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get me pat racette!

The author, now viewed as an early feminist, based the plot on her own difficult experience with postpartum depression, which was then diagnosed as a nervous disorder curable only by a long period of bed rest, over-feeding and withdrawal from the world of family and friends. The character in the opera ends up going mad from this treatment, while confined to a room with peeling wallpaper.

You know how sometimes you read about a new opera and you think, boy, this has Francesca Zambello written all over it?


  • Strephon says:

    Well, as dear Oscar quipped on his death bed, either he or the wallpaper would have to go.

  • tannengnrin says:

    I would want Mr. Wilson on this one. Maybe he can motorize the wallpaper and have it peel itself during the course of l’opera. At glacial speed, naturally.

  • Jfmurray3 says:

    I’m still waiting for the Wilson staging of a Philip Glass opera about paint drying.

  • Sean Ferguson says:

    One of my favorite bits about the original story is that the narrator is forever feeling threatened by encroaching “smuts.” I look forward to the first Italian performances, “Ah! Ah! Gli smutti!”

  • Micaëla says:

    Wallpaper? Obviously a case for Richard Jones!

  • Erica Obey says:

    Ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh. Don’t even know why I’m posting except that I HATE this story so much. And as an academic specializing in 19th century female authors, I’m supposed to love it/relate to it, etc. (Not to mention as a teacher of intro literature courses, I’m supposed to rave over its powerful/important message.)

    Why can’t we do a FUN feminist opera? Fear of Flying anyone? Valley of the Dolls, even. Some of us feminists actually have a sense of humor — I swear it.

  • alex says:

    Actually, the opera itself is well-done. I just went to the first performance last night and it was very beautiful from beginning to end.

    I’m not entirely sure what I think about the lasting value of such a work (in a lot of ways, I think it demonizes the wrong thing — and to the extent that demonizing is closely related to the central problem the work questions and explores, demonizing [or vilifying if you prefer] is probably not very helpful.

    Unfortunately, I have to say that I found the pre-show discussion with certain of the production/creative cast to be a drawback rather than a plus.

  • Sanford says:

    I suggested many threads ago that someone should write “The Women” as an opera. Think of the fun we’d have casting it.

  • Aiberdonian says:

    Mr Wilson/Glass: Well, I, for one, can easily imagine speeded-up footage of peeling wallpaper with passing cloud-shadows and changing light wedded to a soundtrack from Mr G. How ’bout Wallyaanisqatsi?

  • harry says:

    Sandford: If someone ever composed ‘The Women’…..think of the ‘better fun’ going on backstage amongst its cast. The hair pulling, the screams, the accusations, the leaked gossip, the missing ‘stars’ torn off dressing room doors -- later found blocking the toilets, costumes ‘mysteriously’ sabotaged, or just some good old fashioned screwings to get a bigger part.
    Assuredly the sequel -The Women Part 2 -based on the behind the scenes creation of the first opera -would be the real ‘blockbuster’. It would be called ‘The Valley of the Banchee Troll-ops’ and also carry an strictly enforced X rating. We must not now though , imagine ourselves as the proposed casting agents. That would be to fit known operatic personalities’ and their habits (hand in glove), to any of the proposed characters of such opera.

  • harry says:

    Sorry, your name is Sanfordn ot Sandford…must remember!

  • Brad says:

    What surprises me about this is that an operatic version of “The Yellow Wallpaper” already exists. It was written in 1989 by Ronald Perera, a MA based composer. When I was in grad school in Chicago our opera department presented it. It has some catchy, vocally gracious lines, and provides a decent evening of theater. I found Alex’s above comment interesting, though, as he mentioned the “lasting value” of the show….since Perera’s version is all but forgotten, it makes one wonder if this new version will be any more memorable. Probably doesn’t hurt that a new film of the book is hitting theaters this year.

    Perhaps Famous Quickly could sing Charlotte in one version today and the other *tomorrow*. At least we’d have formidable vocal technique and dramatic fire even if the scores fall a bit short!

  • bardassa says:

    Marguerite in Faust/Mephistophele had postpartum depression too.

  • Sanford says:

    How about operas based on Jane Austen or one of the Bronte sisters. They may not be feminist, but they feature such wonderful female characters. And rather than Jane Eyre, I would pick Charlotte’s novel, “Villette”. Or maybe something by Harold Robbins. And certainly operas based on Gordin Merrick…ooh, starring all of our favorite hunkentenors and barihunks. Nathan Gunn and the future Mr. Netrebko starring in “An Idol For Others”!

  • erica says:

    Jane Austen and the Brontes are as feminist as they come! Great style. Great plots. Great women. Real art. (All right. Jane Eyre’s a castration fantasy, but at least she’s letting it all hang out.)

    And I love your idea of The Women as an opera. Don’t know what it says about me that I was chosen to play the writer (A virgin, a frozen asset) in our high school production. Well, maybe I do know what it says… but I still love the play.

  • Lydia Language says:

    I did rather enjoy Gilman’s story when I first read it (in a collected book of ghost stories), although I wondered how she could be writing it down (as she says she is) while she is crawling around the room and over the body of her fainting husband. But its status as a feminist icon is indeed rather off-putting. Manon Lescaut — now there’s a feminist icon for you! Why shouldn’t she have it all? Jewels? Madrigals? Hot sex? Convents? Louisiana vacations? Dare to dream, ML! Right on! (Has Zambello written all over it.)