Birds & Balls

Vinkensport Composer David T. Little | Vinkensport Librettist Royce Vavrek

Balls Composer Laura Karpman | Balls Librettist Gail Collins

Dates:
Friday, April 5, 2024 7.30 PM
Saturday, April 6, 2 PM & 7.30 PM
Sunday, April 7, 2 PM

Ticket prices: $40 – $185 for April 5 & 7 performances; $50 – $205 for April 6 performance

Venue: SFJAZZ Center’s Miner Auditorium, 201 Franklin St,  San Francisco | Get Directions

Running Time: 90 minutes no intermission

Birds & Balls is a world premiere double bill, combining the West Coast premiere of the comedic one act opera Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera by 2024 Grammy nominated composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek, with the world premiere of the one act opera Balls by 2024 Oscar nominated composer Laura Karpman and librettist Gail Collins.

If you didn’t know about the Flemish sport of Finch Sitting (think Best in Show for bird owners) or hadn’t imagined the many influences at play in the famed 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, you are in for an unprecedented comedic operatic evening.  Get ready to see a live operatic tennis match, hilarious social artifacts of the 70’s, and a cast of extremely talented, engaging characters come to life at SFJAZZ’s Miner Auditorium.

Fellow Travelers follows the story of Hawk and Tim, who become clandestine lovers at the height of the McCarthy Era in 1950’s Washington D.C. Recent college graduate Timothy Laughlin is eager to join the crusade against communism, and a chance encounter with handsome State Department official Hawkins Fuller leads to Tim’s first job—and his first love affair with a man.

Drawn into a maelstrom of deceit, Tim struggles to reconcile his political convictions and his forbidden love for Fuller. The piece uses the love affair of Laughlin and Fuller to shed light on the ‘Lavender Scare’, an often-overlooked period of McCarthyism that resulted in the mass firings of suspected homosexuals from the United States government. With Senator McCarthy’s investigations into ‘sexual subversives’, Tim struggles to reconcile his political convictions, his love for God, and his love for Fuller.

 

FELLOW TRAVELERS

An Opera by Gregory Spears

Libretto by Greg Pierce

Based on the 2007 novel “Fellow Travelers” by Thomas Mallon

FELLOW TRAVELERS was originally developed and co-commissioned by G. Sterling Zinsmeyer & Cincinnati Opera. Original production directed by Kevin Newbury.

Used by arrangement with European American Music Distributors Company, sole U.S. and Canadian agent for Schott Helicon Music Corporation, New York, publisher and copyright owner.

The West Coast premiere of the opera adaptation of Thomas Mallon’s novel Fellow Travelers, a tender love story and political thriller set in the corridors of power during the McCarthy era. Adapted by composer Gregory Spears and librettist Greg Pierce, Opera Parallèle and the Presidio Theatre are proud to bring this contemporary classic to the West Coast, a beautiful opera with the message that love will always flourish under persecution.

Sung in English with supertitles

EnhanceYour Experience

These resources are designed to enhance your experience of Birds & Balls. Opera Parallèle brings together these two comedic operas about sport, competition, and the definition of success.  

Creators Conversation

Here from the composers of Birds & Balls – David T. Little and Laura Karpman in conversation with OP General & Artistic Director Nicole Paiement.

OP Dialogues:

On the Basis of Sex – Competition, Title IX, and Billie Jean King

Recorded March 15, 2024 at SFJAZZ.

Humans have an innate desire to compete and win. Why do we compete? What motivates us to compete? How does this intersect with gender?

Videos

 Check out this footage of the real life footage of a Vinkensport match and the 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match.

Birds

Jeremy Clarkson Meets the Neighbours “Belgium & Holland.”

Watch a real life Vinkensport match as the host visits Flanders.

“Vinkensport: Belgium’s Competitive Bird Calling.” Amusing Planet

An introduction to the rules and history of Vinkensport.

“Great Nature Watch Chaffinch Song”

Hear an example of a chaffinch’s song. Males typically sing two or three different song types  

Poem: “The Blinded Bird.” Thomas Hardy

Hardy uses biblical themes to decry the historical practice of blinding the birds to encourage them to sing.  

Balls

Billie Jean King: “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn't win that match.”

“Champions Adjust.” -BJK The stats and impact of the famous match.

Poem: “Battle of the Sexes” Liz Brownlee

Listen to Helena Bonham Carter read this inspiring poem

Beyond the Court: Billie Jean King's Triumph in The Battle of the Sexes

Learn more about BJK’s legacy and the famous dress now part of the Smithsonian’s collection.

