Sophia's Forest

Music by Lembit Beecher | Libretto by Hannah Moscovitch | Sung in English with supertitles | Running time approx 60 minutes with no intermission

Sophia’s Forest explores the lasting effects of the immigrant experience on families and the ways children use their imaginations to cope with trauma and find healing. The innovative opera tells the story of a nine-year-old recent immigrant to the US who, through a traumatic journey, escaped the chaos of a civil war in her homeland.

Nine electronically-controlled sound sculptures, designed and operated by composer Lembit Beecher, placed across the stage are a direct outgrowth of Sophia’s memories: bike wheels recall Sophia’s youthful adventures with her sister Emma, and wine glasses become a central part of her mother Anna’s coping once the family moves to America.

Performances

  • February 24, 2022 – 8:00pm
  • February 25, 2022 – 8:00pm
  • February 26, 2022 – 5:00pm & 8:00pm

Venue

Once upon a time, in a world of magic and wonder, the true love of a beautiful girl finally dispelled the torment of a feral but gentle-hearted beast. Jean Cocteau’s sublime adaptation of Mme. Leprince de Beaumont’s fairy-tale masterpiece is a landmark of motion picture fantasy, with unforgettably romantic performances by Jean Marais and Josette Day. By transforming the characters of both the Beast and Belle from childlike figures to complex adult characters living in a surrealistic dream world, Cocteau transforms the tale into a surreal vision of death and desire while exploring themes that continue to resonate today—identity, compassion, and inner beauty. This timeless icon of cinematic wonder served as the inspiration for Philip Glass’ 1994 opera of the same name.

EnhanceYour Experience

Please enjoy these resources to enhance your experience of Sophia’s Forest. The opera explores the lasting effects on families of the immigrant experience, and the ways in which children use their imaginations to cope with trauma and find healing. This selection of materials from a diverse range of creators, all explore this theme in their own way.

Panel Conversation

OP partnered with Grace Cathedral to present this panel conversation exploring the lasting effects of the immigrant experience on families and the ways children use their imaginations to cope with trauma and find healing. Featuring composer Lembit Beecher, Neuroscientist and Director Indre Viskontas, and refugee advocate and leader in the Afghan diaspora Malaak Malikyar Sills via the Islamic Networks Group – ING, in conversation with Dean Malcolm Clemens Young.

Music

Books

Composer Created Instruments & Sound Art

Björk - 'Biophilia - Moon'

Nick Cave - 'Soundsuits'

Sara Bouchard - 'Breathe, River'

Harry Partch - 'Delusion of the Fury'

Resource Organizations

SF CAIRS

The SF Refugee, Assylee, & Immigrant Forum

The LGBT Asylum Project

The LGBT Asylum Project is the only San Francisco nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to providing accessible legal representation for LGBT asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution due to their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or HIV status.

Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay

Wide ranging support services for Refugees & Immigrants in the East Bay

Catholic Charities SF

Center for Immigration Legal & Support Services

Cast & Creatives

Cast

Maggie Finnegan

Maggie Finnegan

Sophia - Soprano

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Returning to Opera Parallèle, Maggie Finnegan has collaborated in productions with: Boston Lyric Opera; Belgian National Orchestra; White Snake Projects; Portland Bach Experience; Boston Baroque; The Andriessen Festival (Netherlands); American Chamber Opera; National Sawdust; Vital Opera; Experiments in Opera; MIT Media Lab; PyeongChang Winter Music Festival; Handel and Haydn Society; Beth Morrison Projects; Capital Fringe Chamber Music; Center for Contemporary Opera; and, was recently was presented in a duo recital with Stephanie Blythe.
Kindra Scharich

