The House of Bernarda Alba

Orchestra / Vocal Workshop reading of the opera


Gamble Auditorium, Baldwin Wallace Conservatory

Friday, January 17, 7:30pm

Year 4 of the 5-year developmental process for the new opera based on Federico García Lorca's final play, La Casa de Bernarda Alba.


Co-commissioned by Cleveland Opera Theater and Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, and made possible in part by generous funding from the Kulas Foundation, this process began with a reading of Caridad Svich's new English translation of the play on {NOW} Fest '17 and continued on {NOW} Fest '18 with the first public reading of the English / Spanish-language libretto by Caridad Svich. 

{NOW} Fest '19 presented a workshop reading of scenes from Acts I and II of this bi-lingual (English / Spanish) opera performed with piano accompaniment. 

Run Time: Approx. 100 minutes with audience talk back session to follow

Cleveland Opera Theater, Opera in Cleveland, Cleveland Opera, {NOW} Festival
Use your voice to create New Opera!

The performance will open with a brief introduction from the composer who will also ask the audience to evaluate specific aspects of the work to be discussed in the post-performance talk back session. 

Your post-reading comments will provide valuable feedback  to help shape the final stage of development for the world premiere production to be presented on {NOW} Fest '21.

Don't miss your opportunity to help create and develop new Opera!


Bernarda Alba, Nancy Maultsby

LaPoncia, Joanne Uniatowski

Adela, Dawna Warren

Angiustas, Sabina Balsamo

Martirio, Sarah Antell 

Amelia, Olivia Beal

Magdalena, Ciara Newman

María Josefa, Nanette Canfield

Kitchen Maid, Kailyn Martino



Rosie Kamara
Emma Steward
Ciara Ferris

About the Librettist

Caridad Svich, (Librettist La Casa de Bernarda Alba & New Opera Forum Panelist) is an award-winning playwright, songwriter/lyricist, translator, and editor who was born in the United States of Cuban-Argentine-Spanish-Croatian parents.  She received a 2012 OBIE Award for Lifetime Achievement in the theatre, a 2012 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award and NNPN rolling world premiere for Guapa, and the 2011 American Theatre Critics Association Primus Prize for her play The House of the Spirits, based on the Isabel Allende novel. She has won the National Latino Playwriting Award (sponsored by Arizona Theatre Company) twice, including in the year 2013 for her play Spark. She has been short-listed for the PEN Award in Drama four times, including in the year 2012 for her play Magnificent Waste. Her works in English and Spanish have been seen at venues across the US and abroad, among them San Diego Repertory Theatre, Gala Hispanic Theatre, Denver Center Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, 59E59, The Women’s Project, Repertorio Espanol, Salvage Vanguard, Teatro Mori (Chile), Artheater-Cologne (Germany), Ilkhom Theater (Uzbekistan), and Edinburgh Fringe Festival/UK. Recent premieres include The Hour of All Things at Ensemble Studio Theatre/NY under William Carden’s direction; Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (based on the Mario Vargas Llosa novel) at Repertorio Espanol in New York City, In the Time of the Butterflies (based on Julia Alvarez’ novel) at San Diego Rep; JARMAN (all this maddening beauty) at Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington D.C., and Upon the Fragile Shoreat Summerworks Festival in Toronto, Canada. Among her key works are 12 Ophelias, Any Place But Here, Alchemy of Desire/Dead-Man’s Blues,and Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (a rave fable). Seven of her plays are published in Instructions for Breathing and Other Plays (Seagull Books and University of Chicago Press, 2014). Five of her plays radically re-imagining ancient Greek tragedies are published in Blasted Heavens (Eyecorner Press, University of Denmark, 2012). Her works are also published by TCG, Broadway Play Publishing, Manchester University Press, Playscripts, Arte Publico Press, Smith & Kraus, Alexander Street Press, StageReads and more. Among her awards/recognitions are: Harvard University Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship TCG/Pew Charitable Trusts National Theater Artist Residency at INTAR, NEA/TCG Playwriting Residency at the Mark Taper Theatre Forum Latino Theatre Initiative.  She has edited several books on theatre including Innovation in Five Acts (TCG, 2015), Out of Silence: Censorship in Theatre & Performance (Eyecorner Press, 2014) and Trans-Global Readings: Crossing Theatrical Boundaries (Manchester University Press, 2004). She sustains a parallel career as a theatrical translator, chiefly of the dramatic work of Federico Garcia Lorca as well as works by Calderon de la Barca, Lope de Vega, Julio Cortazar, Victor Rascon Banda, Antonio Buero Vallejo and contemporary works from Mexico, Cuba and Spain.  She is alumna playwright of New Dramatists, Drama Editor of Asymptote literary journal, associate editor of Contemporary Theatre Review (Routledge,UK), contributing editor of TheatreForum, and founder of NoPassport theatre alliance and press (, which recently published Todd London’s collection of essays The Importance of Staying Earnest. She is a Lifetime Member of EST, and is on the advisory board for the US-Mexico Exchange at the Lark Play Development Center in New York City. She holds an MFA n Playwriting from UCSD.

