The engrossing drama ‘Penny’ is a thought-provoking musical feast. There are moments of real genius in this opera — where character, music, and song meet in a way that is pure magic.
— Jessica Vaughan, DC Metro Theater Arts



An Opera in one-act. Piano-Vocal Score. BSM0040a.

Libretto by Dara Weinberg

Duration: 60:00

Commissioned by Washington National Opera at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Premiered by the WNO, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists at the Kennedy Center, January 23-24, 2015.

Conductor, Anne Manson. Director, Alan Paul

Washington Post review, by Anne Midgette.

DC Metro Theater Arts review, by Jessica Vaughan.

Add Digital Score to Cart

For hard copies of the vocal score, please contact us directly.

‘Penny’ simply works, not because we should like it, but because it has a story to tell. The different levels of musical characterization were far more than merely evocative, and they succeeded on a dramatic as well as a musical level.
— Anne Midgette, Washington Post


Penny is an opera about the power of music. In the course of this one-hour opera, we see the leading character Penny Rutherford literally and figuratively find her voice. As Penny learns to express herself through singing, she transforms before our eyes and begins to believe in herself. 

Penny also happens to be a person with autism. As the saying goes, "if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." Tonight you'll me Penny, who is singular in every way. She does not typify a person with autism, but is one representation of it.

At its core, Penny is about discovering who you are—a journey that everyone goes through in their lives. Although this opera has a protagonist with autism, Penny could just as easily be anyone in the world who understands the power of music. As she sings of her fears, regrets, and dreams, you'll see what a unique and compelling leading character she is.  

— Alan Paul


  • Penelope "Penny" Rutherford — Mezzo-Soprano
    •  24 years old. Autistic. Musically gifted but untrained. She has never lived independently from her family.
  • Katherine Tate (née Rutherford) — Soprano
    •  Penny’s older sister. A junior high-school English teacher. 29.
  • Gary Tate — Baritone
    • Katherine’s husband. 31. A music teacher at the same school where Katherine teaches English. Focal dystonia ended his career as a pianist.
  • Mr. Jaeson Shaw — Bass
    • Social worker. Thirties or fourties. 
  • Raymond Fasten — Baritone
    • Dead before the opera begins. Penny and Katherine's Uncle. Mid-sixties.
  • Martin Halstrom — Tenor
    • pianist and composer, Gary's college roommate. 31.


perusal score

Related Works