Billie Jean King reflects on 50th anniversary of equal prize money at 2023 US Open

Fifty-one years ago, Billie Jean King drew her line in cement (or, more accurately, grass courts)

Cast & Creativesfor Birds & Balls

Cast

Tiffany Austin

Tiffany Austin

Marilyn (Balls)

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Hometown: Los Angeles, California, USA

 

Tiffany Austin is a vocalist, composer, educator, and Berkeley Law Juris Doctor. She has performed with luminaries such as Pharoah Sanders, Roy Ayers, John Handy, Cyrus Chestnut, and Doug Carn. Her soulful delivery and musical storytelling has brought her to stages at Birdland and Dizzy's Den in NYC, Walt Disney Concert Hall in her native Los Angeles and the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco. Beyond California, she has performed in Europe, Asia, and Australasia, as well as on nationally televised programming in the United States.

 

Photo Credit: Leah Marie Photography

Jamie Chamberlin*

Jamie Chamberlin*

Holy St. Francis's Trainer (Vinkensport) | Vocal Quartet (Balls)

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Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA, USA

 

Jamie Chamberlin enjoys a diverse career as a soprano, producing artist, and sought-after interpreter of new works. As Marilyn Monroe in the US Premiere of Marilyn Forever (Bryars/Bowering), Jamie was praised for her “shimmering tones” and “star-struck vulnerability” (Opera News). Career highlights include Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Cunegonde in Candide, Lucy in The Telephone, and Hazel George in the US Premiere of The Perfect American by Philip Glass. In collaborations with rock legend Stewart Copeland of The Police, Jamie is celebrated for her “superhuman soprano” (Schmopera) as Faustine in The Invention of Morel and Raphaella in Satan’s Fall. A Delos recording artist (Terrain of the Heart), Jamie’s voice can also be heard during the water ballet scene in the Coen Bros 2016 film, Hail Caesar! Chamberlin holds BA and MM degrees from UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of music, where she has also served as Lecturer in Vocal Technique.

 

www.jamiechamberlin.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Cilli

Daniel Cilli

Atticus Finch’s Trainer (Vinkensport) | Larry King (Balls)

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Hometown: Emeryville, CA, USA

 

Baritone Daniel Cilli has performed an array of new and standard works throughout the Bay Area and the United States. Daniel debuted in 2016 at the San Francisco Opera and has returned for multiple engagements there. Previously with Opera Parallèle: Le Directeur in Les mamelles de Tirésias by Poulenc/Apollinaire, Thames Captain in Heart of Darkness by Tarik O’Regan/Tom Phillips/Joseph Conrad, title role in Gesualdo, Prince of Madness graphic opera by Dante De Silva/Mitchell Morris.

 

https://www.danielcilli.com/

 

Photo credit Daniel Cilli

Nathan Granner

Nathan Granner

Han Sach’s Trainer (Vinkensport) | Bobby Riggs (Balls)

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Hometown: Kansas City, KS, USA

 

Tenor Nathan Granner has enjoyed a unique and diverse performing career which has allowed him to leverage his distinctive timbre and impressive range in a multitude of projects and productions. Granner's early studies included training with Utah Festival Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Pittsburgh Opera Center. Granner was also a semifinalist at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in New York City. Most recently, Mr. Granner has achieved critical success in a challenging and unique mix of roles and works including a debut of Verdi's Alfredo with both Fort Worth Opera and Opera Santa Barbara, an on-film and studio soundtrack recording of the title role in Gordon Getty's Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and Rob Hall in the award-winning animated film Everest, produced by Opera Parallèle and presented by The Dallas Opera. New roles for the coming seasons include Mozart's Don Ottavio and Bizet's Don Jose.

 

https://www.ngranner.com/

 

Photo credit Sage Etters

Mark Hernandez

Mark Hernandez

Howard Cosell (Balls)

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Hometown: Palm Springs, CA, USA

 

Mark Hernandez previously appeared with Opera Parallèle as the Ring Announcer in Champion (Terence Blanchard & Michael Cristopher) and Motorcycle Cop/Inmate in Dead Man Walking (Jake Heggie & Terence McNally). For many years, he was a member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus, and a teaching artist for the San Francisco Opera Guild. He collaborated with Lotfi Mansouri, former General Director of San Francisco Opera, on True Tales from the Mad, Mad, Mad World of Opera and Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Odyssey. By day, Mark works for The Trevor Project.

