Everest: An Immersive Experience

Composer Joby Talbot | Librettist: Gene Scheer | Running Time: 68 mins with no intermission – performed in English with subtitles.

Opera Parallèle is taking you to the top of the world! Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring landscapes of Everest for a one-of-a-kind operatic adventure. Based on the true story of an ill-fated expedition in 1996, a group of mountaineers tap into the depths of their physical and emotional selves to realize their dreams of conquering Everest. Following the critical success of OP’s award-winning, genre-defying animated film Everest – A Graphic Novel Opera, the company now offers an entirely new way to experience opera, placing the audience directly in the action among the intricate imagery and soaring soundworld of this breathtaking story. This cutting-edge work fuses the vivid imagery of graphic novels with the visceral power of the operatic voice in a unique multi-sensory environment.

Everest follows the true-life stories of three climbers, Rob Hall, Doug Hansen, and Beck Weathers as they attempt to summit Mount Everest in 1996. The crackling mountain, the prevailing wind, the power of nature abounds. Throughout the immersive experience we move between the climbers’ present realities on the mountain, that of their loved ones and their pasts as they slip in and out of consciousness. As the experience begins, we meet Rob, the expedition leader who has just reached the summit – 30 minutes past the safe turnaround time. His client Doug is 40 feet below him. In a separate timeline we meet Beck, semi-conscious on the South Col and hallucinating about his life back in Texas – in particular his daughter Meg who appears to him. Doug finally reaches the summit but is struggling to maintain consciousness – it will be up to Rob to get him safely back down the mountain. Meanwhile a large storm hits below the summit, making their descent even more treacherous. Through Rob’s memories and an extraordinary phone call, we also meet Rob’s pregnant wife Jan Arnold in New Zealand. As the climbers struggle to reach safety through the storm, we experience with them the brutal realities of Everest and the power of human conviction.

From the moment you enter the venue, you will be transported into a stylized, animated mountainscape as imagined by Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel, illustrator Mark Simmons and Director of Photography David Murakami. Interactive lobby installations will guide you through a snowy tundra to your seat, where you’ll be invited to wear white to become part of the projected landscape and be fully immersed into the world of Everest. With a directional surround soundscape you will feel every crack of ice, the menacing storms and the powerful voices of our all-star cast.

EnhanceYour Experience

These resources are designed to enhance your enjoyment of Everest: An Immersive Experience. The opera is told as the individuals’ respective reports and flashbacks of those on the expedition. Here we show you how OP created this experience, explore the local relationship to Mt. Everest and what it is about the lure of the mountains that is endlessly enticing to humans.

Everest Ice Breakers

Take a look behind the scenes of how Opera Parallèle created ‘Everest: An Immersive Experience’

Books

Go behind the scenes of OP’s process in bringing this commissioned world premiere to the stage.

Why Do We Climb

Outside sports can have positive effects on physical and mental health. Yet a study in the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience (Habelt et al, 2022) found that people with behavioral addiction in mountaineering display high levels of sensation-seeking, emotion regulation, and risk-taking. But what causes climbers not to rest, so that they can climb more summits and strive for the unreachable? Below are some more recent examples of climbers, including a conversation between opera librettist Gene Scheer and Beck Weathers, whose story is portrayed in the opera.

Climbing Mount Everest has become dangerously popular. John Oliver explains why

Lhakpa Sherpa sets Mount Everest women's climbing record

First all-Black team Full Circle Everest summits Mount Everest, makes history

14 Black Women Climb to top of Mount Kilimanjaro

THE LOCALS’ RELATIONSHIP WITH MT. EVEREST

Mount Everest is deeply connected to local cultural practices. Called Sagarmatha (Goddess of the Sky) by the Nepalese and Qomolungma (Goddess Mother of the Earth) by the Tibetans, the mountain is held to possess spiritual energy where that karma is amplified. But Everest accumulates the lees of those who attempt to conquer it, leaving the indigenous people to deal with it. The 1996 Mount Everest disaster received widespread attention and raised concerns about the commercialization of mountain climbing.

