An Opera About Gay Life in D.C. in the Fifties

The New Yorker

Gregory Spears’s opera “Fellow Travelers,” which is featured in this year’s Prototype Festival (Jan. 12-14), is a tale from the time of the “lavender scare”—the purging of homosexuals from federal employment in the nineteen-fifties. Around five thousand gay and lesbian people are thought to have lost their jobs; many never recovered from the ruin of their reputations, and an unknown number committed suicide. This shameful period is rightly associated with McCarthyism, but its most lethal instrument came directly from the desk of President Eisenhower: Executive Order 10450, which condemned “sexual perversion” and other amorphous improprieties. ALEX ROSS