|Set Model of BLO's I Puritani, Set Design by John Conklin|
by Magda Romanska, Ph.D., Boston Lyric Opera Dramaturg
BLO's version of I Puritani preserves the original historical context, but – following Bellini’s own intent – we focus on the psychological truth of the characters rather than the historical details. History here serves only as a device to tell a larger story of men and women, painting the contrast between the two ruling elements, male and female, and the destruction that follows when they’re off-balance and one comes to dominate the other.
Through the use of an abstract and metaphorical set and costumes, we emphasize Elvira’s isolation in the male-dominated, military world, portraying her slow descent into madness, and blurring the lines between reality and hallucination. The women in our production, like the men, are nondescript; dressed in identical costumes, they become mirror images – echoes – of Elvira’s own mental condition. She becomes the everywoman of her epoch, and her madness becomes an expression of stifled emotions constrained by the masculine framework from which she cannot escape. Her only escape, so it seems to her, is to fall in love with someone from the other side.