Opera parallèle presents The Emissary. based on the novel by yoko tawada, translated by margaret mitsutani. composer kenji oh. librettist kelley rourke.
Digital Program for

The Emissary

October 27 — 28, 2023 @ ODC Theater, San Francisco

Composer Kenji Oh | Librettist Kelley Rourke


Nicole Paiement
Read Artistic & General Director's Note

Artistic and General Director’s Note

We are delighted to extend a warm welcome to you as we gather for the world premiere of The Emissary by Kenji Oh and Kelley Rourke, a new commission from Opera Parallèle’s Hands-On-Opera


The Emissary is a work that has captured our hearts and minds with its pressing environmental concerns, weaving them seamlessly into intergenerational narratives, delivering a thought-provoking exploration of our interconnected world. This opera highlights the enduring impact of human actions on both present and future generations and aligns beautifully with Opera Parallèle’s mission to present thought-provoking, relevant works that inspire our audiences.


We have been fortunate to collaborate with the brilliant minds of Kenji Oh and Kelley Rourke, who have created a poignant work that speaks to audiences of all ages. Kenji’s evocative compositions and Kelley’s insightful libretto work together beautifully to build the world of Yoko Tawada’s novel on stage. We are so proud to commission Kenji’s first, of what I’m sure will be, many operas.


OP is also so pleased to welcome back Yayoi Kambara, joining us as a Stage Director for the first time and bringing her unique choreographic approach to this production, infusing it with depth and emotion that will speak to your heart. Sharing the podium with Jaco Wong, a promising young conductor has been a joy and an important part of OP’s mission to help promising artists launch their career. 


This marks the 7th iteration of OP’s Hands-On-Opera program, one that is very close to my heart. OP is dedicated to expanding the operatic repertoire and audience by commissioning BIPOC composers and creating a space for new stories to be told. Hands-On-Opera is the embodiment of our commitment to nurturing the next generation of opera enthusiasts, by creating works that speak to them and opportunities for them to experience the power of opera. 


As we embark on this journey across the sea with Mumei, we hope you will connect with the profound themes and emotions that make this story so powerful. We believe that this production resonates with the ever-evolving world we live in, and we are thrilled to share this experience with you.


Nicole Paiement
General & Artistic Director
Opera Parallèle

Read Director's Note

Director’s Note

In opera, artists collaborate to share a story. 


Coming from a dance background, the creative process of contemporary opera has always felt incredibly collaborative – much like the dedication it takes for a partner to lift another, but multiplied, especially when the composer and librettist are alive! I’m thrilled to share the premiere of The Emissary, which brings together a multigenerational group of artists to perform and give life to Yoko Tawada’s story through Kelly Rourke’s beautiful libretto and Kenji Oh’s haunting and insightful composition.


My journey building The Emissary began by reading the book translated by Margret Mitsutani. The idea of translation and how signs and symbols communicate messages influenced my creative process in direction and collaboration. I wondered: how can we invite an audience to empathize with our young, kind, full-hearted protagonist, Mumei, and his elderly great-grandfather Yoshiro, who are called to take risks so others can be saved?


As I began to work with the student artists in this cast, I saw Mumei in each of them – a willingness to let imagination take flight and a commitment to themselves and one another. Their collaboration, singing, and moving together in unfamiliar ways demonstrates care as a fundamental value. Ultimately, their performance is a reflection of their youthful resilience in action. By embodying this story and performing their talents, these young artists inspire adults to be more flexible and to value exchange.


Throughout The Emissary, you will meet the association of co-conspirators looking to challenge the inheritance of environmental ruin and state violence. My dear friend and creative director of Opera Parallèle, Brian Staufenbiel, played a co-conspirator role by inviting me to direct this production, visioning female stage directors of color in opera. I’m grateful for his support. 


