Harriet's Spirit

Music by Marcus Shelby | Libretto by Roma Olvera | A young girl’s story of courage & empowerment, inspired by Harriet Tubman.

Inspired by the life of American abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman, Harriet’s Spirit is a new opera based on the story of a middle school girl who triumphs over the challenges of adolescence with the help of the Civil War-era legend as her role model and spirit guide.

Performances

  • November 13, 2021 – 1pm & 4pm
  • November 14, 2021 – 1pm

Venue

Modesty is a middle-school-aged girl who struggles with bullying. Too afraid to speak out or protect her friends who suffer from the same abuse, she blends into the scenery so her classmates won’t make fun of her. Modesty escapes her fear by learning about American abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman, who acts as her role model and spirit guide. In times of conflict, Tubman comforts Modesty, sharing advice and stories that connect to her life today. She shares how she triumphed during a moment of great peril in the Civil War through the power of love and music, inspiring Modesty to do the same.

EnhanceYour Experience

Please enjoy these resources to enhance your experience of Harriet’s Spirit Forest.

Music

Books

Children & Family Resources

Films

Harriet - 2019

A Woman called Moses - 1978

Cast & Creatives

Cast

Tiffany Austin

Tiffany Austin

Harriet Tubman - Soprano

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Vocalist Tiffany Austin combines classic jazz tradition with a deep love for blues, spirituals, and contemporary soul. Hailed as a “fully formed masterpiece” by All About Jazz, Tiffany’s new album, “Unbroken” has earned rave reviews from both Downbeat and Jazziz, and has reached #16 on the Jazz Week chart.

Tiffany has performed with jazz luminaries (including pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Rodney Whitaker, and vibraphonist Roy Ayers), and continues to appear at illustrious engagements including the San Francisco and Oakland Symphonies, Birdland NYC, Dizzy’s NYC, SFJAZZ, and Walt Disney Music Hall in Los Angeles. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law, Austin decided to forgo a career as a lawyer to focus on music, her true passion, and she’s been raising the bar ever since.

Christabel Nunoo

Christabel Nunoo

Modesty - Soprano

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Soprano, Christabel Nunoo is a University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, & Dance graduate. She first sang with Opera Parallèle in 2018. Throughout her career, she has sung in master classes led by esteemed artists such as Martin Katz, Evelyn Lear, Jake Heggie, Roderick Dixon, Jesse Blumberg, and Reri Grist. Christabel most recently appeared as a young artist with the Vocal Academy of Orvieto singing Donna Anna at their Summer Festival in Bodrum, Turkey and was a featured soloist at Classical Tahoe Music Festival’s 10th Anniversary Season. Christabel owes her passion and dedication for the arts to her mother who always encouraged her to find her niche in life.
Bradley Kynard

Bradley Kynard

Montgomery - Bariton

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Bradley Kynard, no stranger to Bay Area audiences has performed the baritone solos in Carmina Burana with GG Symphony and the role of Tamerlano (Tamerlano) with Handel Opera Project. He recorded multiple roles in Wold’s (Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil). He created the role of Don Ramiro in (Xochitl and the Flowers) Opera Parallele and performed in the company’s production of (Trouble in Tahiti). He’s sung with the SFO chorus for 14 seasons.
San Francisco Girls Chorus

San Francisco Girls Chorus

Say Nothing & Bully Chorus

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Established in 1978, the mission of the San Francisco Girls Chorus is to create outstanding performances featuring the unique and compelling sound of young women’s voices through an exemplary program committed to education and visionary leadership in the development of this art form. Under the direction of Artistic Director Valérie Sainte-Agathe, the San Francisco Girls Chorus has achieved an incomparable sound that underscores the unique clarity and force of impeccably trained treble voices fused with expressiveness and drama. As a result, the Chorus vibrantly performs 1,000 years of choral masterworks from plainchant to the most challenging and nuanced contemporary works created expressly for them in programs that are as intelligently designed as they are enjoyable and revelatory to experience.

Composer, Librettist & Musicians

Marcus Shelby

Marcus Shelby

Composer

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This is notable jazz artist Marcus Shelby’s first foray into opera. Shelby is a composer, bassist, and educator whose work focuses on the history, present, and future of African American lives, social movements, and music education. Currently, Shelby is an artist in residence with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival and was the resident Artistic Director for the San Francisco Jazz Festival 2019-2020. In 2020, he was appointed as the new Artistic Director for the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, where he has been an artist in residence for more than 10 years. While gospel and folk songs were explored for the centerpiece of the operatic moment, jazz artist Marcus Shelby’s “I will not stand still” from his Tubman-inspired Big Band Suite was the perfect jumping off point for the opera. Shelby combines improvisatory elements crucial to jazz into his operatic writing, giving the opera a sense of added freedom and spontaneity. Rhythmic syncopation and rich “blues-style” chord progressions live side-by-side with more classical idioms. The outcome is truly original and refreshing.
Roma Olvera