Pasang

Living in Everest’s shadow: the Sherpa people of Khumbu

How Tall Is Mount Everest? Hint: It's Changing

Mt. Everest's joint measurement marks new milestone in ties with Nepal & China

Cast & Creatives

Cast

Sasha Cooke

Sasha Cooke

Jan Arnold

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Two-time Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke is sought after by the world’s leading orchestras, opera companies, and chamber music ensembles for her versatile repertoire. She has sung at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, English National Opera, Seattle Opera, Opéra National de Bordeaux, and Gran Teatre del Liceu, among others, and with over 70 symphony orchestras worldwide. She recently collaborated with 17 composers on a project called ‘Songs in a Time of Silence’ which will be released on Pentatone next fall. https://sashacooke.com/

Nathan Granner

Nathan Granner

Rob Hall

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World-renowned leading tenor and producing artist Nathan Granner gained chart-topping success as a founding member of The American Tenors. In addition to singing roles like Puccini’s Rodolfo, Mozart’s Ferrando and Verdi’s Jacopo Foscari, he has originated numerous roles in world premieres, including Korey Wise in Anthony Davis’ 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning opera The Central Park Five, and Aubrey Wells in Opera Parallèle’s beautiful work Today it Rains, by the Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reid team. https://www.ngranner.com

Kevin Burdette

Kevin Burdette

Beck Weathers

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Bass Kevin Burdette has impressed audiences around the world with his mellifluous voice and strongly dramatic characterizations, with the New York Times dubbing him “the Robin Williams of opera.”

Recent highlights include Señor Russell in Adès’s The Exterminating Angel and Stefano in The Tempest (Deutsche Grammophon, 2014 Grammy Award) with the Metropolitan Opera; Pangloss in Candide with Gran Teatre del Liceu; Doktor in Wozzeck with the Philharmonia Orchestra; and Stobrod in Cold Mountain with Santa Fe Opera.

Hadleigh Adams

Hadleigh Adams

Doug Hansen

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Baritone Hadleigh Adams is delighted to return to Opera Parallele. Born in New Zealand, Hadleigh relocated to the US in 2012 after studying at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama. He is a former Merola artist and San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow. Among his extensive performance history he has performed as a principal baritone at London’s Royal National Theatre, the Nederlandse Reisopera, Lincoln Center Festival, the San Francisco Opera, and the LA Philharmonic. His performances centre around the baroque, and modern operatic repertoires.
Matt Boehler

Matt Boehler

Guy Cotter & Mike Groom

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Matt Boehler is a singer and composer based in San Francisco. As a bass, he has appeared as a principal artist at The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Dallas Opera, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, and Canadian Opera Company, and as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As a composer, recent commissioners include Washington National Opera, Victory Hall Opera, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, as well as mezzo Sasha Cooke.
Charlotte Fanvu

Charlotte Fanvu

'Meg Weathers'

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Charlotte is excited to be performing in her first opera! The 11-year-old San Francisco native began her vocal training at 6 years old with the Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco. Charlotte loves the spotlight and enjoys being on stage singing, dancing, and acting. She is also an aspiring baker and hopes to find a way to combine her passions for the performing arts and baking when she grows up
Shawnette Sulker

Shawnette Sulker

Vocal Quartet

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Soprano Shawnette Sulker is acclaimed for her “beautifully tuned soprano” (San Francisco Chronicle) and for her “enchanting vocal splendor” (Leipziger Volkszeitung). Recent roles include Pip (Moby Dick), Clitennestra (Ifigenia in Aulide), Carolina (Il matrimonio segreto), and The Queen of the Night (Magic Flute). Internationally, she has performed in Holland, Belgium, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, and Prague’s Smetana Hall. Ms. Sulker has sung with San Francisco Opera, American Bach Soloists, Mark Morris Dance Group, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Opera Memphis, Eugene Symphony, and Opera Fairbanks to name a few.
Whitney Steele

