A team of consultants at Acentech has been supporting the BLO’s designers and musical staff, who are in charge of producing these “pop-up” shows, with suggestions and design input for acoustical success.