Photo credit Orna Rae Boozler

Chelsea Hollow*

Chelsea Hollow*

Farinelli’s Trainer (Vinkensport)

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Hometown: Thousand Oaks, CA, USA

 

Chelsea Hollow is known for her “soaring high range” and “stage panache!” premiering new operatic works such as the roles of Helen Chavez and Ethel Kennedy in Dolores (Benavides/Koch) and Fenghuang in Hutong (Dong/Datta/Schick). Traditional operatic roles include Queen of the Night, Zerbinetta, Lakmé, and Olympia. Hollow “has rewritten the book on the potential of musical activism," curating & commissioning powerful perspective-expanding solo recitals as well as exploring ways to make traditional opera exciting to new audiences. In recognition of this work, Hollow presented on Art and Activism (2021) for the United Nations’ Office of Human Rights. In 2023, Aerocade Music released Chelsea’s debut album Cycles of Resistance, featuring 22 of her commissions. The album journeys through international resistance movements over the last 120 years, chronicling human resilience in Mandarin, Dutch, Turkish, Arabic, Sanskrit, and Czech in addition to English.           

Learn more at chelseahollow.com.

 

Photo credit Veronique Kherian

Nina Jones*

Nina Jones*

Butler (Vinkensport) | Vocal Quartet (Balls)

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Hometown: Bolton, MA, USA

 

Originally from Bolton, Massachusetts, Nina Jones, mezzo-soprano, graduated with their Masters of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of Susanne Mentzer in 2023. In 2021, Nina graduated from McGill’s Schulich School of Music, with a Bachelors of Music and Dean’s Honour List distinction, studying with Dominique Labelle and Louise Pelletier. Nina has appeared in hundreds of vocal, theatrical, choral, and ensemble performances, some of the most notable including Bireno in Freschi's Olimpia Vendicata (Ars Minerva, 2023), L’enfant in Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges (SFCM, 2023), Flora in Dove's The Enchanted Pig (SFCM, 2022), and Nireno in Handel's Giulio Cesare (SFCM, 2022). Nina will begin their 2024-2025 season signing in the chorus of the San Francisco Opera’s The Handmaid’s Tale as well as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

 

www.ninaejones.com

 

Photo credit Dean Birinyi

Gabriela Linares*

Gabriela Linares*

Butler (Vinkensport) | Rosie Casals (Balls)

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Hometown: Puerto Rico

 

Puerto Rican mezzo-soprano, Gabriela Linares, completed her undergraduate degree at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in voice and ethnomusicology, and her masters degree in voice at the San Francisco Conservatory. Her instructors include Rhoslyn Jones, Jonathan Beyer, and Marlene Rosen. Linares is a winner of the Oregon District (2023) and award recipient of the North West Region of the Metropolitan Opera’s Laffont Competition. At the Oberlin Conservatory she sang in Trouble in Tahiti (Dinah), Dialogues of the Carmelites (Mère Marie), and Cosi Fan Tutte (Dorabella). At the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, she performed in the productions of Giulio Cesare (Cornelia) and The Consul (Mother). She performed in the production of Gianni Schicchi (Zita) with Chautauqua Opera Company and Conservatory. She was a 2023 Gerdine Young Artist at the Opera Theater of St. Louis where she stepped in their production of the opera Susannah (Mrs. Ott). Gabriela will be performing in Opera Parallele’s premiere of Birds & Balls (Rosie Casals).

 

https://gabrielalinaresmezzo.com/

 

Photo credit Helenna Santos

Nikola Printz

Nikola Printz

Billie Jean King (Balls)

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Hometown: Oakland, CA, USA

 

Known for their vast stylistic range and artistic fearlessness, multi-hyphenate performer Nikola Printz (they/them) is quickly becoming a rising star in the opera world. Currently in their first year in the prestigious Adler Program with San Francisco Opera, Printz has already made a splash in the Bay Area Classical music scene, having held many titular roles from previous engagements including Carmen and Dido (Opera San Jose), Orfeo (Orfeo Ed Euridice-West Edge Opera), Domenico Freschis unknown masterpiece – Ermelinda and Oreste in Astianatte (both with baroque recreation company Ars Minerva.) Upcoming engagements include covering roles in the 2023 Fall Season with San Francisco Opera as well as singing the role of Rosina in Barber of Seville with Opera San Jose in November of 2023.

