Campus & Community

Under the gold and crimson dome

5 min read

Located on the banks of the Charles River next to the Weeks Footbridge, Dunster House is distinguished by its gold and crimson dome, which was modeled after the tower of Christ Church at Oxford. Famous Dunster residents have included former Vice President Al Gore and actor Tommy Lee Jones, who were roommates in the late 1960s, as well as comedian and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, novelist Norman Mailer, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Like other Harvard Houses, this one has its traditions, the major being the Dunster House Opera, the “Messiah” sing-a-long at Christmas, and a goat roast in the spring.

The opera epitomizes the inclusive, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-pitch-in spirit of the House. It utilizes only undergraduates for its cast, staff, and orchestra. This means that everyone shares multiple roles, with singers assembling sets shortly before they go onstage to deliver their arias. For many members of the cast, it is their first experience with opera. Performances take place in the Dunster dining room, which each night is quickly transformed from a sea of tables and chairs to a stage. This season’s performance was the operetta “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss II.

The camaraderie built on the set by producers, singers, and stagehands working side by side extends through the House. Diana Suen ’11 summed that up nicely: “Since my first day at Dunster, when I was smothered with hugs from our House mascot, I have never felt for want of a friendly face. There is nothing that compares to the bonds formed over intense IM games, late nights in the dining hall slaving over problem sets with friends, ice cream study breaks hosted by the Masters and resident tutors, and, yes, even the sometimes-too-cozy intimacy of walk-through rooms. Dunster truly feels like my home away from home.”

Dunster House, built in 1930 near the Weeks Footbridge over the Charles River, was named in honor of Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard College. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Diana Suen ’11 and Michael Baskin ’11 confer on a project over lunch in the dining room. In addition to being the place where students eat their meals, the dining room is also a gathering spot for students working or socializing at almost any time of day. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Dunster plays Leverett in the House volleyball championships. The teams split the first two sets before Leverett took the last one, winning the match. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (left) greets students after a Dunster House dinner as House Master Roger Porter (center) looks on. Dinners like this one allow students to meet political and cultural figures in an intimate setting where they can ask questions and share ideas. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Garrett Barnard ’13 finds some solitude for studying in the Dunster library on a weeknight. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Cast members Jack Ausick ’13 and Stephanie Havens ’14 work on the set prior to the Dunster House Opera Society’s rehearsal of “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Sofia Selowsky ’12 applies makeup to Michael Cherella ‘ 11 before a performance of Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” by the Dunster House Opera Society. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Stewart Kramer ’12 puts modesty aside as he irons his pants before going onstage. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
The Dunster House Opera Society rehearses “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss. Allison Ray ’14 looks out from the set while waiting for additional stagehands to arrive. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Music director Matt Aucoin ’12 conducts the orchestra during a rehearsal. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
In a show of camaraderie, Dunster House Opera Society members raise hands in a group salute before going onstage to perform Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus.” Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Framed by a bass player in the orchestra, the Dunster House Opera Society performs Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” with Ben Nelson ’11 and Bridget Haile ’11 in the lead roles at center stage. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
The Dunster moose leads House members in a high-energy cheer on Housing Day, when freshmen receive their House assignments. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Michael Baskin ’11 of Dunster House gets a hug from the Pforzheimer bear in the Yard on Housing Day. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Dunsterites Anissa Mak ’13 (left) and Melody Wu ’13 (right) proudly proclaim their House allegiance as meese, their way of denoting the plural form of moose, the symbol of Dunster. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Cherry blossoms frame students dining in the courtyard during the annual goat roast at Dunster House. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
A goat is suspended over coals as students play Frisbee and soccer in the Dunster courtyard at the annual goat roast. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Danny Erickson ’14 finds a piece of goat just a little bit chewy. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Rob Tennyson (left) jousts with Courtney Cronin ’11 in the courtyard at one of many activities taking place during the annual Dunster House goat roast. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Liora Simozar ’13 (left) and Tess Hellgren ’11 share a laugh while getting tangled up in wind-blown ribbons in the courtyard during festivities at the annual Dunster House goat roast. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Dunsterite Zoe Morrison ’11, who hails from Hawaii, sports a lei at Commencement’s Morning Exercises. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Tiffany Smalley ’11 receives her diploma from Dunster House Master Roger Porter at the House ceremony during Commencement. Smalley is the first member of the Wampanoag tribe to graduate from Harvard College since Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck received his degree in 1665. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Dunster House families have their own photo op as they capture graduates receiving diplomas at the House ceremony following Commencement Morning Exercises. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Susan Zhu ’11 gets a congratulatory hug from Dunster House Co-Master Ann Porter at the House diploma ceremony on Commencement day. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
A full moon rises behind the Dunster House tower. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer