Opera Based on Life of Rose Standish Nichols Coming to the Nichols House Museum

Rose Standish Nichols will be the subject of an original, one-woman opera coming  to the Nichols House Museum, her former family home, for five performances between Friday, June 3, and Sunday, June 5.

Beth Wiemann, who teaches composition and clarinet at the University of Maine in Orono, is the composer and librettist (who writes the story and lyrics for an opera) for the upcoming “I Give You My Home: The Rose Standish Nichols Story.” It stars Aliana de la Guardia, artistic director of Boston-based Guerilla Opera, who will be supported by Mike Williams, percussion, and Philipp Stäudlin, saxophone. Cara Consilvio will be directing the opera and also has a background in film, so there are plans to film the performances as well.

The opera tells the story of Nichols, pacifist, suffragist, garden designer, and museum founder who died at around the age of 88 in 1960.  But after talking with de la Guardia, Wiemann decided rather than making “I Give You My Home” a straightforward period piece about Rose Nichols’ life, it would instead focus on a modern woman who’s channeling her spirit, she said, so the work will merge Rose Nichols’ world at the turn of the 20th century with a woman today reflecting on Nichols and her accomplishments.

The first performance on Friday night, June 3, will also conclude with a special reception and champagne toast to Guerilla Opera’s 15th  Anniversary Season, while the Saturday and Sunday performances “conclude with a tea reception in honor of the tradition of hosting salons, which was started by Rose Standish Nichols and her mother,” according to the Nichols House.

Barbra Callahan, the museum’s public engagement manager, said while an earlier opera performance had been staged at the Nichols House in 2019,  these performances will be unique in that the “inspiration, content, and location are all based on the life of Rose Nichols.”

“For me, as someone who knows the history of Rose Nichols, it was clearly exciting and moving to hear her story told though an opera,” said Callahan, “and since the collection at the museum is fairly static, tours and programs like this help bring the house alive.”

The opera was also specifically written to be performed in the rooms of the Nichols House, located at 55 Mount Vernon St., she said, and continues “a legacy of hosting music performances in the house and in the parlor,” which includes a 1902 performance in the parlor by opera singer Louise Homer.

“This is a site-specific piece that’s immersive and plays within the rooms in the house,” added Callahan. “To me, it’s very different and more intimate than watching a performance in a theatre.”

“I Give You My Home,” a collaboration between the Nichols House Museum and Guerilla Opera, is supported by an Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors award from OPERA America; a Live Arts Boston grant award from The Boston Foundation and its partners, the Barr Foundation and Dunamis Boston; and a CIP Projects grant award from Mass Cultural Council. The opera’s development has been in partnership with the University of Maine, Orono, The Switchboard artist residency program in Haverhill and the Nichols House Museum in Boston.

The performances each run approximately 60 minutes, and masks are mandatory for those in attendance. Advance tickets are required for all performances.

Tickets for the Friday, June 3, performance at 7 p.m. are “pay what you can” and have a suggested donation of $30 to $70. Visit (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/i-give-you-my-home-opening-night-tickets-331915106017) to purchase tickets and for more information.

Tickets for the two Saturday, June 4, performances at 4 and 6 p.m., respectively; and on Sunday, June 5, at 4 and 6 p.m., respectively, are “pay what you can” and have a suggested donation of $20 to $60. Visit (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/i-give-you-my-home-saturday-and-sunday-tickets-330208040137) to purchase tickets and for more information.

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