The Scarlet Letter (opera)

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The Scarlet Letter is an opera by Walter Damrosch, based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel of the same name. The libretto was by George Parsons Lathrop, son-in-law of the author. The work is Wagnerian in style, Damrosch being a great enthusiast and champion of the composer. Excerpts from the opera first premiered at Carnegie Hall on January 4 and 5, 1895; the first fully staged performance was February 10, 1896, in Boston.[1] Among those present at the premiere were Charles Eliot Norton, Prince Serge Wolkonsky, Julia Ward Howe, and Nellie Melba.[2]


Role Voice type Concert premiere cast, January 4–5, 1895
(the composer conducting)[3]
Full premiere cast, February 10, 1896
(the composer conducting)[2][4]
Hester Prynne, a young Puritan woman soprano Lillian Nordica Johanna Gadski
Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, an eloquent young minister tenor William H. Rieger Barron Berthold
Roger Chillingworth, Hester's husband baritone Giuseppe Campanari Wilhelm Mertens
Rev. John Wilson, an elderly and revered minister baritone Ericsson F. Bushnell Gerhard Stehmann
Governor Bellingham, governor of Boston bass Conrad Behrens Conrad Behrens
Brackett, a jailer bass James F. Thomson Julius von Putlitz
A Shipmaster baritone presumably Ericsson F. Bushnell Gerhard Stehmann
Chorus: Puritans

Differences from the novel[edit]

  • Pearl, Hester's daughter, is absent.
  • Instead of living a solitary life after Dimmesdale dies at the end, Hester takes poison and dies with him.[1]


  1. ^ a b Kirk, Elise Kuhl (2001). American opera. University of Illinois Press. pp. 133–136. 
  2. ^ a b Whiting, Lilian (1902). Boston days: the city of beautiful ideals; Concord, and its famous authors; the golden age of genius; dawn of the twentieth century. Little, Brown & Company. pp. 403–410. 
  3. ^ "Music in America". The Musical Times. 36: 116. February 1, 1895. 
  4. ^ Upton, George Putnam (1911). The standard operas: their plots, their music, and their composers. A. C. McClurg. p. 62. 

External links[edit]