ONE STORY TWO OPERAS
Opera Parallèle and SFJAZZ are joining forces to honor Leonard Bernstein on his 100th birthday, with a brand new production of the composer’s seminal opera Trouble in Tahiti. Jake Heggie, San Francisco’s pre-eminent composer, participates fully in this celebration with his chamber opera At the Statue of Venue. Both works explore personal relationships, and the struggles that can be experienced in one’s quest toward happiness. Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel envisions a narrative that connects both works together, where Rose, the sole character in At the Statue of Venue becomes Dinah in Trouble in Tahiti, imagining what would have happened to her after getting married and living the comfortable life of a housewife in suburban America. Mezzo-sopranos Renée Rapier and Abigail Levis incarnate this central character, and share the stage with baritones Kyle Albertson and Eugene Brancoveanu. Soprano (Krista Wigle), tenor (Andres Ramirez), and baritone (Bradley Kynard) personify the Greek chorus, in a jazz trio whose syncopated comments, inspired by popular music, already foreshadow West Side Story. The set design by Dave Dunning will include a giant turntable featuring revolving tableaux for the varied dramatic locations. Atmospheric visuals created by Media Designer David Murakami, and period costumes by Costume Designer Christine Crook, will evoke the troubled state of these souls adrift in the heart of Suburbia, in an aesthetic reminiscent of the Mad Men era. Mixed media collage artist Sherry Parker will collaborate with OP to create an immersive experience, transforming the SFJAZZ Miner auditorium into an art gallery. Choreographer Amy Seiwert and dancer Steffi Cheong will bring to life the statue suggested in the title of Jake Heggie’s work. The orchestra will be conducted by OP’s Artistic Director Nicole Paiement.
Wednesday, February 14, Love at First Sight preview performance
Thursday, February 15, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, February 16, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 17, 3 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 18, 3 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
SFJAZZ, 201 Franklin Street, San Francisco
(IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE)
AT THE STATUE OF VENUS
RENÉE RAPIER & ABIGAIL LEVIS (Alternating performances)
TROUBLE IN TAHITI
Dinah: RENÉE RAPIER & ABIGAIL LEVIS (Alternating performances)
Sam: KYLE ALBERTSON & EUGENE BRANCOVEANU (Alternating performances)
Trio: ANDREAS RAMIREZ, KRISTA WIGLE, and BRADLEY KYNARD
Dancer: STEFFI CHEONG
Conductor: Nicole Paiement
Creative/Stage Director: Brian Staufenbiel
Assistant Director: Laura Anderson
Media Design: David Murakami
Costume Design: Christine Crook
Set Design: Dave Dunning
Lighting: Matthew Antaky
Mixed-Media Collage Artist: Sherry Parker
Choreographer: Amy Seiwert
Hair & Makeup: Sophia Smith
LEONARD BERNSTEIN (Composer, Trouble in Tahiti)
Few composers capture their time and become the iconic voice of their age. Leonard Bernstein found his “voice” in the early 1940s and projected the sound of urban and urbane America from the period of World War II to the anti-war movements of the 1970s and the restoration of freedom in Europe, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet communism.
Writing for small ensembles, symphony orchestras, Broadway, film and opera houses, Leonard Bernstein projected a simple message of understanding and hope employing both complex and simple forms and styles – yet always sounding like “Bernstein,” a voice best known in his score to West Side Story.
Exploring his output, one finds the famous and obscure — works that both are reflective of their times and somehow also preserve and encapsulate them. Everywhere one hears his internal struggle to sound inevitable as the tumultuous era of the second half of the 20th century unfolded itself. He is as once linked with the music of Benjamin Britten and Dimitri Shostakovich, as well as George Gershwin and Aaron Copland.
While his music finds its spiritual home in his world view, his music speaks with a New York accent, even though he was born in Massachusetts. His love affair with Europe and his sensitivity to his Russian and Jewish roots are never far from his lyrical expressivity, with its fragile sense of optimism, its loneliness, its humor and its demand for acceptance. All of this is wrapped in the rhythmic propulsion of a great American urban landscape. He has left us an aural image of his time and place and, at the same time, an eternal voice of humanity.