 

http://www.nikolaprintz.com/

 

Photo credit Destiny Grace

Chad Somers*

Chad Somers*

Referee (Vinkensport) | Vocal Quartet (Balls)

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Hometown: St. Louis, MO

 

Award-winning tenor, Chad Somers, sings on opera stages and in concert halls across the country. His current season sees Chad take on the role of Curley in Floyd’s Of Mice and Men with Livermore Valley Opera, and he will return to Opera Modesto to create the role of Sherlock Holmes in the world premiere of Meier/Lewis' Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant. He anticipates creating the role of Boy in the operatic adaptation of the Pulitzer-finalist play Bulrusher (Nat Stookey and Eisa Davis, West Edge Opera) and will give a reprise performance of last year’s premiere of Laitman’s orchestral song cycle, Becoming a Redwood, with Livermore Amador Symphony. Chad will sing the tenor soloists in Finzi’s Intimations of Immortality with Stockton Chorale and Orchestra and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria with Symphony San Jose. Chad recently appeared as the tenor soloists in Britten’s St. Nicolas under the baton of Jordan Cox in St. Louis and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2, Lobgesang with Sacramento Chorale and Orchestra. Other recent highlights include Fritz in Offenbach’s The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein (Offenbach, Pocket Opera), King George in Eight Songs for a Mad King (Maxwell Davies, EnsembleID) and Kudrjaš in Kat’a Kabanova (Janacek, West Edge Opera). Collaborations with Heggie, Lachenmann, Laitman, Stewart Copeland, Guettel and more. Winner of the Philadelphia Classical Singer Competition and finalist in the Friends of Eastman Opera Competition.

 

www.chadsomers.com

 

Photo Credit: Jeannie Liataud

Chung-Wai Soong

Chung-Wai Soong

Prince Gabriel III of Belgium’s Trainer (Vinkensport) | Vocal Quartet (Balls)

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Hometown: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

Bass-baritone Chung-Wai Soong has sung with companies in Australia and the US, in extensive repertoire which includes world premieres: David Chesworth (Sabat Jesus); Lisa Bielawa’s groundbreaking streaming opera, Vireo; and the title role in Meira Warshauer’s Elijah’s Violin. He has been featured soloist in works by Bach, Fauré, Mozart, Dvořák, Berlioz and Handel. He sang Schumann’s Dichterliebe at the Melbourne International Festival, which was broadcast live nationally on ABC.

Chung-Wai has sung with the San Francisco Symphony as Mityukha (Boris Godunov), and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy under Kurt Masur, which he also performed at Ojai Festival under Artistic Director Jeremy Denk. Roles include Sadistic Sailor (Missy Mazolli’s Breaking the Waves), High Priest (Nabucco), Melchior (Amahl and the Night Visitors), Kuligin (Katya Kabanova), and Un vieux paysan in Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue. Recent and upcoming: Marco in Gianni Schicchi (Hawaii Opera Theatre), Senator in The Shining (Opera Parallèle debut), Chamberlain in Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (West Edge Opera), the title role in Il Ducato – The New Mikado (Lamplighters Music Theatre), Soloist in Duruflé Requiem (Grace Cathedral), Benoit and Alcindoro in La Bohéme (Hawaii), Christus in Bach’s St. John Passion (San Francisco Bach Choir).

 

Photo credit Vero Kherian

Shawnette Sulker

Shawnette Sulker

Sir Elton John’s Trainer (Vinkensport) | Susan B. Anthony (Balls)

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Guyanese-American soprano Shawnette Sulker has been acclaimed for her “heart-breaking poignancy” and “beautifully tuned soprano” by the San Francisco Chronicle and for her “enchanting vocal splendor” by the Leipziger Volkszeitung. Also described as a singer “…displaying a bright, superbly controlled soprano with perfectly placed coloratura” (The San Francisco Chronicle), she is sought after both in the US and abroad. A consummate performer, she has been a featured artist at San Francisco Opera in their production of Porgy and Bess. Her recently sung roles include Poppea (L’incoronazione di Poppea) with both Intermountain Opera Bozeman and West Edge Opera, Die Königin der Nacht (Die Zauberflöte) with Santa Rosa Symphony, and Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare) with West Edge Opera. Her upcoming engagements feature singing in a workshop for the new opera Bulrusher by Nat Stookey as Bulrusher for Cincinnati Opera, Die Königin der Nacht with Livermore Valley Opera, the soprano solo in Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with Mission Chamber Orchestra, and Opera Parallèle and SF Jazz’s double bill production of Little’s Vinkensport/Karpman’s Balls (as Sir Elton John’s Trainer and Susan B. Anthony, respectively).