About the Composer

Griffin Candey (b. 1988) is an American opera composer dutifully committed to creating vocal and theatrical works that, by approaching forward-looking subject matter, aim to both expand and preserve these genres.

Having spent his early years studying as an opera singer, Candey’s vocal music retains a level of practical vocal finesse that its interpreters praise for its “prosody that showcases both the words and the singers,” its “intuitive rhythm,” and its “lyricism and emotional depth."


Candey's latest opera, Sweets by Kate -- described as “hilarious and moving,” “a piece with charming and elaborate complexity” and “a meaningful and beautiful work of art” -- was commissioned and premiered by the Midwest Institute of Opera (July 2015,) with subsequent runs at Marble City Opera of Knoxville, TN (May 2016) and in New York City, NY with OperaRox Productions (Spring 2017.)  May 2016 saw the premiere of his latest chamber song cycle (All Children Except One) at Bard College Conservatory of Music, and December 2016 will see the world premiere of his orchestral song cycle (Bagidaabii-Neyaashi) with the Marquette Symphony Orchestra (in Marquette, MI.

About the Play

Utilizing an all-female cast, The House of Bernarda Alba is a tragic drama set in Spain centered on the family and legacy of Bernarda Alba and her five daughters -- Angustias, Magdalena, Amelia, Martirio, and Adela, in descending order of age.  Her home also shelters the elder (and increasingly senile) mother of Bernarda, María Josefa, and their long-time maid, La Poncia.


The opera begins with the ringing of cathedral bells -- which peal out from the nearby church, in which the funeral of Bernarda’s second husband takes place.  Immediately, one notes that Bernarda is an exacting and unforgiving woman -- she frightens off the townswomen who enter after the funeral for their gossip and “poison tongues,” she feels little sympathy for those in poverty, and she frequently demands that her daughters withhold their emotions.  After driving away the townswomen, Bernarda demands that her daughters observe a strict eight year mourning period, during which all must continually wear black, remain indoors, tend their needlework, and keep themselves entirely chaste.  


Adela, the youngest daughter, is often the first and most vocal to rail against these many restrictions, speaking out against Bernarda whenever possible and, on one occasion, donning a bright green dress (while threatening to traipse down the street in it.)  Many of her sisters feel a similar strain, but rarely act or speak out.  La Poncia  maintains a double-edged relationship with the family, despising Bernarda for her exacting and heartless ways but acting as a surrogate mother for her unlucky and oft-abused daughters.  The grandmother, Maria Josefa, remains locked up in her room, but escapes on multiple occasions to sing lullabies or to state that she’s fleeing to the seashore to get married.


The primary source of conflict comes from a duplicitous suitor from the town -- Pepe el Romano, a man who proposes to marry the elder and sickly Angiustas for her wealth, but carries on nightly affairs with Adela.  (The second youngest, Martirio, also harbors feelings for Pepe, which mostly manifest in small outbursts and her eventual stealing of Angiustas’ portrait of him.)  Bernarda remains stubbornly unaware of this, but the maid, La Poncia, understands all too well -- on multiple occasions, she warns both Adela and Bernarda about the severity of the situation which threatens to spill over and ruin the family.  Neither budge.  Tensions build and build -- more and more arguments wrack the house, with Bernarda tries to stamps them out with biting curses (and some violence,) but it only works for so long.


Upon the announcement of Pepe’s engagement to Angiustas, Adela attempts to derail the situation: she reveals to Bernarda her frequent visits with Pepe (after such a visit,) and declares that she’ll “be his, regardless of the shame it brings.”  Livid, Bernarda grabs a gun from the wall and pursues Pepe outside, firing a shot.  Martirio re-enters, insinuating Pepe’s death.  Adela, aghast, flees to her room, where she hangs herself.  Upon discovering of her body, Bernarda ramps up her former restrictions -- demanding that “death must be addressed face to face” and that Adela be “buried as a virgin,” no matter who says otherwise.  The drama ends with Bernarda shouting one word, over and over: “silence.”

Significance and Practicality of the Opera

Much of this plot resonates loudly with current issues of gender equality -- feminist questions and manifestations of internalized misogyny, views on female sexuality and the ways in which society interacts with (or punishes) it, the prevalence of young suicides in America, the image of a family pulling itself apart.  Audiences will see generations pitted against one another and identify with the players -- with Bernarda for keeping the reins of her family, with her daughters for feeling suffocated, with the grandmother for being ignored in her advanced age, or with the maids for being kept underfoot.


The practicality of this piece shines through in many forms: a unit set, few technical requirements, a succinct run time, an all-female cast (which utilizes the predominance of female singers available at all levels,) and a petite orchestration.  The all-female ensemble allows for a diverse range of singer-actors: more experienced performers for Bernarda, La Poncia, and the like, and different stages of younger artists for the daughters and comprimario roles.  In this way, the opera nurtures a built-in support system, allowing younger artists to learn from their predecessors by uniting them onstage.  This also lends itself well to either productions or workshops in collegiate settings or young artist programs.