About Lowell House Opera
Established in 1938, the Lowell House Opera is the longest continually performing opera company in New England, featuring students, professionals, and community members from both Harvard and the greater Boston area. Each year, the Lowell House Dining Hall is home to a fully-staged opera production with costumes, set, and lighting, accompanied by a full orchestra comprised entirely of volunteer musicians. The hall functions as an intimate performance venue with superb acoustics, enabling audience members to experience professional-quality opera up close.
Lowell House Opera offers educational opportunities on many levels and is dedicated to developing skills and providing professional experience for young artists. Singers learn and perform their roles in the original language and explore the literary basis and historical context for the work. Experienced directors and production staff lead workshops and other opportunities, such as a week of master classes and performances in St. Petersburg, Russia in May 2014 with the Educational Bridge Project. For undergraduates in particular, the opera offers a unique opportunity to work with more experienced artists who have devoted their professional lives to opera, music, and theater.
Lowell House Opera Board:
About Lowell House
Lowell House is one of the twelve undergraduate houses at Harvard University. It is an active community of more than 500 people: approximately 400 undergraduate students, 25 resident tutors and scholars from Harvard’s graduate and professional schools, and 75 affiliated faculty and visiting scholars.
Lowell House cost a mere $3,620,000 to construct in 1930 and was one of the first two Houses established by the gift of Edward Harkness, whose colorful portrait hangs in the Dining Hall. Built by the firm of Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch, and Abbot, our neo-Georgian design won the Harleston Parker architectural medal in 1935. Lowell is usually considered a premier example of the Harvard House form.
The House was named for the Lowell family, closely identified with Harvard since John Lowell graduated in 1721. President Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1909-1933) instituted the House system, tutorials, the concentration system, and reading period. His bust and that of poet James Russell Lowell are in the main courtyard. In the Dining Hall are portraits of President Lowell and his wife; his sister Amy Lowell (Pulitzer prize-winning poet, and a lover of scandal credited with introducing D. H. Lawrence to America); his brother Percival Lowell (the astronomer who spearheaded the search for the planet Pluto); and his grandfather John Amory Lowell (a fellow of Harvard College for forty years).
The current Masters, Diana Eck and Dorothy Austin, are only the fifth Masters in nearly seventy years. Lowell’s first decade was overseen by Julian Lowell Coolidge, a distinguished mathematician who gained notoriety as the zealous head of the Boston Watch and Ward Society. It was Coolidge who instituted the traditional Monday night high table. High table, incidentally, was originally lampooned by The Crimson as a “forced and misplaced institution” and “grotesquely ridiculous.” One of the first tutors, the late historian Elliott Perkins, was Master from 1942 to 1963. Classics scholar Zeph Stewart was the third Master. William and Mary Lee Bossert moved into Masters’ lodging in 1975 and left in 1999 after 23 years of service to the Lowell community.
The word “tradition” is very Lowellian indeed. The Lowell House Opera, high tables, and the annual spring performance of the “1812 Overture” were institutionalized by the first decade. Few students fail to attend the famous five o’clock Thursday Teas in the Masters’ Residence; the Russian bells are rung at one o’clock every Sunday as well as for high tables, special dinners, New Year’s Eve, and, of course, the winning of football games. They were tolled formally for the College anniversary in 1986. A history of these musical wonders is available in the Lowell House Library.
An annual winter holiday dinner, the sophomore and senior dinners, and the Roundtable dinners and faculty dinners are also current Lowell House traditions. Various language tables and special interest tables are scheduled throughout the year. We have a healthy portion of Phi Beta Kappas, an active musical society, and ever-escalating intramural athletic participation.
Visit the Lowell House homepage for more information.