Love is love is love.
Washington, D.C., 1950s. As the “Lavender Scare” envelops the U.S. government, Timothy Laughlin, a recent college graduate and ardent supporter of Joseph McCarthy, meets Hawkins Fuller, a State Department official. The two men embark on a relationship, tangled in a web of fear and necessary deceit. Their friends and colleagues fill out a story of individuals grappling with their beliefs and emotions, against a deeply political background.
Based on Thomas Mallon’s novel, this acclaimed 2016 opera was praised as “a near-perfect example of fast-flowing musical drama” by the New York Times and tells of the very human consequences of prejudice and fear, with compassion, nuance, and incredible beauty.
Music by Gregory Spears
Libretto by Greg Pierce
Based on the 2007 novel Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon
Premiered: 17 June 2016, Cincinnati Opera
Madison Opera Premiere
September 1953 to May 1957, Washington, D.C.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is president. Senator Joseph McCarthy is stoking fears that the government is full of Communists, Soviet spies, and homosexuals.
Scene 1 ~ Park in Dupont Circle
A fledgling reporter, Timothy Laughlin, sits on a bench reviewing his notes from McCarthy’s wedding when he is approached by State Department employee Hawkins Fuller.
Scene 2 ~ Senator Charles Potter’s Office
Timothy is hired as a speechwriter for Senator Charles Potter. Timothy meets Tommy McIntyre, who gives him unsolicited advice about Washington politics.
Scene 3 ~ Hawkins’s Office
Timothy stops by Hawkins’s office to drop off a thank-you gift. He meets Hawkins’s assistant and best friend Mary, and his secretary Miss Lightfoot, who mocks Timothy after he leaves.
Scene 4 ~ Timothy’s Apartment
Timothy is at home cooking soup and writing his sister a letter when Hawkins unexpectedly stops by to tell him about the delights of Bermuda, among other things.
Scene 5 ~ St. Peter’s Church
In the afterglow of last night’s encounter with Hawkins, Timothy is torn between his deep Catholicism and his blossoming passion.
Scene 6 ~ The Hotel Washington
At a Christmas party, Timothy is approached by an Army general about enlisting; Mary warns Hawkins about his reckless behavior with Timothy; McIntyre tells Potter about McCarthy’s latest political troubles; and Miss Lightfoot overhears an intimate exchange between Hawkins and Timothy.
Scene 7 ~ Interrogation Room M304
An interrogator puts Hawkins through a series of humiliating tests in an attempt to determine whether or not he is a homosexual.
Scene 8 ~ Timothy’s Apartment
Timothy and Hawkins discuss the interrogation, McCarthy, and Hawkins’s illicit amusements in New York City.
Scene 9 ~ McCarthy’s Office
Senator Potter warns McCarthy that the “Adams Chronology,” which details how Roy Cohn and McCarthy pressured the Army to give Cohn’s friend David Schine special treatment, will be McCarthy’s downfall unless he gives up Cohn.
Scene 10 ~ Mary’s Kitchen / Timothy’s Apartment
Mary invites Timothy over to warn him of Hawkins’s fickle nature. She tells Timothy she is pregnant from a one-night stand. In Timothy’s apartment, Hawkins rejoices that he’s been cleared of allegations of homosexuality. Timothy is shocked by how Hawkins wants to celebrate.
Scene 11 ~ Roof of the Old Post Office
Timothy, in agony over his fraught relationship, tells Hawkins he’s decided to enlist in the Army.
Scene 12 ~ Hawkins’s Office
Mary tells Hawkins she is quitting, as she can no longer work in an atmosphere of panic and persecution.
Scene 13 ~ Timothy in France / Hawkins in Chevy Chase
Three years pass. Timothy writes letters to Hawkins and Mary from France, where he is stationed. Hawkins is now married to a woman named Lucy, with a house in the suburbs, but would clearly like to rekindle his relationship with Timothy upon his return.
Scene 14 ~ Brick House
In a house in D.C. that Hawkins has rented for his afternoon flings with Timothy, Hawkins expresses that he cannot be everything Timothy wants. Hawkins resolves to end the affair himself.
Scene 15 ~ Mary’s Kitchen / Brick House / Room M304
Mary is packing when Hawkins stops by, distraught. Hawkins confesses that in order to push Timothy away, he has given Timothy’s name to those investigating alleged homosexuals. He asks Mary to tell Timothy about this betrayal in hopes it will make Timothy hate him.
Scene 16 ~ Park in Dupont Circle
His dreams dashed, Timothy decides to leave Washington, D.C., and Hawkins Fuller for good. Both heartbroken, they say goodbye.
Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Arcadio, Florencia en el Amazonas (Pensacola Opera); Victor Garnier, All is Calm (Theater Latté Da); Soloist, Trouble in Tahiti (Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra); Timothy Laughlin, Fellow Travelers; Borsa, Rigoletto (Minnesota Opera)
Upcoming: Alejandro, Frida (Atlanta Opera); Arcadio, Florencia en el Amazonas (Pittsburgh Opera); Father Matias, El Milagro del Recuerdo (Houston Grand Opera); Don Ottavio, Don Giovanni (Minnesota Opera)
Madison Opera Debut: Opera in the Park 2019
Recently: Emperor, The Emperor of Atlantis; Pierrot, L’Île de Merlin (Wolf Trap Opera); William Dale, Silent Night (Austin Opera); Remo, The Skating Rink (Garsington Opera); Manfred, Out of Darkness (Atlanta Opera); Older Thompson, Glory Denied; Marquis d’Obigny, La Traviata; Belcore, The Elixir of Love (Houston Grand Opera); Father, The Juniper Tree; William, The Fall of the House of Usher (Wolf Trap Opera)
Upcoming: Figaro, The Barber of Seville (Painted Sky Opera); Carmina Burana (TBA); The Magic Flute (TBA)
Madison Opera Debut: Nicklausse, The Tales of Hoffmann (2016)
Recently at MO: Paula, Florencia en el Amazonas; Opera in the Park 2017
Recently: Oreste, La Belle Helene (Lakes Area Music Festival); Cherubino, The Marriage of Figaro (Opera Colorado); Mary Johnson, Fellow Travelers (Minnesota Opera); Paula, Florencia en el Amazonas (San Diego Opera, Arizona Opera); Manja, Steal a Pencil for Me (Opera Colorado); Composer, Ariadne auf Naxos (Berkshire Opera Festival)
Upcoming: Miss Jessel, The Turn of the Screw (On Site Opera); Abilene’s Mother/Older Abilene, Edward Tulane (Minnesota Opera)
Madison Opera Debut: Mrs. Nordstrom, A Little Night Music (2019)
Recently at MO: 1st Wood Sprite, Rusalka
Recently: Gretel, Hansel and Gretel; Nightingale, Country Lass, The Enchanted Child (University of Northern Iowa)
Upcoming: Annina, La Traviata; Minerva, Orpheus in the Underworld (Madison Opera)
Madison Opera Debut: Quartet, Little Women (2016)
Recently at MO: Mrs. Anderssen, A Little Night Music (2019)
Recently: Ensemble, Sweeney Todd (Mill City Summer Opera); Ivette, La Rondine; Sylviane, The Merry Widow (Skylark Opera); Patty Andrews, Sisters of Swing (St. Croix Off Broadway); Vixen, The Cunning Little Vixen; Tytania, A Midsummer Nights Dream; Papagena, The Magic Flute (University of Minnesota)
Madison Opera Debut: Opera in the Park 2016
Recently at MO: Mercutio, Romeo & Juliet (2016)
Recently: Guglielmo, Così fan tutte (Mill City Summer Opera); Lefty Williams, The Fix; Tommy McIntyre, Fellow Travelers (Minnesota Opera); Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird (Arizona Opera, Atlanta Opera); Frank Lloyd Wright, Shining Brow (Urban Arias); Eisenstein, Die Fledermaus (Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra)
Upcoming: First Mate, Billy Budd (San Francisco Opera); Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird (New Orleans Opera)
Senator McCarthy / Interrogator / Estonian Frank
Madison Opera Debut: Alidoro, Cinderella (2012)
Recently at MO: Papageno, The Magic Flute; Schaunard, La Bohème; Dr. Bartolo, The Barber of Seville; Owen Hart, Dead Man Walking
Recently: God, Sermon on the Mount (Magnum Chorum); Die Schöne Müllerin (Apollo Chamber Music Festival); Bass Soloist, St. John Passion (Voices of Ascension); Frænkel, The Andrée Expedition (Ordway Center for the Performing Arts); Schoeck’s Notturno (Apollo Chamber Music Festival)
Potter’s Assistant / Book Seller / Party Guest / Technician / French Priest
Madison Opera Debut: Villager, Pagliacci (2018)
Recently at MO: Mr. Lindquist, A Little Night Music
Recently: Notary, Gianni Schicchi (St. Petersburg Opera); Tonio, Pagliacci (Midwest Institute of Opera); Parson Peel, Patience and Sarah (Third Eye Theatre Ensemble); Argante, Rinaldo; John Proctor, The Crucible; (Chicago Summer Opera); Silvio, Pagliacci (Main Street Opera); Gamekeeper, The Cunning Little Vixen (Chicago College of Performing Arts)
Upcoming: Marquis d’Obigny, La Traviata (Madison Opera)
Madison Opera Debut: The Magic Flute (1995)
Recently at MO: Opera in the Park 2019, Rusalka, A Little Night Music, Florencia en el Amazonas, The Abduction from the Seraglio
Recently: Blue (Glimmerglass Festival); Candide (Gran Teatre de Liceu); Porgy and Bess (Seattle Opera, Glimmerglass Festival); Sweeney Todd (Glimmerglass Festival); Lost in the Stars, Show Boat (Washington National Opera)
Upcoming: La Traviata, Oprheus in the Underworld (Madison Opera); Blue (Washington National Opera)
Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Candide, A Little Night Music, All is Calm, Once, Five Points, Assassins (Theater Latté Da); Fellow Travelers, Diana’s Garden (Minnesota Opera); Ragtime (Asolo Repertory Theatre)
Upcoming: Sweeney Todd (Asolo Repertory Theatre); Diaghilev (Zach Theatre); Fellow Travelers (Boston Lyric Opera)