“Flight is that rarest thing, a popular new comic opera… Dove’s music flies, the opera is fun, and people are going to love it.”
– Tom Sutcliffe, The Evening Standard
Music by Jonathan Dove
Libretto by April de Angelis
Based on actual events — the forced residence, from 1988 to 2006, of Iranian refugee Mehran Karimi Nasseri at Charles de Gaulle airport — Jonathan Dove’s opera Flight is a cynical comedy about what it means to be stranded. The refugee, tailed by an Immigration Officer, is surrounded by a variety of colorful characters: a couple on vacation, East European diplomats, a steward and a stewardess, an enigmatic older woman, an air traffic controller. While there are many moments of humor, Flight is also an exploration of the many faces of love: the struggle to re-ignite passion in an aging relationship, healing from the great loss of a loved one, and wondering how to be loved with the profound changes that come with parenthood. With a first-rate cast, and the inventive stagecraft of the Opera Parallèle team, Flight, at once comical and deeply human promises an operatic treat in a spectacle rich with visual perspective.
Act 1 – The Refugee cannot leave the airport because he does not have a passport or other documents to allow him to enter the country legally, therefore driving The Immigration Officer to look for the Refugee in order to arrest him. Surrounding this conflict is a cast of traveling characters involved in their own dramas. Married couple Bill and Tina are going on holiday to try to rediscover romance with the help of a sex manual. Minskman is a diplomat relocating for an assignment, and his wife, Minskwoman, is pregnant. The Stewardess and Steward, when not serving the customers, enjoy a vibrant physical relationship. At the last minute, the Minskwoman is afraid to fly, and her husband leaves without her. As Act I closes, the Controller announces that, because of the inclement weather, all flights are indefinitely delayed, and all the characters are suddenly stranded.
Act II takes place at night, just after the storm has grounded all the planes. After all the characters have gone to sleep, Bill, in an attempt to break out of his “predictable” nature, makes a pass at the Stewardess, but finds the Steward instead. The two of them agree to venture up to the heights of the control tower. The Refugee tries to insinuate himself with the various women and gives them (at various points) each a “magic stone” that he says will cure their individual travails. The women and the refugee decide to get drunk and, as the storm builds, the women realize that the Refugee has given them all the same “magic stone” and turn on him in a fit of rage, with dire consequences for the Refugee. The consequences of Bill and the Steward’s explorations are no less cataclysmic.
Act III takes place at dawn after the storm has cleared and every character is reeling from the events of the previous night. The Minskman has returned on the first available flight back, unable to face his separation. The Minskwoman goes into labor and delivers her baby in the terminal. The characters, with the insight of newborn life, reflect on the problems in their lives and offer forgiveness to each other for their wrongs. The other characters offer their help to persuade the Immigration Officer to reconsider the arrest of the Refugee, though all attempts are unsuccessful. The Immigration Officer says that the Refugee cannot leave the terminal, but he decides otherwise to “turn a blind eye” and not arrest him. Flights are called and under the Controller’s watchful eye, the airport returns to normal.
ARTISTIC AND PRODUCTION TEAM
Director: Brian Staufenbiel
Assistant Stage Director: Laura Anderson
Set Designer: Dave Dunning
Media Designer: David Murakami
Lighting Designer: Matthew Antaky
Costume Designer: Alina Bokovikova
Choreographer: Lawrence Pech
Wig and Makeup Designer: Jeanna Parham
Stage Manager: Bethanie Baeyen
Assistant Conductor: William Long, Jacques Desjardins
Production Manager: Jack Beuttler
Assistant Stage Manager: Saskia Lee
Assistant Stage Manager/ Intern: Lucy Coarsey
Props Artisan: Devon LaBelle
Assistant Costumer: Summer Hall
Pianist: Keisuke Nakagoshi
Music Intern: Benjamin Zucker
Supertitles Operator: David Gordon
COMPOSER – JONATHAN DOVE
Jonathan Dove (1959) is an English composer of opera, choral works, plays, films, and orchestral and chamber music. Throughout his career, Dove has been closely involved in community-based projects and has a special gift for inspiring and responding to the creativity of the participants, giving them a sense of ownership in the finished work. His breakthrough comic opera Flight was commissioned by Glyndebourne Touring Opera in 1998 and been produced and broadcast many times, in Europe, the USA and Australia. Dove has gone on to compose over twenty operatic works that consistently explore the ability of opera to communicate and enrich people’s lives. 2015 brought the World Premiere of The Monster in the Maze, a new community opera commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker and Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, performed under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle in three separate productions. For more information, visit his website.
