Handmaid's Tale Character Guide
Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985 and won an array of awards. In 2000, the Danish composer Poul Ruders decided to adapt this novel into an opera using the musical talents of librettist Paul Bentley. Poul Ruders had a challenge ahead of him when composing this opera as the story is full of tumultuous emotions and covers difficult subject matter.
Despite the obstacles that come with this kind of adaptation, Ruders stays as close as possible to the original story. So whether you’re a fan of the novel or new to the whole narrative, you’re bound to be swept away into the utopia that is the Republic of Gilead. Let’s dive right in and meet the characters.
The Handmaid whose story we follow is given the name Offred after she has passed through the Red Centre and has been indoctrinated as a handmaid. This name is given to her as she ‘belongs’ to The Commander whose name is Fred thus, her name is the words ‘of Fred’ joined together to show which house she belongs to. In this 2022 production of the Handmaid’s Tale opera, Offred is played by Kate Lindsey.
Women who live in sin are taken to Red Centres where they are indoctrinated as Handmaids by Aunts and the Aunt in charge of the entire operation is Aunt Lydia. This soprano role is played by Emma Bell.
The head of the household that Offred belongs to is run by The Commander who is played by Soloman Howard. The Commander is to ritually inseminate Offred in the hope of her bearing their offspring. However, the plot takes a turn when The Commander realises he is developing feelings for Offred. His feelings alone are enough to break the rules but he also asks her to ‘kiss him like she means it’ which is forbidden. This bass-baritone role is sung by Robert Hayward.
Serena is the wife of The Commander and a former gospel singer. She encourages Offred’s illegal affair with Nick but turns her into the police when she realises that Offred has also been privately seeing The Commander. Serena Joy is an alto part played by Avery Amereau.
Frederick Ballentine plays the tenor role of Nick – the handyman who becomes Offred’s secret lover.
Moira is a friend of Offred who goes through the process of indoctrination at the Red Centre with her and is played by soprano Pumeza Matshikiza. Moira eventually manages to make her escape before the others graduate from the Red Centre.Frederick Ballentine plays the tenor role of Nick – the handyman who becomes Offred’s secret lover.
Another friend of Offred’s is Ofglen – similarly named because she belongs to the household run by Glen. Oflgen and Offred become confidants and Oflgen tells Offred of the resistance movement and wants her to join. This soprano role is played by Elin Pritchard.