I see so much similarity between the world imagined in The Emissary and today. As Ursula K. Le Guin wrote, “science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive”. As a parent, I grieve and fear the world our children are inheriting. But as we traverse through The Emissary, with Kenji’s music and Kelley’s libretto, hope emerges. Working closely with conductors Nicole Paiement and Jaco Wong, our principals Bradley Kynard and Angela Yam, and designers Matthew Linzer and Spense Matubang, our sonic and performance collaboration is symbolic evidence of a commitment to a social practice for one another and all of our children.


Join us in our commitment, sing the final round, and promise to be a co-conspirator. Join the dragonflies and dandelions who dare to take flight. Our young people will be called to shoulder the burden of shaping our collective futures soon, just like Mumei. Let our voices help them take flight.


Yayoi Kambara
Director, The Emissary

Read Composer's Note

Composer’s Note

Welcome to the city adrift on the sea, a society struggling beneath the weight of its own history. In this dystopian landscape, evoking a disturbingly relatable world depicted by the author Yoko Tawada, authoritarians, totalitarians, and nationalists have embraced propaganda, replacing delicate words with euphemisms to obscure their true intentions and manipulate the past. The consequences of harmful decisions ripple through the environment and people’s health. The aftermath of choices made by governments and corporations fueled by a troubled society. This narrative extends its dark shadow to the generations to come, as they inherit not just a polluted world but also a distorted perspective.


Amid the bleakness of this world, The Emissary offers a beacon of hope. Our opera centers on the profound and heartwarming bond between cheerful young boy Mumei and his tender great-grandfather Yoshiro. Mumei’s playfulness and cheerfulness shine as brightly as a “melted dandelion”, casting light into the bleak world. Their remarkable attitude in the face of adversity prompts us to contemplate essential questions.


In this thought-provoking narrative, there are two important musical motifs. One is the dandelion motif, symbolizing optimism and resilience in its spirited rhythm and shape. The other is the dragonfly motif, representing hope with a sense of exploration and curiosity within its melody. What unites the dandelion and dragonfly? It’s their shared ability to migrate great distances across generations, defying the odds as they ride the winds, even cross vast seas. These motifs permeate the entire composition, as if they journey through the music with us, carrying the essence of hope. At the destination, the dragonfly song evolves into a canon, symbolizing an unending river of lives—a testament to hope and the eternal cycle of reincarnation.


On the technical side, the most significant challenge was to make it accessible, inviting, and enjoyable for the high school student singers while preserving the musical depth and intricacy. As I navigated this creative journey, the infusion of satire and innocence aligned with the context musically. Beyond the technical aspects, the vision and spirit of the Hands-On-Opera program had a significant impact on shaping this composition as the intergenerational relationship between the chorus and the rest of the production harmonizes with the central theme of our narrative. This collaboration has allowed our opera to shine as a guiding light in this darkening era, much like the dandelion and dragonfly, which carry the essence of optimism, resilience, and hope. I am deeply honored to have composed my first opera for Opera Parallèle’s Hands-On-Opera program.


Completing my first opera would not have been possible without all the support from Opera Parallèle and my writing partner, Kelley Rourke. Their insights and dedication were invaluable. I’d like to extend my deep gratitude to the superb artists and Lick Wilmerding High School Chorus for their unwavering commitment and remarkable talents. I am profoundly grateful for the steadfast support of my colleagues, friends, family, and especially my husband, Victor. Last but certainly not least, I’d like to thank you for being part of this cycle of hope with us here at the premiere!


Kenji Oh
Composer, The Emissary

Read Librettist's Note

Librettist’s Note

The Emissary, by Yoko Tawada, tells the story of a wounded world in which the mistakes of previous generations have caused extinctions and mutations across every species.  This world’s mutations—or, as the novel’s characters call them, “environmental adaptations”—are not only biological, but also behavioral. No one speaks of what has caused the current situation, and people refer to the sickening changes with bright euphemisms. In addition, Japan has cut off all contact with the outside world. Foreign words are forbidden, and even pictures and stories of distant lands are suspect. 


