A One-Act Opera
Music by Catherine Reid
Libretto by Judith C. Lane
the book “The Yellow Wallpaper” by
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
music and lyrics copyright © Catherine
Reid and Judith C. Lane.
All rights reserved.
New England, a large house in the
A young writer and mother suffers
from “temporary nervous depression,” for
which her doctor/husband John prescribes
the “rest cure.”
He takes her to the country for
the summer and rents an old estate house
for them to stay in.
He forbids her to read, write, or
have visitors, and installs her in the
former nursery room at the top of the
house where she can rest undisturbed.
The walls of the nursery are
covered in a hideous yellow wallpaper
that has no apparent logic to its
design, and The Woman becomes obsessed
She sees figures creeping around
behind it and eventually she tears it
from the walls in an attempt to free
In doing so she frees herself, by
descending into madness.
John, her husband
Five Women in the
World Premiere Performance:
work was premiered at Peabody Music
Conservatory, Johns Hopkins University,
in February 2008.
Performed at Theatre Project,
JoAnn Kulesza, music director
Garnett Bruce, stage director
Kel Millionie, production
Holbrook/Bonnie Lander (The Woman); Paul
Corujo/Kevin Wetzel (John); Elizabeth Cooper,
Meghan Davis, Yi-Wen Hung, Megan Ihnen,
Carolyn Pelley (Ensemble)
Conductor: Jong-hun Bae
Set Design/Costume Design Notes
The Ensemble (VOICES/WOMEN 1-5)
only the voices of the Women in the Wall
are heard, then gradually their figures
become visible during the course of the
They are dressed in clothing that
is printed with the same pattern as the
wallpaper, so they blend in with the
wall and are only faintly discernible
when they move.
Their skin might also be painted
with the pattern of the wallpaper.
In Scene Four the
come out and actually touch THE WOMAN,
but the figures themselves still remain
vague, blending with the wallpaper.
It isn't until the final scene,
when THE WOMAN tears off the wallpaper,
that all the figures break away from the
wall and come out into the room with
her, all five of them tearing at the
It would be acceptable to double
the chorus and use five women as singers
and five as dancers.
This would allow more freedom of
movement for the dancers and easier
concentration for the singers.
Wallpaper should be treated as a
It changes in every scene;
sometimes the pattern swirls around as
if it is alive and breathing and at
other times it becomes flames burning up
These changes might be
accomplished with lights, colors,
scrims, perhaps video movement, and also
with the presence of the Chorus of 5
Women, who stand or move behind the
The Nursery Room:
Gradually throughout the piece the
nursery room appears to grow in size.
When The Woman first enters it in
Scene Two, it is of normal size, but as
the wallpaper takes on more and more
significance in her existence, the walls
of the room grow up and out, becoming
larger and larger.
In the final scene, when the
lights come up to reveal The Woman alone
in the nursery, it's the feeling of
being in a cathedral, with walls and
wallpaper stretching endlessly up and