 

Her upcoming engagements feature singing the soprano solos in Bond's Credo and Dvorak's Mass in D major with San Francisco Choral Society, singing and moving onstage with the Oakland Ballet in Dialogues with music composed by Pat Rasile, and singing the titular role in the world premiere of Bulrusher (Stookey) with West Edge Opera.

https://www.shawnettesulker.com/

Supernumeraries: Zack McKnight, Shane Smith, Chad Stewart, Brandon Styles, Lawrence Dillon

Onscreen Supernumeraries: John Fisher, Rebecca Pingree

 

Composer & Librettist

David T. Little*

David T. Little*

Vinkensport Composer

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Hometown: Weehawken, New Jersey, USA

 

A natural musical storyteller with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times), composer David T. Little is known for stage, concert, and screen works permeated with the power of the unexpected. Little’s broad catalog speaks to the mix of light and dark that we experience in life, unafraid to invoke the mythical, bewitching, disturbing, surreal, or comedic.

David T. Little has drawn acclaim for operas including Dog Days, JFK, and the comedy Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera (all with libretto by Royce Vavrek), as well as his GRAMMY-nominated opera Soldier Songs. Little’s Black Lodge, a metal-infused opera with a libretto by poet Anne Waldman, was premiered by Beth Morrison Projects at Opera Philadelphia, with a soundtrack released by Cantaloupe Music. Recent and upcoming projects include the world premiere of SIN-EATER by The Crossing at Penn Live Arts; monodrama What Belongs to You, developed for tenor Karim Sulayman and Alarm Will Sound; and a commission from the Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater New Works Program. Little’s music is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

 

Learn more at www.davidtlittle.com

 

Photo Credit: Daniel Welch

Royce Vavrek*

Royce Vavrek*

Vinkensport Librettist

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Hometown: Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada

 

Royce Vavrek is a Canada-born, Brooklyn-based librettist and lyricist who has been called “the indie Hofmannsthal” (The New Yorker) a “Metastasio of the downtown opera scene” (The Washington Post), “an exemplary creator of operatic prose” (The New York Times), and “one of the most celebrated and sought after librettists in the world” (CBC Radio). His opera Angel’s Bone with composer Du Yun was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

 

roycevavrek.com

 

Photo Credit: Ricardo Beas

Laura Karpman*

Laura Karpman*

Balls Composer

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A bold, incandescent talent, composer Laura Karpman creates powerful, imaginative scores that push the boundaries of storytelling. Her award-winning music, spanning film, television, theater, interactive media and live performance, reflects an audaciously creative, prodigious, fresh spirit. Karpman collaborates with the most creative filmmakers of our time, including Misha Green, Steven Spielberg, Nia DaCosta, Kevin Feige, Alex Gibney, Kasi Lemmons, Sam Pollard and Eleanor, Francis Ford & Sophia Coppola.

 

Karpman’s more recent foray into the Marvel Universe has her scoring the eclectic animated series What If? and the newly acclaimed Ms. Marvel which blends bold, driving, heroic orchestral music with authentic South Asian elements to create a unique sound for this ground-breaking superhero. The five-time Emmy winner’s scores span the HBO hit series Lovecraft Country, the 2020 Oscar-nominated Walk Run Cha-Cha, and the Discovery Channel docuseries Why We Hate. Others include Miss Virginia starring Uzo Aduba, the Netflix romantic comedy Set It Up, Sony’s Paris Can Wait, Lionsgate’s The Cotton Club Encore, Fox Searchlight’s Step and Black Nativity, starring Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson, the drama series Underground, Sony’s L.A.’s Finest, Peabody award-winning series Craft in America, and Showtime’s Sid and Judy.

 

Across concert halls, Karpman is well known for her Grammy award-winning album, ASK YOUR MAMA, a multimedia opera based on the iconic cycle of poems by Langston Hughes, commissioned by Carnegie Hall. The album's Grammy-winning recording would use vocalist Janai Brugger who would later perform a new original piece by Karpman called ’Tulsa 1921: To Catch a Fire’ from Lovecraft Country. Other notable works include All American, commissioned and performed by The Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl; Brass Ceiling, commissioned and recorded by The U.S. Army Band, and And Still We Dream, commissioned by Lyric Opera of Kansas City honoring 100 years of suffrage; Wilde Tales, commissioned by Glimmerglass Festival; Balls, an opera chronicling Billie Jean King’s 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match with words by NYTimes writer Gail Collins; and a pandemic opera for Opera Theatre of St. Louis with libretto by Taura Stinson & Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum.