by John Mauceri from https://leonardbernstein.com/about/composer
JAKE HEGGIE (Composer, At the Statue of Venus)
Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Moby-Dick, Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, To Hell and Back, and Out of Darkness: a triptych of Holocaust stories (Another Sunrise – Farewell, Auschwitz – For a Look or a Touch). He has also composed more than 250 songs, as well as chamber, choral and orchestral works. The operas – most created with the distinguished writers Terrence McNally and Gene Scheer – have been produced extensively on five continents. Dead Man Walking (McNally) has received 40 productions since its premiere, as well as two live recordings. Moby-Dick (Scheer) was telecast in 2013 as part of Great Performances’ 40th Season and was recently released on DVD (EuroArts). It is also the subject of the book Heggie & Scheer’s Moby-Dick: A Grand Opera for the 21st Century (UNT Press). Heggie, a Guggenheim Fellow, has served as a mentor to Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative for young composers and librettists for the past two seasons. Upcoming commissions include Great Scott (McNally) for The Dallas Opera, starring Joyce DiDonato; The Radio Hour (Scheer) for the John Alexander Singers; a new project for Houston Grand Opera; songs for Kiri Te Kanawa at Ravinia; and The Work at Hand, Symphonic Songs for mezzo Jamie Barton and cellist Anne Martindale-Williams, co-commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony and Carnegie Hall.
TERRENCE MCNALLY (LIBRETTIST) received the 2011 Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and has won four Tony Awards for his plays Love! Valor! Compassion! and Master Class, and his books for the musicals Ragtime and Kiss of the Spiderwoman. His most recent play, Mothers and Sons, received a 2014 Tony Award Nomination for Best Play and marked his 20th Broadway production. In 2010, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honored him with a festival of his work, Terrence McNally’s Nights at the Opera. His large body of work also includes the plays Golden Age, Away We Go, Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, The Lisbon Traviata, Corpus Christi, Some Men, A Perfect Ganesh, It’s Only a Play, as well as books for the musicals The Full Monty, A Man of No Importance and The Visit. He also wrote librettos for the operas Dead Man Walking and Great Scott, both with composer Jake Heggie.
RENÉE RAPIER (At the Statue of Venus/Dinah, Trouble in Tahiti) has been praised for her “dark, velvety mezzo” (Opera News) and “exceptional strength and solidity” (San Francisco Classical Voice) and is quickly establishing herself in opera houses around the world. She trained both as an LA Opera Domingo Thornton Young Artist and an Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera, and has gone on to make debuts at LA Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Theatre St. Louis, the Ravinia Festival, Opera San Antonio, San Francisco Opera, Dallas Opera, and Seattle Opera.
ABIGAIL LEVIS (At the Statue of Venus/Dinah, Trouble in Tahiti) An alumna of young artist programs at the Los Angeles Opera and Utah Opera, mezzo-soprano Abigail Levis has been featured with Deutsche Oper Berlin, Dallas Opera, Wolftrap Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Toronto Symphony, Portland Baroque, and New York Festival of Song. Season highlights for the Klaudia Taev Competition winner include San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque, the Florida Orchestra, and Opera Parallèle. The Maine native has been highly praised for her performances in The Marriage of Figaro, Die Fledermaus, Messiah, Cosi fan tutte, and Giulio Cesare.
EUGENE BRANCOVEANU (Sam, Trouble in Tahiti) is a former Adler Fellow and won the 2003 Tony Award for over 500 performances as Marcello (La Bohème) on Broadway. Mr. Brancoveanu’s extensive international career includes a national tour with Michael Tilson Thomas’ Emmy-nominated production The Thomashefskys, and regular performances with San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, New York City Opera, Virginia Opera, the Romanian State Opera, Staatstheater Stuttgart, Tel Aviv Opera, and the Matsumoto Music Festival under Seiji Osawa, among others. He has sung lead roles with Opera Parallèle in Trouble in Tahiti / A Hand of Bridge, Four Saints in Three Acts, Young Caesar, and Orphée.
ANDREAS RAMIREZ (Trio, Trouble in Tahiti) returns to Opera Parallèle after being seen most recently as Gerard in Les Enfants Terribles, Papi in Xochitl and the Flowers, and Luis Rodrigo Griffith in Champion. A graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Mr. Ramirez has experience performing in opera, musical theater, and the concert stage. He recently joined the Pacific Chorale and made his debut at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Performance highlights include: A Little Night Music (Mr. Erlanson; American Conservatory Theatre), Anya17 (Uri/Gabriel; Opera Parallèle), and the titular role in Candide (Douglas Morrisson Theatre).
STEFFI CHEONG made her Opera Parallèle last season in Les Enfants Terribles. She received her BFA from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance and had the opportunity to join DanceWorks Chicago before graduation. In 2013 Steffi joined ODC/Dance in San Francisco where she performed and helped create exceptionally athletic works. Throughout her career she graced stages nationwide, in Europe, Mexico, and Canada. Most recently Steffi is exploring other avenues that diverge from a full-time dance career and is currently working at Drew School in Pacific Heights.