Kindra Scharich

Anna - Mezzo-Soprano

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Mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich has been praised by The San Francisco Chronicle for her “exuberant vitality”, “fearless technical precision”, “deep-rooted pathos” and “irrepressible musical splendor.” Ms. Scharich has performed more than 250 art songs in 13 languages and 40 roles in the operatic repertoire. In 2019 she sang in three premières: The world première of Laura Kaminsky’s Today it Rains (Opera Parallèle), the West Coast première of Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves (West Edge Opera) and the modern day premiere of Domenico Freschi’s 1680 opera Ermelinda (ArsMinerva.) Scharich’s recordings include: In meinem Himmel: The Mahler Song Cycles (2018), To my Distant Beloved, with pianist Jeffrey LaDeur (2020), Nepomuceno Overseas, with pianist Ricardo Ballestero (2021) and David Conte’s Everyone Sang (2018)
Bradley Kynard

Bradley Kynard

Wes - Baritone

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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.
Charlotte Fanvu

Charlotte Fanvu

Young Sophia - Actor

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Charlotte Fanvu is thrilled to return to Opera Parallele as Young Sophia in Sophia’s Forest! Last year, she performed the role of Meg Weathers in Opera Parallele’s Everest: A Graphic Novel Opera. The 12-year-old San Francisco native began her vocal training at 6 years old with the Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco and enjoys singing, dancing, and acting. Charlotte is also an aspiring baker and hopes to find a way to combine her passions for the performing and culinary arts when she grows up.
Samantha Fung-Lee

Samantha Fung-Lee

Emma - Girl Soprano

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Samantha Fung-Lee, soprano, has been a member of the San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) for eleven years. As part of SFGC’s Premier Ensemble, she has performed on many stages including Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. Her time as a soloist confirms a deep interest in the pursuit of music in college and beyond. While singing is her passion, she also balances challenging academics as a junior at Lowell High School.
Victoria Ko

Victoria Ko

Emma - Girl Soprano

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Victoria Ko, soprano, joined the San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) at age four and has been a soprano in SFGC’s Premier Ensemble for six seasons. She is currently a senior at Stanford Online High School. Victoria has performed at The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, London’s Windsor Castle, the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, and many more. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, cooking, snorkeling, and playing games with friends.

Composer & Librettist

Lembit Beecher

Lembit Beecher

Composer

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Noted for his collaborative spirit and interdisciplinary projects, Estonian-American composer Lembit Beecher’s music deals with place, ecology, memory, and the many ways people tell stories. Lembit grew up under the redwoods in Santa Cruz, California, and now lives in New York City. His most recent opera, “Sky on Swings,” about the relationship of two women with Alzheimer’s disease, was premiered by Frederica von Stade and Marietta Simpson at Opera Philadelphia.
Hannah Moscovitch

Hannah Moscovitch

Librettist

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Hannah Moscovitch is considered one of the strongest playwriting voices in Canada. Her work has won multiple awards, most recently the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize for Drama. She was the first playwright to win the Trillium Book Award in the prize’s twenty-seven year history for This is War, a play premiered by Tarragon Theatre in 2013, which also won the Toronto Critic’s Award for Best Canadian Play. Moscovitch’s other writing for the stage includes Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story co-created with Ben Caplan and Christian Barry (winner of a Fringe First and a Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and nominated for six 2018 Drama Desk Awards in NY), Bunny (premiered at Stratford Festival and winner of a Toronto Critic’s Award for Best Canadian Play), What a Young Wife Ought to Know (premiered by Halifax’s Neptune and 2b theatre company (nominated for the Masterworks Award and a Dora Mavor Moore Best Touring Production Award), as well as The Russian Play and Essay, both of which won awards at SummerWorks Performance Festival. Beecher and Moscovitch have collaborated on three opera projects to date. Most recently, their work Sky on Swings premiered at the Philadelphia Opera. Their first collaboration, I Have No Stories to Tell You, premiered with Gotham Chamber Opera in 2014 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was staged in 2017 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the O17 festival.

