Intimate Apparel
Intimate Apparel

Intimate Apparel

New York, NY
Lynn Nottage adapts her iconic play into a brand new opera.
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About Intimate Apparel

Lincoln Center Theater’s first opera, INTIMATE APPAREL, is set in turn-of-the-century New York. It tells the story of Esther, a lonely, single African-American woman who makes her living sewing beautiful corsets and ladies’ undergarments. There is warm affection between her and the Orthodox Jewish man who sells fabrics to her, but any relationship between them, even a touch, is completely forbidden. Seeking love and romance, Esther eventually embarks on a letter-writing relationship with a mysterious suitor laboring on the Panama Canal. When he moves to New York, they embark on an unhappy marriage, leading Esther to realize that only her self-reliance and certainty of her own worth will see her through life’s challenges. Directed by Bartlett Sher.

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Intimate Apparel was in previews in 2020 when theatres shut down, and now, the opera resumes its world-premiere run with Lincoln Center Theater. Get Intimate Apparel tickets on TodayTix.

Intimate Apparel follows a young Black woman named Esther who moves to New York in 1905, seeking work as a seamstress. She soon does just that, making a living sewing beautiful undergarments and corsets for women. Though she desires — and has — independence, she can’t help but fall for the Orthodox Jewish man who sells her fabric, although they both know their romance is forbidden. Hoping to keep love in her life, Esther pivots to a letter-writing relationship with a Panama Canal worker. When they eventually marry, it’s not as romantic as Esther had hoped. She has to rely on her independent spirit to keep her going, and maybe eventually find the true love she’s hoped for.

Here's why you need to see 'Intimate Apparel,' the first opera at Lincoln Center Theater

The Intimate Apparel opera is based on the 2003 play of the same name that first gained Lynn Nottage widespread attention as a playwright. The Intimate Apparel play won New York Drama Critics' Circle, American Theatre Critics, and Outer Critics Circle Awards upon premiering Off-Broadway in 2004, and the show has since become one of the most frequently produced plays in America. She collaborated with composer Ricky Ian Gordon for the opera adaptation, which is helmed by Bartlett Sher, the Tony Award-winning director behind Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird, My Fair Lady, The King and I, and more.

Get tickets to Intimate Apparel in New York on TodayTix.

What to Watch For

  • The story of the Intimate Apparel opera and play is based on the life of Lynn Nottage’s actual great-grandmother, Esther. She knew that Esther was a seamstress and had married a Barbadian immigrant, but after finding a photo of Esther and her two daughters while cleaning out her grandmother’s house, Nottage was inspired to research more about what Esther’s life in New York might have been like.
  • Intimate Apparel Off-Broadway is a product of a joint program between Lincoln Center Theater and the Metropolitan Opera, launched in 2006, to commission new operas. Another opera from the program, based on Sarah Ruhl’s play Eurydice, is also premiering at the Met this season!
  • Instead of the 4,000-seat Metropolitan Opera House, Intimate Apparel will stay true to its “intimate” name and go up at the 299-seat Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Back in the 1970s, the theatre was intended as a “mini-Met” where the Metropolitan Opera could produce contemporary and Baroque shows as well as rare chamber operas.
  • Lynn Nottage remains the only woman to ever win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice: She won in 2009 for Ruined and again in 2017 for Sweat.
  • Though Intimate Apparel marks her first time writing an opera libretto in collaboration with a composer, the world of musical performance isn’t unfamiliar to Nottage. Before building a career as a playwright, she studied piano at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, right near Lincoln Center!
Run time

2h 30m (one intermission)

Start date

January 13th, 2022

End date

March 6th, 2022




Lincoln Center Theater - Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater


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