 

A fierce champion for inclusion in Hollywood, after founding the Alliance for Women Film Composers, Karpman became the first woman governor in the music branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, and was subsequently elected to be the first female governor of the music branch. During her two consecutive terms, she was able to implement sweeping change, facilitating the admission of dozens of underrepresented voices, helping to create the Academy Women’s Initiative, helping to create The Academy Code of Conduct, and updating language of the Academy bylaws to be inclusive and representative of the membership. Her leadership in creating opportunity and standing up for inclusion is unparalleled.

 

Karpman’s upcoming projects include The Marvels, a Marvel Studios feature film directed by Nia DaCosta. She lives and works in Los Angeles with her wife, composer Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum, their son and two dogs.

Gail Collins*

Gail Collins*

Balls Librettist

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In 2001 Gail Collins became the first woman appointed editor of the New York Times‘ editorial page, and she resumed her twice weekly syndicated opinion column for the New York Times in 2007. As an author, Collins offers insightful research and historical perspective, with characteristic wit and humanity, having written When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the PresentAmerica’s Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and HeroinesAs Texas Goes: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda, William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series, Scorpion Tongues: Gossip, Celebrity and American Politics, and The Millennium Book, which she co-wrote with her husband, Dan Collins. She is currently at work on a history of older women in America.                                        

A native of Cincinnati, Collins earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Marquette and a master’s in government at University of Massachusetts. Before joining The Times,  Collins was a columnist at New York Newsday and the New York Daily News, and a reporter for United Press International. Her first jobs in journalism were in Connecticut, where she founded the Connecticut State News Bureau (CSNB), which provided coverage of the state capitol and Connecticut politics. Since 2013, Ms. Collins has been a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

She lives in New York City with her husband, Dan Collins.

Creative + Production

Nicole Paiement

Nicole Paiement

Conductor

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Hometown: Montreal, Québec, Canada

 

Conductor, Nicole Paiement is the Founder and Artistic Director of Opera Parallèle (OP) in San Francisco. Recently for OP, Paiement lead productions of Moravec’ The Shining, Philip Glass’ La Belle et la Bête and Everest: An Immersive Experience by Joby Talbot, a work she originally premiered on stage at The Dallas Opera, where she is Principal Guest Conductor.

 

An active guest conductor, Mo. Paiement has performed with companies across the US including the Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Atlanta Opera. In 2020 Paiement made her Canadian debut at Opéra de Montréal with Benjamin's Written on Skin, returning in 2023 to conduct Ainadamar by Golijov. Paiement will also return to Montreal in the 24/25 Season. In 2022, Mo. Paiement returned to The Dallas Opera with Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, and made her UK debut with the English National Opera conducting Heggie’s It's a Wonderful Life, followed by a series of concerts with Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana in Palermo. Paiement recently returned to London to conduct Talbot's Everest with the BBC Symphony at the Barbican Center.

 

The 2023/2024 season includes 2 world premieres with OP, a return to The Dallas Opera for Gonoud’s Romeo et Juliette, followed by a debut with the Volksoper Vienna conducting both a symphonic concert and John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary.

 

Photo credit Cory Weaver

Brian Staufenbiel

Brian Staufenbiel

Stage/Creative Director, Scenic Designer

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Brian Staufenbiel is the creative director for Opera Parallèle where he has directed and created the conceptual designs of the company’s productions since it was founded in 2010. Specializing in multimedia, immersive, and interdisciplinary productions, he actively works across a wide range of artistic disciplines collaborating in film, and with media designers, choreographers and dancers, circus artists, and designer fabricators. His progressive approach to stagecraft has garnered critical acclaim for many of the company’s productions, including Wozzeck, Orphée, Champion and Dead Man Walking.

