Fellow Travelers

Music by Gregory Spears
Libretto by Greg Pierce
Based on the 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon
Developed and co-commissioned by G. Sterling Zinsmeyer

Fellow Travelers was performed at Cincinnati Opera in 2016. The season's performances of this opera have concluded.

Sung in English with projected titles
Approximate running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes, including one intermissio

At the height of the McCarthy era in 1950s Washington, D.C., recent college grad Timothy Laughlin is eager to join the crusade against communism.

A chance encounter with a 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—an entanglement that will end in a stunning act of betrayal.

Cincinnati Opera is proud to present the world premiere of this heartrending opera by one of today’s leading composers, Gregory Spears, whose work has been called “astonishingly beautiful” (The New York Times) and “coolly entrancing” (The New Yorker). Playwright Greg Pierce has adapted Thomas Mallon's searing historical novel into an opera with the style of Mad Men and the political intrigue of House of Cards.


The New York Times
“With its smart music and sharp-edged romantic drama, Fellow Travelers seems assured of lasting appeal" Read the review.

The Wall Street Journal
"[The] subtle, lyrical music is beautiful without being obvious or sentimental." Read the review.

"A moving opera with a seductively beautiful score" Read the review.

Chicago Tribune
"One of the most accomplished new American operas" Read the review.

Opera News
"Music that breathes along with the story it tells" Read the review.

Opera Now
"Production and cast [brought]the beauty of love in all its form home to the heart" Read the review.

The Toronto Star
"A well-told, dramatically involving story." Read the review.

Cincinnati Enquirer
"Powerful... a ravishing musical score." Read the review.

"It is the finest new opera I have seen since Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Dead Man Walking premiered in 2000." Read the review.

"A remarkable cast" Read the review.

I Care If You Listen
"The rhythmic integrity of the vocal performances was highly commendable, and the execution of the pulse-based score was even more impressive..." Read the review.

The Broadway Blog
"Composer Spears has created a score that is often hauntingly beautiful yet simultaneously tuneful." Read the review.

Instinct Magazine
"I noticed that the opera resonated with everyone around me...It was a powerful performance and truly an event I will not forget." Read the review.

Jay Harvey Upstage
"...Fellow Travelers captures one of [America's] most intense, toxic eras by focusing on a heart-tugging romance." Read the review.

"The mostly youthful cast is superb all around and the two leads are vocally and physically convincing." Read the review. 

Man About World
"The silence and breathlessness after show's impassioned conclusion echoed with an answer of hollow bewilderment, tears hanging on eyelids, ready to jump." Read the review.

Seen and Heard International
"This superb musical drama is cause for celebration, especially in the first-class world premiere..." Read the review.

Classically Hip
"An excellent world premiere...Captures drama, passion, and quality" Read the review.



Aaron Blake   Timothy Laughlin

Aaron Blake
Timothy Laughlin

Joseph Lattanzi   Hawkins Fuller

Joseph Lattanzi
Hawkins Fuller


Timothy Laughlin  Aaron Blake
Hawkins Fuller  Joseph Lattanzi
Mary Johnson  Devon Guthrie
Senator Charles Potter/General Airlie/Bartender  Vernon Hartman
Estonian Frank/Interrogator/Senator Joseph McCarthy  Marcus DeLoach
Potter's Assistant/Bookseller/Party Guest/Technician/French Priest  Christian Pursell
Tommy McIntyre  Paul Scholten
Miss Lightfoot  Alexandra Schoeny
Lucy  Talya Lieberman

Conductor  Mark Gibson
Stage Director  Kevin Newbury
Scenic Designer  Victoria (Vita) Tzykun
Costume Designer  Paul Carey
Lighting Designer  Thomas C. Hase
Hair & Makeup Designer  James Geier

Presented in partnership with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
A new production constructed by Cincinnati Opera

Interview with the creators

excerpt: "our very own home"


"Heat Zone in the Cold War" - an essay by Thomas Mallon, courtesy of OPERA NEWS

In The News
6.27.2017 The New Yorker: The Decline of Opera Queens and the Rise of Gay Opera
6.25.2017 OperaWire: Renee Fleming, Gregory Spears' Fellow Travelers Headline PROTOTYPE Festival 2018
6.24.2017 Broadway World: Acquanetta, Fellow Travelers, The Echo Drift and More Among PROTOTYPE Festival's 2018 Lineup
6.22.17 Star Tribune: Minnesota Opera to perform in Minneapolis for first time since 1993
6.1.17 OperaWire: Pride Month 2017: A Look At The LGBT Operas In History
2.1.17 Out Magazine: Need to Know: Fellow Travelers, a Gay Opera for These Hectic Times
1.12.2017 The Bay Area Reporter: Lavender & under suspicion
1.8.17 Albuquerque Journal: Opera conceived by Santa Fe producer recognized by New York Times
12.7.16 The New York Times: The Best Classical Music of 2016
8.22.16 The Weekly Standard: Lavender Blues
7.2.16 The Well-Tempered Ear: A new opera takes listeners back to the Bad Old Days of anti-gay America - and reminds us of the bigotry today that camouflages itself as religious freedom
6.26.16 The Creators Project: Here's Why the Lavender Scare Still Matters
6.18.16 Cincinnati Enquirer: Deeply felt Fellow Travelers makes powerful impression
6.18.16 NPR: A New Opera Illuminates The 'Lavender Scare,' A Little-Explored Era In Queer History
6.16.16 Cincinnati Enquirer: Opera's world premiere dedicated to Orlando victims
6.16.16 Thought Catalog: Composer Gregory Spears: Fellow Travelers and The Nature of Homophobia
6.15.16 Broadway World: BBW Interview: Director Kevin Newbury, Contemporary Opera, and the World of Fellow Travelers
6.11.16 Dayton Daily News: Cincinnati Opera celebrates 96th season with world premiere
6.9.16 Cincinnati Enquirer: Robin Guarino adds new twists to old favorites
6.8.16 CityBeat: Home Team Advantage
4.18.16 Out Magazine: Behind the Scenes of Cincinnati’s Gay Opera
4.18.16 Opera News: Sound Bites: Gregory Spears
3.23.16 The China Post (China): Opera throws rare light on 1950s anti-homosexual ‘Lavender Scare’
3.22.16 NewNowNext: New Opera Revisits “Lavender Menace” Scare of the 1950s
3.22.16 Khmer Times (Cambodia): Opera throws rare light on ‘Lavender Scare’
3.22.16 The Manila Times (Philippines): Opera throws rare light on anti-gay scare
3.22.16 Malay Mail Online (Malaysia): Opera throws rare light on anti-gay ‘Lavender Scare’
3.21.16 Daily Mail (UK): Opera throws rare light on anti-gay ‘Lavender Scare’
3.21.16 Yahoo News: Opera throws rare light on anti-gay ‘Lavender Scare’
3.21.16 La Presse (Canada): Un opéra évoque la chasse aux homosexuels durant le maccarthysme
3.21.16 The Citizen (South Africa): Opera throws rare light on anti-gay ‘Lavender Scare’
3.1.16 The Brooklyn Rail: Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events