Website Ellen West Opera

Music by Ricky Ian Gordon
Libretto & Poem by Frank Bidart

Commissioned by Opera Saratoga and
Beth Morrison Projects.

Sung in English with English Supertitles

Through the evocative poetry of Pulitzer Prize winner Frank Bidart and the beautiful music of Ricky Ian Gordon, explore the emotional, psychological
and physical challenges of a woman struggling with perceptions of her body, her relationship with food, and the world closing in around her.

Inspired by one of the earliest cases of existential analysis, Ellen West is a remarkable new opera that brings the audience into the lives of psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger and his patient, “Ellen West.” Throughout her life, Ellen filled journals and wrote poetry. Frank Bidart’s poem, which serves as the primary source for the opera’s libretto, juxtaposes the clinical observations of Binswanger with fictitious entries of Ellen’s writing, which shine light on her deeply personal struggles. This tour-de-force chamber opera stars soprano Jennifer Zetlan in her Opera Saratoga debut as Ellen, along side baritone Keith Phares as her doctor. The world premiere production is directed by Emma Griffin, also in her Opera Saratoga debut, with Lidiya Yankovskaya at the podium.


AUDIENCE ADVISORY: This production contains mature themes and is not recommended for young children.

Lead Funding for ELLEN WEST at Opera Saratoga has been generously provided by The Poetry Foundation The Saratoga Foundation and New Music USA. ELLEN WEST has been commissioned with generous leadership support from The Poetry Foundation, The Ted & Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund, David and Kiki Gindler, and The Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts. The development of ELLEN WEST was made possible, in part, by an OPERA America Repertoire Development Grant, supported by the Opera Fund. Additional support for Community and Educational Programs has been provided by MVP Healthcare and The Dake Family Foundation/Stewart’s Shops. The world-premiere production of ELLEN WEST is a co-production of Opera Saratoga and Beth Morrison Projects. 


Sunday, June 30th, 2019 at 2:00pm

Saturday July 6th, 2019 at 2:00pm

Friday, July 12th, 2019 @ 7:30pm


Jennifer Zetlan  Ellen West

Jennifer Zetlan
Ellen West

Keith Phares  Dr. Binswanger

Keith Phares
Dr. Binswanger

Lidiya Yankovskaya  Conductor

Lidiya Yankovskaya

Emma Griffin  Director

Emma Griffin

Ricky Ian Gordon

Ricky Ian Gordon’s (Composer) most recent premieres include The House Without A Christmas Tree (2017, libretto by Royce Vavrek, Houston Grand Opera commission and premiere) and a reduction of The Grapes of Wrath (2017 two-act version commissioned and premiered by Opera Theatre of St. Louis). A highly prolific composer, Gordon’s catalog also includes Morning Star (2015, libretto by William Hoffman, Cincinnati Opera premiere), 27 (2014, libretto by Royce Vavrek, Opera Theatre of St. Louis premiere), A Coffin In Egypt (2014, libretto by Leonard Foglia, Houston Grand Opera premiere), Rappahannock County (2011, libretto by Mark Campbell, Harrison Opera House premiere), The Grapes of Wrath (2007 and 2010, libretto by Michael Korie; Minnesota Opera, 2007 premiere; American Symphony Orchestra, 2010 premiere); Green Sneakers (2008, libretto by Gordon, Miami String Quartet premiere), and more. Upcoming projects include the opera Intimate Apparelwith Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage (Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater commission), Private Confessionswith playwright Richard Nelson (Goodman Theatre commission), Ellen West (a co-commission between Opera Saratoga and Beth Morrison Projects), and an opera based on Giorgio Bassani’s novel The Garden of the Finzi Continis with librettist Michael Korie. Gordon has been a visiting professor at many colleges and universities, including Yale, New York University, The Juilliard School, and Manhattan School of Music. Among his honors are an Obie Award, Carnegie Mellon’s 2003 Alumni Merit Award for exceptional achievement and leadership, a Shen Family Foundation Award, the Stephen Sondheim Award, The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award, the Constance Klinsky Award, and many awards from ASCAP, of which he is a member.   

Frank Bidart

Frank Bidart (Poet/Librettist) was born in 1939 and educated at the University of California at Riverside and at Harvard University where he was a student and friend of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. His first volume of poetry, Golden State (1973), was selected by poet Richard Howard for the Braziller Poetry series but it was not until the publication of The Sacrifice(1983) that Bidart’s poetry began to attract a wider readership. His recent volumes include Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (2017), which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; Metaphysical Dog: Poems(2013); Watching the Spring Festival: Poems (2008); Star Dust (2005); Music Like Dirt (2002); and Desire(1997), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. He is also co-editor of Robert Lowell’s Collected Poems(2003). Bidart’s honors include the Wallace Stevens Award, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation Writer’s Award, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Shelley Award of the Poetry Society of America, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and The Paris Review’s first Bernard F. Conners Prize for “The War of Vaslav Nijinsky” in 1982. In 2007, he received the Bollingen Prize in American Poetry. Bidart was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2003. He resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has taught at Wellesley College since 1972. 


Conductor: Lidiya Yankovskaya
Director and Choreographer: Emma Griffin
Scenic Designer: Laura Jellinek
Costume Designer: Kay Voyce
Lighting Designer: Josh Epstein

The world-premiere production of Ellen West is a co-production of Opera Saratoga and Beth Morrison Projects.



The Spa Little Theater
21 Roosevelt Drive
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866