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. (While Lowell House is under renovation 2017-2019 the opera will be performed in the Agassiz Theatre, Radcliffe Quad.)

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

Kenneth Kaufman (president), Steven Coit, Edward Jones, Adrienne Boris, Noam Elkies, Charles Tarver, Rachel Yurman, David Laibson, Nina Zipser, Beth Terry (ex-officio)

Student affiliates of the LHO Board: Madeleine Snow ‘20, Benjamin Wenzelberg ‘21

Lowell House HISTORY

Lowell House is one of the twelve undergraduate houses at Harvard University. It is an active community of more than five hundred individuals: approximately four hundred undergraduate students, twenty five residents from Harvard’s graduate and professional schools, and over one hundred fifty affiliated faculty and staff.

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 Lowell House bells, a collection of 17 Russian bells, were given by Charles Crane as a gift to the house in 1930. The bells originally came from the St. Danilov Monastery in Moscow and were saved from being melted down by Stalin’s government. As a result of this gift, the design for a traditional clock tower was redesigned to incorporate a bell tower instead. In 2008 there was a carefully orchestrated bell exchange where the original bells were returned to the monastery, and a new set — cast at the Vera Foundry in Voronezh, Russia — were installed in Lowell House. There remains a robust cultural exchange between Lowell House and the St. Danilov Monastery to this day.

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 Faculty Deans, David Laibson and Nina Zipser, are the sixth set of Lowell House leaders in ninety 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 and began the habit of taking tea with students. One of the first tutors in Lowell House, the late historian Elliott Perkins, was master from 1942 to 1963 and was considered deeply influential to generations of Lowell House graduates. Classics scholar Zeph Stewart was the third master, evolving Lowell House into co-educational living and overseeing expanded musical and poemical traditions along with his wife and associate master, Diana Stewart. Computer scientist, aviator and polymath, William Bossert, moved into Lowell House in 1975 along with his wife Mary Lee, an assiduous and enterprising host. During the Bossert’s twenty-three year tenure, the weekly teas, High Tables, and opera galas blossomed and multiplied. Under the recent leadership of Comparative Religion professor Diana Eck and the Rev. Dorothy Austin, the first same-sex couple appointed masters of a Harvard House in 1998, these traditions of music and hospitality flourished and grew, and engendered new traditions such as the annual spring Speeches project.

Visit the Lowell House homepage for more information.