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Work of the Week – Gregory Spears: Fellow Travelers

On June 17, Cincinnati Opera presents the world premiere of Gregory Spears’s Fellow Travelers, with a libretto by Greg Pierce based on the 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon. The world premiere production is directed by Kevin Newbury. Fellow Travelers was developed and co-commissioned by G. Sterling Zinsmeyer and Cincinnati Opera.

Fellow Travelers takes place at the height of the McCarthy era in 1950’s Washington, D.C. Recent college graduate Timothy Laughlin is eager to join the crusade against communism, and a chance encounter with handsome State Department official Hawkins Fuller leads to Tim’s first job—and his first love affair with a man. Drawn into a maelstrom of deceit, Tim struggles to reconcile his political convictions and his forbidden love for Fuller.

The piece uses the love affair of Laughlin and Fuller to shed light on “the lavender scare”, an often-overlooked period of McCarthyism that resulted in the mass firings of suspected homosexuals from the United States government. “It’s about a part of our history which was almost invisible,” Spears says of Fellow Travelers, “and I think one of the things opera can do is make invisible things visible.”

The Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio hosts ten performances running through July 10.