Tawada’s novel is a speculative vision grounded in Japanese culture and history, but the seeds of such a dystopian future are scattered around the globe. We have already experienced a world in which wildfire smoke makes it unsafe to walk outdoors and draw a deep breath. A world in which the water supply in a major American city becomes undrinkable for two years. A world that scientists speculate is on the brink of its sixth mass extinction. A world in which a single miscalculated remark can result in “cancellation.” 


In the world of The Emissary, the loving relationship between Yoshiro and his great-grandson Mumei shines like a lamp against a dark backdrop. In private moments, Yoshiro staggers under the burden of what has been lost. But most of the time, he is absorbed in making his great-grandson’s days as bright as possible. And Mumei, despite his frailties, meets each day with imagination, humor and wonder.


As we view the world through the eyes of Yoshiro and Mumei, another bright spot arises. Members of a shadowy “Emissary Association”—who share a ritual of rising before dawn to light a candle—are looking for a child to send abroad. If scientists in other lands become aware of what’s happening to Japan’s children, they think, perhaps these countries will make a change. The hope represented by this Association gradually comes to dominate Mumei’s consciousness, and even as his health continues to decline, he becomes determined to make the crossing for the good of all.


Whenever I consider an opera project, I always ask, “Why does this  want to be an opera? Is there space for music to add dimension and value?”  When the team at OP suggested The Emissary, I saw immediately how the medium of opera could take us on a journey to this strangely luminous dystopia. And the more I got to know Kenji Oh’s music, the more it became clear that he is uniquely suited to this story’s kaleidoscope of emotions, constantly refracting and blurring.


Mumei and Yoshiro live in an environment that has been warped by carelessness, isolationism, and fear. What might it mean for a shattered society if one—or two, or five, or five hundred—cared enough to dedicate all their precious energy to the vision of a better future? What might it mean if even one small child can summon the courage to cross over to the unknown with a heart full of love and hope?


Kelley Rourke
Librettist, The Emissary

"Dragonfly Canon"

by written by Kenji Oh and Kelley Rourke, performed by Perri So, soprano, and Keisuke Nakagoshi, piano | The Emissary opera

Dragonfly, how do you fly, across the wide blue sea? Dragonfly, what do you see, there across the sea?

The Dragonfly Canon

“Dragonfly, how do you fly, across the wide blue sea?
Dragonfly, what do you see, there across the sea?”

At the heart of The Emissary is this beautiful “canon,” or round, a melody that multiple voices sing, starting at different times. Introduced early in the opera, this “dragonfly canon” is sung by the whole cast at the finale – and, we hope, by you as well. Please join us in singing the final round of this beautiful melody with the cast at the close of The Emissary, when you are invited by the conductor.

From the opera The Emissary, Kenji Oh composer, Kelley Rourke librettist.

An Interview withYoko Tawada

Read Interview

Opera Parallèle was honored to have Yoko Tawada, author of the novel The Emissary, agree to answer some questions from the creators of our new family opera based on her novel.


Nicole PaiementFrom Nicole Paiement – Artistic Director & Conductor:


The opera The Emissary, an adaptation of your novel that was originally published as Kentoshi in Japanese, adapts your words (translated into English) but also uses music to tell the story you created. In interviews you have spoken a lot about your love of books, literature, and your thoughts on language in general.  What are your thoughts about music, in general and as a storytelling language? 


Yoko Tawada: It is like magic for me that music can also tell stories. These are stories that people from different backgrounds and mother tongues can share. At the same time, these are stories of the felt world, not just the visible world.  I find that the musical adoption of a novel is its continuation.


From Kelley Rourke – Librettist:


Translating a novel into an opera potentially involves an even greater transformation than translating a novel into another language. What did you consider when you were approached regarding an operatic adaptation of THE EMISSARY, and why did you say yes? 


Yoko Tawada: To be honest, I don’t know. Perhaps I would first try to capture the atmosphere in the novel (because the situation is tragic, but the mood is not), then I will look at the individual characters in detail. Then it would be important for me how to translate language plays into music. But these are only my ideas and I don’t ask other people to do that.


