Henry Akona | Director and Composer

The Blonsky Device

An opera inspired by the lives of George and Charlotte Blonsky
Part of the 2013 Ig Nobel Awards Ceremony
By Improbable Research
At Sanders Theatre, Harvard University
Directed by Henry Akona
September 12, 2013

Libretto by Marc Abrahams
With the music of Gounod, Beethoven and Rossini
Arranged and orchestrated by Henry Akona

The story of a married couple named George and Charlotte Blonsky who invented a machine called it "An apparatus for facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force." In 1965, the Patent Office granted them a patent number 1126423. In 1999, George and Charlotte were posthumously awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for their invention. The Blonsky Device is the story—with a few extra touches, we admit!—of how they got their idea, and of how they MIGHT have used the machine. It all began with a visit to the zoo ...


Maria Ferrante, soprano, as Charlotte Blonsky
Martin Kelly, tenor, as George Blonsky
Philip Lima, baritone, as The Zookeeper
Miles Rind, bass, as The Patent Examiner


The Forces of Nature, An All-Star Bio-Medical Orchestra
Thomas Michel (Harvard Medical School Professor of Medicine), Accordion
Ted Sharpe (computational biologist at the Broad Institute), Violin
David Fisher (Harvard Medical School Professor and Chair of Dermatology), Cello
Elizabeth Henske (Harvard Medical School Professor of Medicine), Flute
Ben Steinhorn (Harvard Medical School MD-PhD student), Bassoon
Abby Schiff (Harvard Medical School MD-PhD student), Clarinet
Chris Ramirez (Harvard College undergraduate), Trombone
David Gootenberg (Harvard Medical School MD-PhD student), Percussion


Catherine Quick Spingler, costumes
Eric Workman, props
Chelsea Long, assistant director