Whitney Steele

'Vocal Quartet'

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Whitney Steele, a mezzo-soprano from Portland, Oregon, received her Master’s degree at The San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Favorite roles include Hermia in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Nancy in Britten’s Albert Herring, Ottone in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, as well as Jane Austen heroine Fanny Price in the West Coast premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park. She can often be seen on stage at San Francisco Opera as a member of the regular chorus.
Kevin Gino

Kevin Gino

'Vocal Quartet'

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American-Filipino Tenor Kevin Gino is proud and excited to join Opera Parallèle during this season. Originally from Los Angeles, Gino has been privileged to sing with ensembles such as Cal Bach Society, American Bach Soloists, Pocket Opera, Ars Minerva, Volti, and the SF Opera Chorus since he moved to San Francisco. A proud alumnus of the SF Conservatory of Music and Music Academy of the West, Kevin enjoys discovering works that challenge him, old and new.

Composer & Librettist

Joby Talbot

Joby Talbot

Composer

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Talbot was born in Wimbledon in 1971 and studied privately with Brian Elias, before attending the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under Simon Bainbridge. Works include the opera Everest (2015), first performed by Dallas Opera; the trumpet concerto Desolation Wilderness (2006), first performed by Alison Balsom and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; the choral piece Path of Miracles (2005), written for Tenebrae; and the madrigal The Wishing Tree (2002), commissioned by The King’s Singers. Other works include Worlds, Stars, Systems, Infinity, first performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen at Royal Festival Hall in 2012, and Meniscus for Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts 2013 World Environment Day celebrations. Talbot has also worked extensively in film and television, major credits including The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Son of Rambow (2007), Franklyn (2008) and The League of Gentlemen (BBC2 series, 1999–2002). Talbot has written widely for dance, collaborations including Wheeldon’s Fool’s Paradise (Morphoses, 2007), McGregor’s Entity (Wayne McGregor | Random Dance, 2008) and Genus (Paris Opera Ballet, 2007) and Chamber Symphony for Medhi Walerski’s Chamber (Residentie Orkest/Nederlands Dans Theater and Norwegian Opera and Ballet, 2012).
Gene Scheer

Gene Scheer

Librettist

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Mr. Scheer’s work is noted for its scope and versatility. With the composer Jake Heggie, he has collaborated on many projects, including the critically acclaimed 2010 Dallas Opera world premiere, Moby-Dick, starring Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab; Three Decembers (Houston Grand Opera), which starred Frederica von Stade; and the lyric drama To Hell and Back (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra), which featured Patti LuPone. Other works by Scheer and Heggie include Camille Claudel: Into the fire, a song cycle premiered by Joyce di Donato and the Alexander String Quartet. Mr. Scheer worked as librettist with Tobias Picker on An American Tragedy, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005 and on Therese Raquin which was produced by the Dallas Opera in 2001. Other collaborations include the lyrics for Wynton Marsalis’s It Never Goes Away, featured in Mr. Marsalis’s work Congo Square. With the composer Steven Stucky, Mr. Scheer wrote the oratorio August 4, 1964, for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The work was nominated for a Grammy in 2012 for best classical composition. In 2015, Mr. Scheer collaborated with Joby Talbot on the opera Everest, based on the doomed 1996 Everest expedition. With Jennifer Higdon, Mr. Scheer wrote an operatic adaptation of Cold Mountain, which premiered in the summer of 2015 at the Santa Fe Opera. This work won the International Opera award, presented in London, for the best World premiere in 2015. Recently, along with Ms. Higdon, Mr. Scheer was nominated for a Grammy for his work on Cold Mountain for best classical composition. In December of 2016 Mr. Scheer and Jake Heggie premiered an operatic adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life for the Houston Grand Opera. Also a composer in his own right, Mr. Scheer has written a number of songs for singers such as Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Larmore, Denyce Graves, and Nathan Gunn. The distinguished documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, prominently featured Mr. Scheer’s song “American Anthem” (as sung by Norah Jones) in his Emmy Award-winning World War II documentary for PBS entitled The War.

