“Opera Parallèle continues its tradition of innovative, stimulating and renewing musical expressions for all of us in the SF Bay Area. Hats off for a well-wrought effort and a reminder that this is far more than a children’s fable. Its encouragement us to take “The Little Prince” in full measure would be a step in the direction of more life-light, and as such, a way to enhance our own planet with something more than occasional stardust.” — OperaWire, December 4, 2017
OP’s colorful and engaging addition to the holiday performing arts calendar, Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince, returns for the second year. Academy Award-winning English composer Rachel Portman’s magical opera in two acts comes to the Opera Parallèle stage with a twist, in collaboration with the San Francisco Girls Chorus. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved story of a charming prince who falls from space into the Sahara Desert takes on even more universal appeal and a feminist touch with the principal characters played by women and girls. This original production brims with digital magic, animated illustrations, and a cast of fantastical characters including the Prince and the Pilot, stars and birds, the King, a Businessman, the Rose and others. They interact with each other and the animation as they explore the universe in search of love, meaning, and the answers to life’s biggest quandaries.
Marines’ Memorial Theatre, San Francisco
Friday, December 7 at 7 pm
Saturday, December 8 at 7 pm
Sunday, December 9 at 2 pm
Sophia Stolte and Erin Enriquez as The Little Prince (alternating performances)
Eve Gigliotti (mezzo-soprano) as The Pilot
Kindra Scharich (mezzo-soprano) as The Fox
Sabrina Romero (soprano) as The Rose
Maggie Finnegan (soprano) as The Water
Samuel Faustine (tenor) as The Lamplighter/Drunkard
J. Raymond Meyers (tenor) as The Vain Man
Zachary Lenox (baritone) as The Businessman
Philip Skinner (bass-baritone) as The King
Christabel Nunoo (soprano) as The Snake
Members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus as the chorus of stars and birds
Conductor: Nicole Paiement
Creative/Stage Director: Brian Staufenbiel
Choreography: Yayoi Kambara
Illustrations: Matt Kish
Media Design: David Murakami
Costume Design: Christine Crook
Pianist: Keisuke Nakagoshi
The Pilot explains that, when he was six years old, he saw a picture of a wild beast being eaten by a boa constrictor.
This inspired him to draw a picture of his own, showing the snake digesting its prey. But the grownups he showed it to discouraged him from drawing and told him to concentrate on conventional subjects. Now he is a pilot, flying far above the earth among the stars.
The stars sing to each other, and a group of stars above the Sahara sees a sandstorm forcing the Pilot’s airplane to the ground. The Pilot is reflecting on the danger he is in, when a curious little boy—the Little Prince—appears. He asks the Pilot to draw him a sheep. Intrigued, the Pilot tries to learn more about him.
Gradually, the Little Prince tells his story. He explains that he comes from a tiny planet, Asteroid B-612, which is in danger of being taken over by enormous baobab trees. That is why he wanted a sheep in the first place: he hopes it will eat the baobab sprouts. He is worried, however, that the sheep will also eat flowers, as there is a special flower—a Rose—that the Little Prince wants very much to protect. The Pilot promises to draw a muzzle for the sheep so that it can’t eat the flower.
The Pilot describes the Little Prince nurturing his Rose and waiting for her to come into bloom. When he learns that her greatest fear is of catching a chill, he hastens to find a dome. She rebukes him sharply: placing her under a glass is not the way to please her. She urges him to seek wisdom in the worlds around him, and then return to her.
A flock of birds takes the Little Prince on his journey. He visits the planets of a King, a Vain Man, a Drunkard, a Businessman, and a Lamplighter. The Little Prince is bewildered by the behavior of all these grownups, except the Lamplighter, whom he respects—by tending his lamp, he is doing something useful. The Little Prince thinks anxiously about his beloved flower, whom he has left alone and defenseless. Determined to continue his travels, however, he flies on to the Planet Earth.
The Little Prince arrives on Earth and meets a Snake, who cryptically claims that with one touch, he can send him back to the place from which he came. “I’ll help you find your way back home,” the Snake promises.
The Little Prince continues exploring Earth and finds a rose garden. He is distressed to see so many beautiful flowers, because he thought his Rose was the only one of her kind. Fox hunters appear with their guns. Once they have gone, their quarry comes out of hiding. The Little Prince asks the Fox to play with him. But the Fox refuses, saying, “I’ve not been tamed.” The Little Prince learns what “taming” means. “Tamers care for what they’ve tamed. You’ll always be responsible for your Rose,” the Fox explains. The Prince realizes that his Rose is, after all, unique, because of his love for her.
He has finished recounting his adventures, and the Pilot reminds him that it’s been eight days since his plane crash and they are running out of water. They set off in search of a well, and are refreshed and saved by the water they find. But the Little Prince’s visit to Earth is coming to an end. He tells the Pilot to go back to his plane and return the next night. Filled with dread, the Pilot leaves.