Artistic + Production

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

Brian Staufenbiel

Brian Staufenbiel

Director

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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. Most recently he finished the Cocteau Trilogy with Opera Parallèle’s acclaimed production of La Belle et la Bête, and the first fully immersive opera experience of Talbot and Scheer’s Everest. On film Staufenbiel recently directed pieces for the online festival season of the Sun Valley Music Festival, a film of Dove/Angelis’ Flight for Seattle Opera, a graphic novel opera film of Talbot/Scheer’s Everest with Opera Parallèle, and a feature length film of Gordon Getty’s opera Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Upcoming film projects include a documentary about the life of Frederica von Stade with Paper Wings Films, and Out of the Darkness, a dance film about Japanese incarceration camps in the United States during World War II. Staufenbiel recently directed Golijov/Hwang’s Ainadamar at L’Opéra de Montréal which will be reprised at Victoria Opera next season. Other upcoming directing engagements include Das Rheingold for Seattle Opera and Calgary Opera and The Shining for Atlanta opera. Photo Credit: Cory Weaver.

Jessica Bejarano

Jessica Bejarano

Assistant Conductor

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Jessica Bejarano is the founder and music director of the San Francisco Philharmonic! She also serves as music director of ELM Youth Orchestra, assistant conductor of Opera Parallèle and music director at Escuela Bilingue Internationale. Jessica is a regular guest conductor with the Antonio Soler Orquestra in Spain and has guest conducted in the Czech Republic, Venezuela, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy and Russia. She has held conducting positions with numerous orchestras throughout the Bay Area and United States. Jessica was named KQED Arts’ Bay Brilliant Top 10 Artists of 2018, was featured by PBS NewsHour as an emerging female conductor to watch and recently featured on NBC’s The Today Show with Natalie Morales as the “Woman Breaking Barriers as a Trailblazing Symphony Conductor.”
Jon Altemus

Jon Altemus

Set Designer

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For the last 30 years, Jon Altemus’ work has revolved around the intersection between natural and human history. His career has ranged from art making to stage productions to creating museum exhibits at a broad range of museums ranging from the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center to the Smithsonian. In the last several years, he has collaborated on stage productions with Opera Parallele in San Francisco and shown his work at various galleries in the Bay Area, including 2 solo shows and one group show at Canessa Gallery. Altemus is particularly interested in the possibilities that emerge through collaboration with other artists, musicians, dancers and beyond.
Aaron Curry

Aaron Curry

Lighting Designer

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Aaron Curry (he/him/his) is humbled to make his OP debut. Previous credits include work at the American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco Opera, Butler Opera, Merrimack College, and the Hangar Theatre. Aaron now serves as the Creative Director for World of Illumination, designing the world’s largest drive through and immersive lighting experiences in the world. MFA University of Texas at Austin.
Marisely Cortés Fonseca

Marisely Cortés Fonseca

Costume Designer

Del Sol String Quartet

Del Sol String Quartet

Instrumental Ensemble

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Del Sol began as a thought on the night shift at Fermilab. Charlton Lee loved the cutting edge of physics research – always looking for the next discovery, pushing boundaries. But he missed the way music connected people, building community by communicating in ways physics never would. What if he could bring that scientific passion for exploration to a string quartet? Twenty-six years later, Del Sol is still sharing music that brings out the endorphins. Music that asks why not? Fascinated by the feedback loop between social change, technology, and artistic innovation, the San Francisco-based ensemble is a leading force in 21st century chamber music – whether introducing Ben Johnston’s microtonal Americana at the Library of Congress, taking Aeryn Santillan’s gun-violence memorial to the streets of the Mission District, exploring Andean soundscapes with Gabriela Lena Frank and traditional musicians, or collaborating with Huang Ruo and the anonymous poets who carved their words into the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station during the years of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The current Del Sol lineup, marked by the arrival of violinist Sam Weiser alongside mainstays Kathryn Bates and Ben Kreith, bring a fresh energy, freedom, and precision to the group.
Divesh Karamchandani

Divesh Karamchandani

Percussion

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Divesh Karamchandani is a San Francisco-based percussionist and educator. He is a co-founder of Prism Percussion. His notable performances include One Found Sound, New Century Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, San Francisco Symphony, and many others. Karamchandani earned a Bachelor of Music from California State University, Stanislaus, and a Master of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He serves as the Lecturer of Percussion at both CSU Stanislaus and CSU East Bay.

Supporters

Major support for this production has been provided by Bob Ellis, Stephen & Diane Heiman, and Paul L. King, with support from Producers Circle members Donna Dubinsky and Len Shustek.

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