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Hayley E. Wallenfeldt -SCENIC DESIGN




Space: Lyric Opera of Chicago

Faculty Mentors: Todd Rosenthal,          Andrew Boyce, Ana Kuzmanic, & Eric Southern


Winter 2022

Opera Design Collaboration Project

composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, libretto Vida Ognjenovic.

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Mileva is an opera about Mileva Maric Einstein, the first wife of Albert Einstein. The work was commissioned for the 150th Anniversary of Srpsko Narodno Pozoriste (Serbian National Theater). Opera by composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, libretto by Vida Ognjenovic.

Designed as a paper project in collaboration course. After the course the design was presented to the composer Aleksandra Vrebalov.

Mileva is an opera about power. Mileva is not powerless but she is disempowered by the world around her. She is a woman who has struggled with both mental health and disability in a world that was not built for her as a woman let alone with those additional disadvantages. She struggled to make a world made for men work for her. In trying to find her place in that world she encountered a man larger than life that swallowed her brilliance whole. Brilliant women, both in Mileva’s time and today often attracted men that shine as brightly as they do out of fascination, where those men then take over that woman’s dream and make her part of their own only to throw them out when those women no longer suit their purpose. Mileva was a strong independent woman and her love of Albert Einstein took that away from her. 

This power dynamic is represented on stage by the men, specifically Albert always being in the eye of the stage above Mileva. It is only in private when no one else is around that she is ever on an equal stage as him.


One of the central principles of physics is force and mass. Everything in the universe has mass and forces that act upon it. Mileva and Albert were two incredibly strong forces hurtling towards each other, like atoms in a collider but in the end her atom was the only one that broke. This opera is a tragedy of one woman fighting all her life against those with more power than her then losing when she stopped fighting the powers pushing her down and surrendered to the influence of one man and “his greatness,” snuffing out the potential she had to thrive on her own. 

Process Work

Click image to enlarge

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