March 14-15, 2019

This production of Rumpelstiltskin was made possible through the generous support of


We would also like to thank JIM HABER, SUSAN LARSON, and ROBERT HENRY for their support. This project was funded in part by a grants from the Boston Cultural Council and administered by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.


Gretchen — Britt Brown

Miller — Emily Thorner

Rumpelstiltskin — Aliana de la Guardia

King — Brian Church

Violin — Lilit Hartunian

Cello — Stephen Marotto

Saxophone — Philipp Stäudlin

Percussion — Mike Williams


Executive Director — Amy Advocat

Co-Artistic Director - Aliana de la Guardia

Co-Artistic Director — Julia Noulin-Mérat

Producer — Mike Williams


Stage Director — Nathan Troup

Puppetry — Deniz Khateri

Scenic Designer — Julia Noulin-Mérat

Lighting Designer — Keithlyn Parkman

Costume Designer — Charles Neumann

Assistant Director — Haley Bryant

Assistant Director — Bruno Baker

Associate Puppeteer — Asma Khoshmehr

Stage Manager — Sarah Schneider

Technical Director — Mark DiGiovanni

Conductor — Jeffrey Means

Associate Conductor — Matt Sharrock

Rehearsal Pianist — Tae Kim


Help us record Rumpelstiltskin!

We are releasing Rumpelstiltskin as a studio album! Please help make it happen!



Rumpelstiltskin is a tragedy, a story about a hideously deformed little man who believes that, because of his physical appearance, he is unlovable. The little man, who has mysterious magic powers, really only wants one thing in life, and that is to love someone and have that loved returned unconditionally.

Every day he sits in a tree and watches Gretchen and her father, the Miller, as they go about their daily routine. He longs for the kind of relationship they have with each other and decides that his only path to true love is to somehow have a child of his own.

One day the King approaches Gretchen and Miller with an offer for Gretchen. A misleading boast leads the King to believe that Gretchen can spin gold out of straw. The greedy King decides to test her by locking her up in a room in his castle filled with straw and a spinning wheel. He tells her that if she does not complete the task, he will have her put to death. But, if she does complete the task, he will make her his bride.

The little man sees this as an opportunity to be in a position to get the only thing he has ever wanted; he seizes the opportunity, helps Gretchen, and in exchange extracts a promise from her that she will give him her first-born child. It seems as if true and unconditional love is finally within his grasp. However, he ultimately loses his chance at love because of his kind nature. He takes pity on Gretchen and her love for her child, and allows her to try to guess his name in exchange for keeping her child. She miraculously discovers his name and therefore keeps her child; however, no one could have anticipated the incredible and terrible consequences of Gretchen speaking his name out loud. This is the true tragedy of the story. 

Marti Epstein, Composer of Rumpelstiltskin

Marti Epstein, Composer of Rumpelstiltskin


Guerilla Opera approached me about writing a chamber opera in the spring of 2007. At the suggestion of a writer friend, I chose the Rumpelstiltskin story, and I decided to retell the story with Rumpelstiltskin as the sympathetic character.

I rewrote the story to fill in details that are left out in the original fairy tale. I felt that only the King’s motivations - greed, and possibly lust - were clear. The other characters’ behaviors needed some explanation. Why does Rumpelstiltskin want a child so badly? Why does the girl agree to give him her child, only to renege on that promise? Why did the father lie to the King about his daughter’s spinning skill? The spinning scene was also very compelling to me. I could not get Gretchen am Spinnrade” by Schubert out of my head. The motivic material in the second scene is based on the piano accompaniment of the Schubert song.

I started thinking about other ways to present this opera as soon as the premiere performances were finished. Animation seemed interesting. But when I became acquainted with the work of Iranian theater artist, Deniz Khateri, I knew that shadow puppets could be a beautiful and brilliant way to tell the story. This is a fairy tale, after all, and using puppets to tell the story instead of live humans acting while singing seemed the perfect way to free the singers to focus on expressing the music while allowing the shadow puppets to reveal the action of the story.

—Marti Epstein

CO-AD Emily + Julia - Edited.jpg


In our twelfth season we bring you a new and different production of a work we commissioned ten years ago – Rumpelstiltskin by Marti Epstein. 

It is difficult to address the music of a woman composer without relating it to our current #MeToo era.  We must preface that it was not Marti’s intention to overtly address this as she was writing it for Guerilla Opera in 2008.  

The Brothers Grimm wrote gruesome and scary cautionary tales for children. Though Marti’s musical interpretation departs from the gore, she does present a caution that, though inherently different, is real. The story she crafts is of a cycle of abuse.

Rumpelstiltskin, originally the distained villain, is cast as a sympathetic figure, and reveals how the abused and neglected become the abuser. Under the thumb of the only character with societal power, and the only character in the production, that is not a treble voice. 

The music of Marti Epstein is deceptively simple, infinitely complex and completely unique. Her Rumpelstiltskin embraces the traditional structures of opera and translates them through her unique compositional voice, which, though gentle, is not passive. The sound her music requires is quiet, careful, and beautiful. Routed in traditional harmonies, the subtle changes in tonality demand attention from both the interpreters and the listeners. 

It became clear that because of the intricacies of the musical score, we could not perform this opera in Guerilla Opera’s traditional fashion. So we set out to challenge our musicality by presenting something routed in concert tradition, but with our same storytelling sensibilities and ensemble centered approach with the help of our esteemed friend, conductor Jeffrey Means of Sound Icon. 

Presenting Rumpelstiltskin is demonstrative of our larger mission to preserve our unique commissioned body of work written specifically for our artist ensemble. Producing high quality studio recordings reinforces our musical commitment to keeping the work of our composers alive and accessible while promoting Guerilla Opera’s unique and original sound. 

It is our distinct privilege to share our art with you. Please keep your eyes peeled as we look to announce a very full, very exciting thirteenth season, featuring world premieres and the return of one of our favorite opera productions!  

We thank you for your kind and continued support. 

 —Aliana de la Guardia and Julia Noulin-Mérat, Co-Artistic Directors