The Scarlet Letter

2008, revised 2015-2016; Full length opera in 2 Acts, to libretto by poet David Mason

Opera Colorado presents the professional world premiere of the opera The Scarlet Letter by composer Lori Laitman and librettist David Mason in May of 2016. For updated information, please visit

We have assembled an all-star cast, with Laura Claycomb as Hester Prynne, Malcolm MacKenzie as Roger Chillingworth, Dominic Armstrong as Arthur Dimmesdale, Daniel Belcher as Governor Bellingham and Margaret Gawrysiak as Mistress Hibbons. Beth Greenberg will direct and Ari Pelto will conduct, and rounding out the creative team is set designer Erhard Rom, lighting designers Robert Wierzel and Amith Chandrashaker, video designer Topher Blair and costume designer Terese Wadden. Keun-A Lee is serving as Music Staff.

The opera calls for 3 leading roles:

  • Hester Prynne, a seamstress: coloratura soprano
  • Arthur Dimmesdale, a young minister: lyric tenor
  • Roger Chillingworth, a doctor: dramatic baritone

3 minor roles:

  • Mistress Hibbons, a witch: mezzo-soprano
  • John Wilson, an elder minister: tenor
  • Governor Bellingham: baritone

and Pearl, Hester’s young daughter: non-speaking actor.

Running time is approximately 2 hours, in 2 acts. The opera is scored for chamber orchestra with a minimum of 40 players.


The opera was commissioned 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 on November 6, 2008 at the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall at UCA in Conway, AR.


The opera has been substantially revised for the upcoming opera house premiere, including additional instrumentation. For more information, please visit


See more information about this work in the catalog.


In old Boston a young woman, Hester Prynne, has been charged with adultery and forced to wear the scarlet letter 'A' embroidered on her breast. Just as she mounts the scaffold to receive her sentence, her husband, long presumed dead and newly escaped from captivity among the Indians, arrives and recognizes her. This man, renamed as Roger Chillingworth, begins a quest to discover the father of Hester's child. As the community wrestles with whether or not to allow Hester to continue raising her daughter, Chillingworth moves in with the pale young minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, who hides the fact that he is the father of Hester's child. In a dark night of the soul, Arthur is taunted by a local witch, and it becomes clear that he is overcome with guilt and inner conflict about his past with Hester. The two lovers meet in the forest, plotting their escape, sure they can escape the laws and mores of men in this new world. But Dimmesdale cannot forget his guilt, and during an election day ceremony he confesses his sin to the crowd, exposing a branded letter 'A' over his own heart. Dimmesdale dies at the moment of his confession, and the opera moves out into a broader, lyrical sense of time in which its stories are at least partly resolved.

The opera libretto, by award-winning poet and librettist David Mason, is now available. Click here to purchase at Amazon or here to purchase at Barnes & Noble.

For more information and to hear demo tracks, please visit


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