 

Staufenbiel recently directed films for the online festival season of the Sun Valley Music Festival, a film of Dove/Angelis’ Flight for Seattle Opera, an award-winning graphic novel film of Talbot/Scheer’s Everest with Opera Parallèle, and a feature-length film of Gordon Getty’s opera Goodbye Mr. Chips

 

Last season included new productions of Moravec and Campbell’s The Shining, a fully immersive experience of Talbot and Scheer’s Everest, for Opera Parallèle, and Golijov’s Ainadamar for L’Opera de Montréal.  Staufenbiel directed a new documentary about the life of Frederica Von Stade with Paper Wings Films and co-directed, with choreographer Yayoi Kambara, IKKAI, a dance installation about Japanese incarceration camps in the United States during World War II, which was performed at Georgia Tech last summer. 

 

This season includes productions for Opera Parallèle, Birds and Balls; the west coast premiere of composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek’s Vinkensport, combined with Balls, a World Premiere by Emmy & Grammy award winning composer Laura Karpman with a libretto by NY Times writer Gail Collins. Other projects include OP’s the west coast premiere of Fellow Travelers by composer Gregory Spears and librettist Greg Pierce, Ainadamar at Pacific Opera Victoria and Das Rheingold with Calgary Opera.

 

Staufenbiel recently created a new production of Elektra for Minnesota Opera. His 2016 production of Das Rheingold for Minnesota Opera was reprised at Arizona Opera and L’Opéra de Montréal and opened the 60th season at Seattle Opera in 2023.  It was named a Star Tribune Classical Pick of the Decade.  Other recent projects include the premiere of Miguel Zenon’s Golden City Suite with SF JAZZ, and a new production of Gordon Getty’s Usher House and Canterville Ghost for the Center of Contemporary Opera in NY and LA Opera.

 

Staufenbiel enjoys an ongoing relationship with composer Philip Glass, having directed many of his operas including In the Penal Colony for Glass’ own festival. The production is currently streaming on a new platform, Philip Glass Days and Night’s Festival Presents, and was named a New York Times Top Ten pick.  He recently finished the Cocteau Trilogy with Opera Parallèle’s acclaimed production of La belle et la bête.

 

Staufenbiel recently left his position after seventeen years as the director of the opera program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he mounted a wide spectrum of award-winning productions ranging from traditional operas to commissioned works for the program. Staufenbiel holds degrees in Philosophy and Music including a Doctor of Musical Arts from the Eastman School of Music and currently resides in San Francisco.

 

Photo Credit: Cory Weaver.

Jaco Wong

Jaco Wong

Assistant Conductor

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Hometown: Hong Kong

 

Hong Kong native, San Francisco-based conductor and composer, Jaco Wong currently serves as the associate conductor of Opera Parallèle and assistant conductor at Oakland Symphony. Wong has conducted the Orchestre symphonique de Québec under the guidance of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Mason Bate’s Mercury Soul, and has assisted Elim Chan at San Francisco Symphony, Teddy Abrams at Louisville Orchestra, and Edwin Outwater at the Dr. Phillips Center Steinmetz Hall. Other career highlights include serving as assistant conductor for Festival Opera, conducting the Taipei Philharmonic, for Emmy Award-winning composer Jeremy Zuckerman, and participating in the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and Monteux Music Festival.

Wong’s multimedia orchestra work Inkling, in collaboration with animation artist Evan Tedlock and neuroscientist Enrique Vargas, UCSF Sound & Music Perception Lab will be performed in New World Symphony’s “By Ear: A Journey into Musical Perception”. A finalist of the American Prize in composition, Psithaura has been performed in more than 4 countries and 7 cities, including under the baton of Donald Nally at the Northwestern University New-Music Conference. Wong has previously composed for San Jose Chamber Orchestra, Iris Contemporary Dance Company, Hocket piano duo, Lang Lang, and the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra.                                         

As an active educator, Wong led the Harker School Orchestra to perform in Carnegie Hall and is also the resident conductor of the Great Wall Youth Chinese Orchestra, projects including collaboration with Lara Downes in Rhapsody in Blue @ 100 American Kaleidoscope. Wong holds advanced degrees from San Francisco Conservatory of Music and University of Southern California.

 

https://www.jacowong.com/

 

Photo credit Michael Stahlberg

Erin Neff

Erin Neff

Associate Stage Director

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Hometown: San Jose, CA, USA

 

Erin Neff's day job is at the San Francisco Opera Chorus where she has worked for the last 28 seasons. She has sung as a soloist with Opera Parallele, the San Francisco Opera, West Edge Opera, The San Francisco Symphony, Symphony of the Redwoods, SF Choral Society and others. Her work as a director has been seen with several companies including; the San Francisco Opera Center, Opera Parallele, Mendocino Music Festival, The Telluride Music Festival, and Island City Opera. Her multi-media installation work has been shown at the San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art, Culver Center for the Arts,  and Joshua Tree National Park.