LIBRETTIST – APRIL DE ANGELIS
April De Angelis in an English dramatist of part Sicilian descent. A graduate of Sussex University and trained at East 15 Acting School, she is an acclaimed writer whose extensive theatre works often include historical figures. Playhouse Creatures and A Laughing Matter are set in 17th and 18th century London. Wanderlust examines Victorian colonialism and Iron mistress is a verse play exploring Lady Charlotte Guest’s factory ownership. In addition to Flight, De Angelis also wrote the libretto for Errollyn Wallen’s opera, Silent Twins, based on the real life case of June and Jennifer Gibbons.
TAI ONEY (COUNTERTENOR): THE REFUGEE‘s current and future engagements include Apollo in Death in Venice (new production) at Deutsche Oper Berlin with Mo. Runnicles, Hamlet in The Firework-Maker’s Daughter at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Clerio Moro in Cavalli’s Erismena at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Spirit/Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas at Birmingham Opera Company, Endimione in La Calisto with English Touring Opera, as well as joining the Dallas Opera and San Diego Opera for the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Great Scott. He was a member of the Royal College of Music International Opera School until spring 2014, studying under the tutelage of Russell Smythe. Tai also recently performed Orlowsky in Die Fledermaus with Finnish National Opera, Adolfo in Faramondo with Brisbane Baroque, Australia, and Arsamene in Xerxes at Longborough Festival. Mr. Oney has performed in Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Paukenmesse, Bach’s St. John’s Passion, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Honegger’s King David, among others. He holds degrees from Stetson University, Boston University and the New England Conservatory of Music. For more information, visit his website.
NIKKI EINFELD (SOPRANO): CONTROLLER has been widely recognized for her “high flying virtuosity” (New York Times) and “blazing intensity and ferocious artistry” (SF Chronicle). Highlights of Ms. Einfeld’s recent engagements include the world premiere of the opera Death with Interruptions by Kurt Rohde; with San Francisco Opera the world premiere of Delores Claiborne by Tobias Picker, Gianetta in l’elisir d’amore, Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro; appearances with Vancouver Opera, New Orleans Opera (Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro), West Bay Opera (Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Syracuse Opera and Green Mountain Opera Festival (title role in Lucia di Lammermoor), Opera Lyra Ottawa (Ophelia in Hamlet), Edmonton Opera (Nanetta in Falstaff, Mabel in Pirates of Penzance), Canadian Opera Company (Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte), and Manitoba Opera (Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Marie in la fille du régiment, Norina in Don Pasquale). Ms. Einfeld is a former Adler Fellow and Merola Alumnus with the San Francisco Opera as well as a Grand Finalist in the 2006 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. More info at her website.
CATHERINE COOK (MEZZO-SOPRANO): OLDER WOMAN is one of today’s most well-versed mezzo-sopranos and is known as the “go-to choice for a wide range of character roles” (San Francisco Chronicle) with companies throughout America. For her performance as the title role in Dolores Claiborne, Opera Today noted, “To say that Ms. Cook was a revelation is an understatement.… there was nothing she seemed not able to do to perfection.” Her upcoming engagements include Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro (Lyric Opera of Kansas City), Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd (Mill City Summer Opera), and an Opera Gala Concert (San Francisco Opera). Recent performances include Berta in Il barbiere di Siviglia (San Francisco Opera), Marcellina (Houston Grand Opera), Zosha in Out of Darkness (Seattle’s Music of Remembrance), and Mrs. De Rocher in Dead Man Walking (Opera Parallèle). Ms. Cook can be heard in the Centaur label recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra. Visit Barrett Artists for more info.
CHAZ’MEN WILLIAMS-ALI (TENOR): BILL is from St. Louis, MO and studied voice at the University of Iowa School of Music. Chaz’men made his professional opera debut in 2008 in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre. He was named the Grand Prize division winner in the 2009 National Association of the Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition. Roles include Alfredo in La Traviata, Nemorino in The Elixir of Love and Romèo in Romèo et Juliette. Chaz’men also performed the role of Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte at La Villa della Musica in Milano, Italy. In the US, he reprised his role as Romeo in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette and made his debut as Cavaradossi with Skylight Music Theatre in their production of Puccini’s Tosca. In 2016, Chaz’men was a young artist at Glimmerglass Festival where he sang Giles Cory in The Crucible under the baton of Nicole Paiement.
MAYA YAHAV GOUR (MEZZO-SOPRANO): STEWARDESS is a rising opera and jazz singer from Tel Aviv, Israel. In Summer of 2016, Maya was fellow at the Ravinia Music Festival and a young artist at Gstaad Menuhin Festival in Switzerland run by Cecilia Bartoli. Roles include Angelina in La Cenerentola (Opera in Williamsburg), l’Enfant in L’enfant et les sortilèges (Opera on the Avalon), Cendrillon in Cendrillon (Miami Music Festival), and Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Tuscany Music Festival). She reprises the role of Stewardess in Flight, which she sang with Mannes Opera in Spring 2015. Other performance experience includes the role of Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro at The Tuscia Opera Festival (Italy 2013) and Perugia Music Festival (Italy 2011), and the roles of The Squirrel and White Cat in L’enfant by Ravel at IVAI, Tel Aviv (Maestro Paul Nadler). In addition, Maya performs as a jazz soloist with different big bands and ensembles at international and local New York City Jazz festivals and clubs, specializing in Jazz from the 1920’s-40’s.