NICOLE PAIEMENT (ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/CONDUCTOR/FOUNDER) has gained an international reputation as a conductor of contemporary music and opera. Her numerous recordings include many world premiere works and she has toured extensively in the US and Asia. Paiement is an active Guest Conductor. She has recently been appointed Principal Guest Conductor at The Dallas Opera where she appeared in February 2014 to conduct performances of Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers (libretto by Robert Pinsky). Nicole Paiement earned rave reviews in her 2012 Dallas Opera debut conducting Peter Maxwell Davies’ 1979 thriller, The Lighthouse. At the time, Wayne Lee Gay of D Magazine’s Front Row blog wrote: “She combined old-fashioned precision and discipline with up-to-the-minute insight into the complex modernity of the score.” In Januray 2015, she will return to conduct the world premiere of Joby Talbot’s opera Everest. In December of 2014, she will appear as guest conductor with the Washington National Opera. With Opera Parallèle, Paiement has conducted many new productions including the World premiere of the commissioned chamber version of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, the West Coast premiere of John Rea’s re-orchestration of Berg’s Wozzeck, Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar and the commission of Dante De Silva’s opera Gesualdo, Prince of Madness – presented as a graphic opera.
In the wake of highly praised performances of Francis Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias and Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel last April, about which Suzanne Weiss of Culture Vulture wrote: “If more people knew that opera could be this cool, more people would go to the opera.” Additionally, Nicole Paiement is the Artistic Director of the BluePrint Project – a new music series sponsored by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. With this music series, she has commissioned, premiered and recorded works from many living American composers. Paiement previously served as the Director of Ensembles at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she conducted the orchestra and opera productions.
BRIAN STAUFENBIEL (CREATIVE DIRECTOR) As the creative director and stage director for Opera Parallèle since 2007, Brian Staufenbiel actively works across a wide range of artistic disciplines. Specializing in multimedia and interdisciplinary productions, his progressive approach to stagecraft garnered critical acclaim for several of the company’s productions, including Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness, Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, Glass’ Orphée and Les Enfant Terribles, Golijov’s Ainadamar, Gorb’s Anya 17, Berg’s Wozzeck, Davies’ The Lighthouse, Blanchard’s Champion and Dove’s Flight. This season, Mr. Staufenbiel helms two new productions for Opera Parallèle, Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince and Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti with Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus.
Mr. Staufenbiel recently created a new production of Das Rheingold for Minnesota Opera in Fall 2016, which he will remount with Arizona opera and Fort Worth Opera in 2018. He is currently creating a new production of Gordon Getty’s Usher House and Canterville Ghost for the Center of Contemporary Opera in NY and LA Opera. He will be directing and is dramaturge for two new world premieres; Today it Rains with composer Laura Kaminsky and librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed for Spring 2019, as well as the world premiere production of a new work by composers Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch.
Recently, Staufenbiel directed the World Premiere of Angel Heart by Luna Pearl Woolf which was performed at Cal Performances in Berkeley, Carnegie Hall in New York City, and Festival del Sole in Sonoma. In addition to opera, Staufenbiel also brings his unique brand of experimental staging to theater, and has shared a residency at Banff with composer Luna Pearl Woolf to create an original theater piece – Mélange à Trois- premiered in Montréal.
Staufenbiel’s interdisciplinary approach to opera extends to his academic activity. He has directed the opera program at the University of California, Santa Cruz for over 17 years, where he has mounted a wide spectrum of award winning productions ranging from traditional operas to original works by contemporary composers. Staufenbiel holds a DMA from the Eastman School of Music and currently resides in San Francisco.
LAURA ANDERSON (STAGE MANAGER) In addition to her work with Opera Parallèle, Laura Anderson’s recent projects include productions with Rork Music, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and TEDx Berkeley. Anderson was the production stage manager for the live performance portion of the Emmy-nominated Twin Cities Public Television documentary, Parables, featuring the opera of the same name by Robert Aldridge and Herschel Garfein. She holds a doctorate in opera studies from the University of Minnesota.