From Kenji Oh – Composer:


I think of music as a kind of language and I think music has similarities to literature. Music uses quotes and symbols etc. You use the sound of words in a unique way that stimulates our brain, and connects seemingly unrelated subjects or completely changes the impression of the words. I think it’s very musical. What are your thoughts about how music and literature intersect? 


Yoko Tawada: When the music hits a text, a hidden face of the text appears visibly. I find that exciting every time. Also, singing is a wonderful, mysterious, sometimes uncanny, almost superhuman way of using voice. Language can tell a story, but that is only 20 percent of the function of language in literature. Everything else can be found out through musical approaches, among others.

“These are some renderings of the set — market and school scene, some ideas for the signs in the market scene, and the in-process crate wall. For this production, I really wanted the re-use, re-purpose feel to be present. Most everything is built from older materials and formed into something else. There is a utilitarian feel but also with some brightness of hope. There is a modern Japanese with western influence using language, texture and color to explore the different representational elements.”

— Matthew Linzer, Scenic and Costumer Designer, Props Artisan for The Emissary

Opera Parallèle presents

The Emissary

Composer Kenji Oh      Librettist Kelley Rourke

Based on the novel by Yoko Tawada | English translation by Margaret Mitsutani

Commissioned by Opera Parallèle for the Hands-On-Opera program

THE EMISSARY, by Yoko Tawada, translated by Margaret Mitsutani, copyright ©2014 by Yoko Tawada, translation copyright © 2018 by Margaret Mitsutani. This production is authorized by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.


Performed in English with supertitles.

The performance will last approximately 50 minutes, no intermission. No food or drink allowed inside the theater. Please note the location of all exits, and place your electronic devices in “Airplane mode,” or turn off. 

The performance Friday, October 27 at 7 pm will be followed by a post-show discussion with local Bay Area youth climate change leaders. The performance Saturday, October 28 at 1 pm will be followed by a talk back with director Yayoi Kambara, composer Kenji Oh, and librettist Kelley Rourke.

Please respect the audience and the performers on stage. Photographing, videotaping, or recording this production is strictly prohibited.

All images and/or content provided by Opera Parallèle staff, contractors, and/or creative artists unless otherwise credited. Opinions expressed by contractors, contributors, and/or creative artists do not necessarily reflect the views of Opera Parallèle. Photo credits are included as provided.

ODC Theater. 3153 17th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

The use of face masks are encouraged on the ODC campus, (including in common spaces, studios, and theaters).

View Cast List

Cast List

Bradley Kynard

Angela Yam*

Andrew Nay*

Cayden Sewell*

Claire Malaney-Lau*
Marika (10/27, 10/28 4 pm)

Meher Singh
Marika (10/28 1 pm)

Naomi Coffman*
Ms. Nemoto (10/27, 10/28 4 pm)

Kiyomi Treanor
Ms. Nemoto (10/28 1 pm)

Dash Donovan*
Mr. Yonatani

Perri So
Suiren (10/27, 10/28 4 pm)

Lauren Thompson*
Suiren (10/28 1 pm)


*Making Opera Parallèle debut this season.

View Orchestra


Jessie Nucho
Flute (piccolo)

Leslie Tagorda
Clarinet (bass clarinet)

Carlos Alvarez*

Keisuke Nakagoshi

Bronwyn James

Constantine Janello*

Angela Dwyer*
Lick-Wilmerding Rehearsal Pianist


*Making Opera Parallèle debut this season.

View Chorus

Student Chorus

Samantha Liu*, Soprano
Claire Malaney-Lau*, Soprano
Perri So, Soprano
Lucy Sun*, Soprano
Lauren Thompson*, Soprano
Naomi Coffman*, Alto
Amalia Lopez*, Alto
Cayden Sewell*, Alto
Meher Singh, Alto
Kiyomi Treanor, Alto
Lev Corliss*, Tenor
Dash Donovan*, Tenor
Andrew Nay*, Tenor
Tarek Wilks*, Tenor


*Making Opera Parallèle debut this season.