Creative + Production

Brian Staufenbiel

Brian Staufenbiel

Director & Creator

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Brian Staufenbiel is the creative director for Opera Parallèle where he has directed and spearheaded 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 and fabric 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.
Nicole Paiement

Nicole Paiement

Conductor

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Conductor, Nicole Paiement is the Founder and Artistic Director of Opera Parallèle (OP) in San Francisco. In 2021, Paiement conducted OP’s new film production Everest – A Graphic Novel Opera 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 made her debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2019 with Heggie’s Dead Man Walking and at Opéra de Montréal with the Canadian premiere of Benjamin’s Written on Skin in 2020. In January 2022 Mo. Paiement conducted with the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana in Palermo, Italy and will return there for concerts in 2023. Upcoming engagements include her UK debut in November 2022 at the English National Opera conducting Heggie’s It’s a Wonderful Life, before returning to London in June 2023 to conduct Talbot’s Everest with the BBC Symphony at the Barbican Center. In April 2022 Mo. Paiement returned to the Dallas Opera conducting Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers and she will return to Opéra de Montréal in 2023 for a new production of Golijov’s Ainadamar. In addition to being a leader in contemporary opera, Paiement is also a specialist in early 20th Century French music and regularly conducts music from the Baroque and Classical repertoire. Photo Credit: Cory Weaver.
David Murakami

David Murakami

Projection Designer & Director of Photography

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David Murakami is a projection designer and film director focused on the union between the cinematic and theatrical. Past productions with OP include Dead Man Walking, Heart of Darkness, Champion, Flight, Les Enfants Terribles, and Little Prince. Additional credits include Minnesota Opera’s Das Rheingold and Elektra; and Luis Valdez’ Zoot Suit and Valley of the Heart. Others include Princess Cruises, Opéra de Montréal, and Arizona Opera. David also teaches at the University of California, Irvine.
Mark Simmons

Mark Simmons

Illustrator

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Mark Simmons is a San Francisco-based freelance artist. His cartooning and sequential art work includes comics for publishers such as Capstone, Behrman House, Madefire, and Rebellion; animation and advertising storyboards; and graphic recording. He also teaches classes in comic art, figure drawing, and wildlife illustration for the Academy of Art University and local zoos and museums
Miles Lassi

Miles Lassi

Sound Engineer

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Miles Lassi, is an interdisciplinary artist based out of Oakland, CA. As a musician, has performed in over 150 cities throughout North America, Europe and Asia with many different ensembles ranging from the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall to the national tour of Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage.
Jacquelyn Scott

Jacquelyn Scott

Scenic Designer

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Jacquelyn Scott (Scenic Design) is thrilled to make her design debut with Opera Parallele! Jackie works as a production designer, art director, scenic designer and props designer for theater and film across the Bay Area. Her work has been seen at American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco Playhouse, Magic Theatre, Shotgun Players, The Cutting Ball Theater, Word for Word, and Z Space. Past favorite credits include: Cabaret (SF Playhouse), Tiny Beautiful Things (SF Playhouse), The Chinese Lady (Magic Theatre), and Hedda Gabbler (The Cutting Ball Theater).

Supporters

Support for this production has been provided by Bob Ellis, Stephen & Diane Heiman, and Marcia Barinaga & Corey Goodman.

Major production support has been provided by Gordon Getty, Paul L. King, Donna Dubinsky & Len Shustek, Scott R. Lord, and The Future Fund.

Major institutional and corporate support for Opera Parallèle has been provided by Adobe, The Lemala Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, City & County of San Francisco Grants for the Arts, and the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation.

The Bullhorn programming is supported in part through a Civic Practice Grant from OPERA America’s Opera Fund and by The Henry W. and Nettie Robinson Foundation.