DAVID MURAKAMI (MEDIA DESIGNER) is an award-winning film director, writer, and theatrical multi-media designer working towards integrating innovative technologies with traditional performance on stage. He has designed experimental set-pieces ranging from the classic works of Henrik Ibsen, to the vaudeville reunion of the Flying Karamazov Brothers, to the science fiction of Ray Bradbury, and has directed actors ranging from university students to members of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
CHRISTINE CROOK (COSTUME DESIGNER) began designing costumes for Opera Parallèle in 2011. Crook’s designs are also seen all over the Bay Area with companies like Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, Cal Shakes, Shotgun Players, Encore Theatre, Aurora Theatre, Boxcar Theatre, San Francisco Playhouse, UC Berkeley, Center Repertory, Just Theater, Festival Opera, and Berkeley Playhouse. She also designed costumes for Lucia di Lammermoor with LA Opera for their 2013/14 season.
DAVE DUNNING (SET DESIGNER) is the head of Legend Theatrical design. He has been involved in the theater community throughout California, providing lighting design as well as scenic design and construction for many drama and dance productions, including Twelfth Night, the West Coast premiere of Grace and Glory, and Mendocino Music Festival’s award-winning Dame Edna: The Royal Tour. Dunning designed the sets for Opera Parallèle’s productions of Young Caesar and Orphée.
MATTHEW ANTAKY (LIGHTING DESIGNER) has created and collaborated on installation, scenic, and lighting designs for all of the performing arts including dance, opera, theater, and music for nearly 30 years. In addition to Opera Parallèle, his design credits include Utah Opera, Opera Pacific, Festival Opera, Dallas Symphony, the San Francisco World Music Festival, Opera San Jose, the Cabrillo Music Festival, and The Oakland Symphony. He is an eight-time nominee (1999 –2013) and four-time recipient of the Isadora Duncan Award.
SHERRY PARKER (MIXED MEDIA COLLAGE ARTIST)
AMY SEIWERT (CHOREOGRAPHER) made her Opera Parallèle debut last season with her stunning work on Les Enfants Terribles. She serves as the artistic director and primary choreographer of the San Francisco contemporary ballet company, Imagery. As Rita Felciano wrote in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, “She quite possibly is the Bay Area’s most original dance thinker, taking what some consider a dead language and using it as a 21st century lingo to tell us something about who we are.” She was named one of “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine, one of the “Hot 20 under 40” by 7×7 Magazine, was honored with a “Goldie” award from the Guardian, and her choreography has been listed in the “Top 10” dance events of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle multiple times. As a dancer with Smuin Ballet she was mentored under the wing of the late Michael Smuin, and keeps a relationship with the company as their Choreographer in Residence. Visit www.ASImagery.org for more information.
SOPHIA SMITH (HAIR AND MAKEUP) made her debut with Opera Parallèle as Wig and Makeup designer for last season’s Les Enfants Terribles. Her success was established with the premiere of UCSC’s The Little Prince. She recently designed West Edge Opera’s Powder Her Face, The Cunning Little Vixen, Agrippina, and Lulu. Her upcoming projects include designing wigs and makeup for UCSC’s Orpheus in the Underworld. Ms. Smith graduated in May 2014 with her BFA in painting from San Jose State University in her hometown.
AT THE STATUE OF VENUS
Rose, a middle-aged woman anxiously awaits her blind date by a statue of Venus in a museum. While waiting, thoughts race through her head. She worries about the appropriateness of her dress to the point of self deprecation. Rose is equally concerned about her age and looks, frequently comparing herself to other women in the museum. In anticipation, she wonders what her date will look like and judges men walking her way: one, she notes, is bald and unattractive; another is strikingly handsome. And another approaches her to ask directions to the bathroom. She concludes by thinking – “Will I know him? Of course, I will. He’ll be a man I can laugh with and be myself with. He’ll be handsome which only means, when I look at him, my heart will smile. That’s all handsome is: happiness…
TROUBLE IN TAHITI
Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti from 1951 offers a candid portrait of the troubled marriage of a young suburban couple and features some of Bernstein’s most haunting music. The opera begins with a vocal trio singing of idyllic middle-class life in 1950s suburbia. Their close harmonies, jazz rhythms and idealized representation of American life are evocative of radio commercials of the era. Throughout the 45-minute opera, the Trio functions as a contemporary Greek chorus of bystanders providing satirical commentary. Trouble in Tahiti, a one-act opera in seven scenes, draws upon popular songs styles to deliver an uncompromising critique of post-war American materialism. Beneath Sam and Dinah’s marital discord is a profound longing for love and intimacy. Their spiritual emptiness, in contrast to a veneer of happy consumerism, creates the heart of the drama and is emphasized by sudden stylistic shifts in the music. The opera received its first performance in June of 1952 at Bernstein’s Festival of the Creative Arts on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts to an audience of nearly 3,000 people.