View Creative Team

Creative Team

Kenji Oh*

Kelley Rourke*

Yoko Tawada*

Margaret Mitsutani*

Nicole Paiement
Conductor (10/27, 10/28 4 pm)

Yayoi Kambara
Stage Director

Jaco Wong*
Associate Conductor (10/28 1 pm)

Tony Asaro*
Chorus Director, Lick-Wilmerding

Anton Krukowski*
Chorus Support, Lick-Wilmerding

Matthew Linzer*
Scenic & Costume Designer, Props Artisan

Spense Matubang*
Lighting Designer


*Making Opera Parallèle debut this season.

View Production Team

Production Team

Phil Lowery*
Director of Production

Grace Popple*
Assistant Production Manager

Brian Staufenbiel
Production Advisor

Daniel Harvey
Community Engagement

Genevieve Pabon*
Stage Manager

Alijah Carter*
Assistant Stage Manager

Lance Müller*
Costume Assistant

Audrey Chandler
Supertitles Operator

Tasso Tourlos*
Production Assistant

Evan Gardiner*
Production Assistant


*Making Opera Parallèle debut this season.

Production and Workshop Sponsors

View Production & Workshop Sponsors

The Future Fund; Gordon Getty; Aaron Hoffer & Emi Wang; Candace Zander Kahn; Fred Levin, The Shenson Foundation; Nancy Petrisko & Don Beckham; Sam Mazza Foundation; UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center and the George and Sakaye Aratani CARE Award; Akiko Yamazaki & Jerry Yang; Zellerbach Family Foundation

Production Circle Members

View Production Circle Members

Donna Dubinsky & Len Shustek

The directorial debut of Yayoi Kambara with Opera Parallèle was partially supported by OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors, generously funded by the Marineau Family Foundation.

Special thanks to Nicolas Aliaga; Jack Beuttler; Angela Dwyer; Ashley Johnson-Schwartz; Anton Krukowski; Lamplighters Music Theatre; Sophie Leininger; Colum McNalley, Z Space; the Merola Opera Program; Francesca Muscolo; Katya Ponomarenko; Grace Popple; the San Francisco Girls Chorus; West Edge Opera; Kayla Wilfong; and Brian Williamson.

After suffering from a massive irreparable disaster, Japan cuts itself off from the world, in what could be viewed as a post-Fukushima time. Children are so weak they can barely stand or walk: the only people with any motivation are the elderly. Mumei lives with his great-grandfather Yoshiro, who worries about him constantly.

They carry on a day-to-day routine, with all children born ancient—frail and gray-haired, yet incredibly compassionate and wise. Mumei may be enfeebled and feverish, but he is a beacon of hope, full of wit and free of self-pity and pessimism. Yoshiro concentrates on nourishing Mumei, a strangely wonderful boy who offers “the beauty of the time that is yet to come.”

Sung in English with supertitles. Runtime: 50 minutes, no intermission

In this new family opera spanning generations, journey through a future where hope and resilience shine in a world on the brink. Opera Parallèle has commissioned composer Kenji Oh and librettist Kelley Rourke to create this brand new adaptation of The Emissary, based on the award-winning novel by celebrated Japanese author Yoko Tawada, as part of the seventh iteration of Hands-On-Opera. Directed by Yayoi Kambara and starring Angela Yam and Bradley Kynard, and featuring the Lick-Wilmerding High School Chorus, bring the whole family to this world premiere!

Sung in English with supertitles. Runtime: 50 minutes, no intermission

Since 2013, Opera Parallèle’s Hands-On-Opera program has created opportunities for students of all ages to have a complete operatic experience. This program gives non-professional singers the opportunity to participate in producing and performing in a fully-produced opera. The program also provides opportunities for emerging composers, librettists and creatives through the commission of new works, specifically for young performer participants and multi-generational audiences.