 

Photo Credit: Alexa Trevino

Y. Sharon Peng

Y. Sharon Peng

Costume and Hair/Make-Up Designer

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Y. Sharon Peng is a guild member of IATSE Local 706 and an alum of FIDM. Recent stage costumes include La Muerte Baila (Teatro Visión), Rent (South Bay Musical Theatre), Head Over Heels (Berkeley Playhouse), and Chriskirkpatrickmas (Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Recent titles in Film & Television include Ride (Costume Supervisor), Finger (Costume Designer), Anime Crimes Division Season 2 (Costume Designer), and Stranger Things Season 4 (Makeup Artist). Sharon is a Wig & Makeup foreperson at San Francisco Opera and heads the Wigs & Makeup Departments of both Opera San José and the Merola Opera Program. Recent Wig & Makeup design in opera include The Rape of Lucretia (Merola Opera Program), The Shining (Opera Parallèle), and The Barber of Seville (Opera San José).

 

Visit ysharonpeng.net for more work across two decades.

Mextly Couzin

Mextly Couzin

Lighting Designer

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Hometown: Los Angeles, California, USA

Mextly Couzin Lighting Designer, recent credits include, Broadway: Camelot (Associate), Birthday Candles (Associate). Off-Broadway: Pericles, JOB, A Good Day to Me Not To You, Here We Are (ALD), Straight Line Crazy, peerless, Tambo & Bones; Regional: MEXODUS (Baltimore Center Stage), Das Rheingold (Seattle Opera); Merry Wives of Windsor (The Old Globe); Incendiary (Woolly Mammoth); West Side Story (Centro de Bellas Artes Puerto Rico); La Belle et la Bête (Opera Paralléle). 2023 recipient of The 1/52 Project grant. MFA University of California, San Diego ’20.
 
 

mextlycouzin.com

David Murakami

David Murakami

Projection Designer

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David Murakami is a projection designer and film director. Recent Productions include Das Rheingold at Seattle Opera, Everest at Dallas Opera, Elektra at Minnesota Opera, The Shining at Atlanta Opera, Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum, Singin’ in the Rain with McCoy Rigby, and Scare Pair at LA Opera Off Grand. Other notable design credits include Opera Parallèle's La Belle et la BêteDead Man WalkingLittle Prince, and ChampionHabibati Man Takoun at Riyadh Season; and Spotlight Bar and 5-Skies aboard Princess Cruises’ flagship Royal-class vessels. Other companies include Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Calgary Opera, Opéra de Montréal, San Jose Repertory Theater, SFJazz, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Presidio Theatre, Arizona Opera, Skylight Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Sun Valley Summer Symphony, and East West Players. David is a proud member of United Scenic Artists 829 and teaches projection design at the University of California, Irvine.

 

www.davidmurakami.com

Leah Hammond*

Leah Hammond*

Props Artisan

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Hometown: Boulder, Colorado

 

Leah Hammond has worn many theatrical hats over the past 20-odd years, but gets especially excited about props. Leah has worked at theatres around the Bay Area, including: Magic Theatre, Aurora Theatre, Shotgun Players, Z Space, SF Playhouse, Bay Area Musicals, CCSF’s Diego Rivera Theatre, Center REP, and more. Favorite projects include: set design & scenic painting - Cradle Will Rock (Diego Rivera Theatre), Frozen Jr (Tomorrow Youth Rep); props - Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Shotgun Players), Road to Mecca (Weathervane Productions), Paradise Blue (Aurora Theatre); production tech - Don’t Eat the Mangos, Nassim (Magic Theatre). Leah has also dabbled in acting, including playing Universanaut in Disinsemination, Lenny in Rumors, multiple 24 hour play festivals, and a very cute 5-year-old Tortoise in Tortoise and the Hare.

 

Photo Credit: Olivia Lawrence-Weilmann

Lawrence Dillon

Lawrence Dillon

Videographer

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Hometown: Redding, California

 

Mr. Dillon is very excited with his supernumerary debut with Opera Parallèle.  He has been a supporter and fan for many years.  Not only is he an award winning documentary film maker he also loves to sing!  Mr. Dillon has performed with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and Lamplighters Music Theater.

*Making Opera Parallèle debut this season