When he comes back, he finds the Little Prince making an agreement with the Snake. The Prince tells the Pilot that it is time for him to return to his planet. He reassures him that he is not about to die, and that his body is just a shell: “Anything essential is invisible to the eye.” The Snake strikes and the Little Prince disappears, leaving the Pilot alone in the desert. The Pilot addresses the audience: “Wait a while beneath a star, and if a child arrives with golden hair, who laughs and disappears, make sure you tell me he’s returned.”
Synopsis courtesy of Houston Grand Opera.
RACHEL PORTMAN (COMPOSER)
Born in West Sussex, England, Rachel Portman began composing at age 14 and read music at Oxford University. She gained experience writing music for drama in BBC and Channel 4 films including Mike Leigh’s Four Days In July and Jim Henson’s Storyteller series. Her extensive film work includes scores for Never Let me Go, The Joy Luck Club, Benny and June, and the Manchurian Candidate. She won an Academy Award for her score for Emma and Academy nominations for Chocolat and The Cider House Rules. She has written a musical of Little House on the Prairie as well as an opera of Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince for Houston Grand Opera and The Water Diviner, a dramatic choral symphony commissioned for the BBC Proms concerts. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours. Rachel lives in London with her three daughters.
NICHOLAS WRIGHT (LIBRETTIST)
Born in Cape Town and moved to London to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He joined the Royal Court Theatre in 1965 as a casting director and in 1969 became the first director of the Theatre Upstairs. He was co-artistic director of the Royal Court with Robert Kidd 1975–7. Directing credits at the Royal Court included The Great Caper by Ken Campbell, Bird Child by David Lan and Owners by Caryl Churchill. He joined the National Theatre as a literary manager in 1984 and was an associate director until 1998. Wright’s plays include Treetops and One Fine Day(Riverside Studios), The Gorky Brigade (Royal Court), Crimes of Vautrin (Joint Stock), Custom of the Country and Desert Air (Royal Shakespeare Company), Cressida(Almeida Theatre at the Albery) and Mrs. Klein, Vincent in Brixton and The Reporter(NT). Adaptations include Naked and Lulu (Almeida), John Gabriel Borkman, Three Sisters and His Dark Materials (NT) and Thérèse Raquin (Chichester Festival Theatre and NT). Wright’s opera librettos include The Little Prince (Houston Grand Opera) and Man on the Moon (Channel 4). Television credits include Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City(Channel 4) and three episodes of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (HBO/BBC). Books include 99 Plays and
Changing Stages (with Richard Eyre).
ABOUT THE SAN FRANCISCO GIRLS CHORUS
Established in 1978, and with an operating budget of $2.4 million, 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.
The vision of the San Francisco Girls Chorus is to produce performances of the highest artistic caliber; to provide music education for girls and young women from all backgrounds; to be a leader in the field through creativity and innovation; to give the girls and young women who participate in Chorus programs the skills, self-discipline and confidence to succeed in music and in life; to instill in the choristers a lifelong love of music; and to communicate this passion through involvement with the greater community. To this end, three years ago, the Board selected new musical and artistic leadership to bring a refreshed focus and vision to SFGC. Under the direction of Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa and Music Director Valérie Sainte-Agathe, the SF 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.
Hundreds of singers from 45 Bay Area cities ranging in age from 4 to 18 participate in the SFGC’s programs. The organization consists of a professional-level performance, recording, and touring ensemble; the four-level Chorus School training program; and a Preparatory Chorus for 4-7 year olds.
A leading voice on the Bay Area and national music scenes, the Chorus has produced award-winning concerts, recordings and tours, empowered young women in music and other fields, enhanced and expanded the field of music for treble voices and set the international standard for the highest level of performance and education.
Commissions of new work from the leading composers of our time, collaborations with renowned guest artists, and partnerships with other Bay Area and national arts organizations provide the young women of SFGC with matchless performance experiences among powerful adult role models. In addition to its annual engagements with the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony, recent and current/upcoming artistic partnerships include the New York Philharmonic’s Biennial Festival of New Music at Lincoln Center in June 2016 in collaboration with The Knights orchestra, the newly-created SHIFT Festival of American orchestras in April 2017 in Washington, DC, featured appearances at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Carnegie Hall, and others. Many of these performances include works commissioned especially by and/or for SFGC.
SFGC’s commitment to artistic excellence has been recognized through many awards and honors, including five GRAMMY Awards and three ASCAP/Chorus America Awards for Adventurous Programming.
Additionally, SFGC’s owns and operates the Kanbar Performing Arts Center, which has become a hub for small to mid-size arts organizations in the Bay Area. In addition to SFGC’s own rehearsal and performance programs, the Kanbar Center provides long-term leased office space to such organizations as American Bach Soloists, Opera Parallèle, Jewish LearningWorks, and the Chinese-American International School, as well as rehearsal space for groups including the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Merola summer opera program and the San Francisco Boys Chorus.
The SFGC also offers an Educational Engagement Program that takes the choral music experience to under-served and low-income students throughout the Bay Area. Creating Choral Music is in its ninth year at elementary schools in San Francisco and the East Bay.
ARTISTIC TEAM BIOS