AMINA EDRIS (SOPRANO): TINA – Egyptian-born, New Zealand soprano Amina Edris is a second- year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow and a graduate of the 2015 Merola Opera Program, where she performed the role of Norina in Don Pasquale. In San Francisco Opera’s 2015-2016 season, she performed the role of Frasquita in the US debut of Calixto Bieito’s production of Carmen. Other roles in her repertory include Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), Serpina (La Serva Padrona), Adina (L’Elisir d’Amore) and Gilda (Rigoletto). Edris is a winner of the prestigious Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald’s Operatic Aria Competition and the Deborah Reidel award in the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Bel Canto Award Competition 2013, as well as being awarded a Western Regional Special Encouragement Award in the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Edris holds a Bachelor of Music from University of Canterbury, a Master of Music from Wales International Academy of Voice, and a post-graduate diploma from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
HADLEIGH ADAMS (BARITONE): STEWARD is a former Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera and has performed in over 75 mainstage performances during his two-year tenure with the company, most recently as Schaunard in La Bohème. He recently made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the Oakland Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in their performance of Pelléas et Mélisande. Following training in his native New Zealand, Mr. Adams was awarded a full scholarship to study in London at the renowned Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating with a Masters of Music in 2010. He made his debut at the Royal National Theatre the same year, and has performed at Wigmore Hall, St. Martins in the Fields, and The Barbican Centre before relocating to San Francisco in 2013. Future engagements include Falke (Die Fledermaus) with Opera Cincinnati, Hotel Manager (Powder Her Face) with West Edge Opera, Mahler’s Rückert Lieder with the Oakland Symphony, and Jesus in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Colorado Symphony. More info at his website.
EUGENE BRANCOVEANU (BARITONE): MINSKMAN returns to Opera Parallèle this season as the Minskman in Flight. He sang the title role of the company’s award-winning production of Philip Glass’ Orphée, as well St. Ignatius in Four Saints in Three Acts, and Nicomedes in Young Cesar. The Romanian-born baritone enjoys an extensive international singing career, performing regularly with San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, New York City Opera, the Romanian State Opera, Staatstheater Stuttgart, the Salzburg Festival, Tel Aviv Opera, the Matsumoto Music Festival under Seiji Osawa, and Virginia Opera, among others. He has also sung concerts with the major American orchestras including the San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Symphony Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony. Mr. Brancoveanu has recordings with Universal Classics, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, and PBS, featuring Michael Tilson Thomas’ Emmy-nominated production The Thomashefskys at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Brancoveanu is a former Adler Fellow and won the Tony Award for his performance of Marcello in Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème on Broadway.
RENEE RAPIER (MEZZO-SOPRANO): MINSKWOMAN, praised for her “dark, velvety mezzo” (Opera News) and “exceptional strength and solidity” (San Francisco Classical Voice), Renée Rapier is quickly establishing herself in opera houses around the world. After receiving training as both an LA Opera Domingo Thornton Young Artist and an Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera, Renée has gone on to make debuts at LA Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Theatre St. Louis, the Ravinia Festival, and Seattle Opera. Along with her return to the San Francisco Opera, her 2016/2017 season includes returns to Seattle Opera, Opera Parallèle, and a debut with the LA Philharmonic. Renée was the 2012 winner of the Palm Springs Opera Guild Competition, and the 2013 Brava! Opera Theater and James M. Collier Young Artist Program Vocal Competition. She also was a 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions national semifinalist, a finalist of the 2013 Seoul International Music Competition, and a semifinalist of Operalia 2015. Visit her website for more info.
PHILIP SKINNER (BASS-BARITONE): IMMIGRATION OFFICER’s long distinguished career has included performances with the San Francisco Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, La Monnaie, and Teatro di San Carlo, as well as prominent orchestras such as the Israel Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. His roles range from King Philip in Don Carlo to Scarpia in Tosca, Mephistopheles in Faust, and Basilio in The Barber of Seville. His long association with San Francisco Opera began in 1985 and he has over 380 performances in 55 productions there including the Water Gnome in Rusalka, Mephistopheles, Escamillo in Carmen, Ferrando in Il Trovatore, Colline in La Bohème, and Lorenzo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Recently, he performed Eric/Ghost of Bazzetti in Great Scott with San Diego Opera, the Forester in Cunning Little Vixen with West Edge Opera, Capulet in Romeo and Juliette with Madison Opera, and the title role in The Flying Dutchman at Livermore Valley Opera. Read his full bio.