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Tonya Harding Opera Premieres in Cambridge

By Ben Mattison
02 May 2006

Tonya and Nancy: The Opera, a new work based on the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan ice-skating scandal that unfolded prior to the 1994 Olympics, premieres in Cambridge, Massachusetts, tonight.

Harding and Kerrigan were both contenders at the U.S. figure skating championships in January of 1994 when an assailant, who eventually proved to have been hired by Harding's ex-husband, struck Kerrigan on the knee. Harding won the U.S. championship, but was later banned from the skating world and became a professional boxer.

The 40-minute opera has music by Tufts University graduate student Abigail Al-Doory; the libretto, by fiction writer Elizabeth Searle, is drawn in large part from interviews and other contemporary accounts of the scandal.

"Searle’s libretto and Al-Doory’s music present a possible interpretation of the intense competition, overwhelming suspicion, and fierce jealousy that may have existed between the two rivals," a press release says. "The opera also depicts (in fantasy sequences) the environments in which each skater grew up to further explore how the two women came to be who they are. The show climaxes with the final Olympic skate-off between Tonya and Nancy, and then finally examines their post-Olympic lives: Nancy as wife and mother and Tonya as a professional boxer."

According to the Associated Press, Harding's character is heard to sing, referring to her boxing career, "The difference is that you have to have the balls to punch the other girl in the face. The difference is you don't get in trouble for hitting her."

Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. tonight at the American Repertory Theatre's Zero Arrow Theatre in Harvard Square. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door. Each performance will be followed by a workshop with the production team.




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