Roma Olvera

Librettist

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Roma Olvera contributes her third libretto to OP’s “Hands-On-Opera’ program for youth, following up on Amazing Grace and Xochitl and the Flowers. Olvera worked as the Educational Programs Director for Opera Parallèle where she helped to develop a three-tiered community engagement program that commissioned new works for children and families. Ms. Olvera also developed original curricula for engaging local communities in main-stage contemporary opera productions. Born in Mexico City, Ms. Olvera is currently the Music Director for Woodland School in Portola Valley. She has taught music for several school districts in southern California, as well as developed music programs for underserved communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx in New York City.
Harriet's Spirit Instrumental Ensemble

Harriet's Spirit Instrumental Ensemble

Artistic + Production

L. Peter Callender

L. Peter Callender

Director

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L. PETER CALLENDER is Artistic Director of African-American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco, Ca., resident director at American Stage Company in Saint Petersburg Florida (3 time Best Director Award), Westcoast Black Theater Troupe in Sarasota, Florida, and Associate Artist at N.Y. Classical Theater. Mr Callender is thrilled to work with this artistic team at Opera Parallèle on Harriet’s Spirit. As a playwright, his play Strange Courtesies will get its world premier at San Jose Stage in Spring 2022. On Broadway, he played in Prelude To A Kiss. He is a multi award-winning actor and director having performed in 23 Shakespeare plays and appeared at over 12 regional theaters, nationally.
Nicole Paiement

Nicole Paiement

Conductor

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Conductor, Nicole Paiement is the Founder and General & Artistic Director of Opera Parallèle (OP). Recently for OP, Paiement conducted Glass’ La Belle et la Bête and Everest: An Immersive Experience by Talbot, a work she originally premiered on stage at The Dallas Opera, where she is Principal Guest Conductor. An active guest conductor, Paiement has performed with companies including the Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Atlanta Opera. In 2020 Paiement made her debut with L’Opéra de Montréal with Benjamin’s Written on Skin, returning in 2023 to conduct Golijov’s Ainadamar. This season Paiement also made her UK debut with the English National Opera conducting Heggie’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and conducted a series of concerts with the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana in Palermo, Italy. Upcoming engagements include a return to London to conduct Talbot’s Everest with the BBC Symphony at the Barbican Center. The 2023/2024 season will include 2 world premieres with OP, a return to The Dallas Opera, followed by a debut with the Volksoper Vienna conducting both a symphonic concert and an opera by John Adams. Photo Credit: Cory Weaver

Jaymes Kirksey

Jaymes Kirksey

Assistant Conductor

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A native of the great state of Oklahoma, Jaymes Kirksey has become a national presence as a violinist, pianist and conductor. The Music Director of Young Musicians Choral Orchestra, Solano Youth Chamber Orchestra and frequent guest soloist and conductor of Golden Gate Symphony, Kirksey brings with him versatility, precision, and an exciting stage presence. As a conductor and educator, Jaymes has created high quality musical interpretations ranging from Baroque to modern symphonic repertoire. He has performed in venues across Europe and the US and remains a steadfast performer in the Bay Area. He holds a Master’s Degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in Violin Performance.
Rachael Heiman

Rachael Heiman

Set & Costume Designer

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Rachael Heiman is a Bay Area Production Designer and Fabricator as well as a graduate of the California College of the Arts. They received an “individualized” BFA from CCA that melded textiles, sculpture, and fashion together. This is their sixth time working with Opera Parallele and is excited to be returning to the team. Rachael Heiman has been working in Bay Area as an actor as well as a costume, prop, and set designer for almost 10 years. In that time, they have also worked with the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, African American Shakespeare Company, San Francisco Speakeasy, YMTC, SF Playhouse, etc.
Kevin Myrick

Kevin Myrick

Lighting Designer

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Kevin Myrick is an Artist and Technologist. Kevin was one of the first to combine video projection and personal computers, stream video online, and was a pioneer in community television. Myrick has designed for African- American Shakespeare Company (Black Eagles, Othello), TheatreFirst (The Last Sermon of Sister Imani), Ray of Light Theatre (Caroline or Change), Youth Musical Theatre Company (Batboy, Rent), Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Company (Urban Retreat, Single Black Female), and San Francisco Playhouse (Hieroglyph).

Supporters

Major support for Harriet’s Spirit has been provided by The Future Fund, JW & HM Goodman Family Foundation, Sam Mazza Foundation, and Denise Young.

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

The Bullhorn: Amplifying Unheard Voices received funding from a Civic Practice Grant from OPERA America’s Opera Fund.

Opera Parallèle is aProud Member of

and is sponsored in part by grants from

 California Arts Council. A state agency.