Since 2013, Opera Parallèle’s Hands-On-Opera program has created opportunities for students of all ages to have a complete operatic experience. This program gives non-professional singers the opportunity to participate in producing and performing in a fully-produced opera. The program also provides opportunities for emerging composers, librettists and creatives through the commission of new works, specifically for young performer participants and multi-generational audiences.

Learn More About Hands-On-Opera

Participants in Hands-on-Opera experience the following:

  • Learning and preparing music, with professional guidance accompanied by orchestral instruments
  • Telling a story and developing a character with singing and movement
  • Working with a conductor and a stage director
  • Performing on stage in front of a live audience with professional singers

View previous Hands-On-Opera productions in our Past Productions

Enhance Your Experience. Enjoy a special curation of videos, readings, & conversations on The Emissary. Click here.

Cast & Creativesfor The Emissary


Angela Yam*

Angela Yam*


View Bio

Hometown: Sacramento, CA, USA


Hailed as “radiant” by the Boston Globe, Angela Yam has sung with the Santa Fe Opera, New York City Ballet, Boston Baroque, Chautauqua Opera, and Opera Saratoga. This season, Yam joins Boston Lyric Opera as an Emerging Artist, and makes her company debuts with Opera Parallèle, Guerilla Opera, and Cambridge Chamber Ensemble.


Praised for her work in new music, her portrayal of the Bird in Jones’ and Tinley’s ICELAND was described as “stellar…a Puccini-esque soprano with incredible highs.” Yam was a New York City District Winner in the 2023 Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, and her self-directed Visual Recital was awarded 3rd place in the 2022 American Prize Competition. She composed for and directed Nightingale Vocal Ensemble’s award-winning choral opera ADRIFT (2023), and has sung with Music at Co-Cath and Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble.




Photo credit Tira Howard

Bradley Kynard

Bradley Kynard


View Bio

Hometown: San Francisco, CA, USA


Bradley Kynard, baritone, is no stranger to Bay Area audiences. This season Mr. Kynard appeared in two operatic premiers – The Difference (Patzner) and Prospero's Island (Shearer/Stevens). He also sang the role of Zebul in Jeptha (Handel), the bass soloist in Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet (BWV 212) (Bach), and filmed the cinematic version of the new opera A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil (Wold).


Past performances include Sophia's Forest (Beecher/Moscovitch) and Harriet's Spirit (Shelby/Olvera) with Opera Parallèle, Hiob (Mendelssohn), Ballad of the Brown King (Bonds), with Ukiah Symphony Orchestra and he sang the role of Dagoo in Moby Dick (Heggie/Scheer) with San Francisco Opera. He performed baritone solos in Carmina Burana (Orff) with Golden Gate Symphony and sang the role of Brooke in Little Women (Adamo) with Island City Opera.




Photo credit Will Manuel

Lick-Wilmerding Vocal Ensemble

Lick-Wilmerding Vocal Ensemble

Student Chorus

View Bio

The Lick-Wilmerding Vocal Ensemble is a performance-based chorus class open to all grades in which students will learn group vocal technique, performance styles, music history, and music theory. The ensemble will, during any given semester, learn repertoire from all genres of music, including Renaissance, Classical, Baroque, Romantic, 20th Century, Popular, Broadway, Jazz, and world music.



Composer & Librettist

Kenji Oh*

Kenji Oh*


View Bio

Hometown: Kobe, Japan


Kenji Oh is a Japanese composer based in California. He has collaborated with Giacomo Fiore, ZOFO, Amaranth Quartet, the Esoterics, Synchromy, among others. In addition to concert music, Oh has composed music for various kinds of media such as film, theatre, TV, video games, dance, and also for gymnastics floor exercise, being a gymnast himself. This year, he completed his first opera The Emissary, with a librettist Kelley Rourke and Opera Parallèle. He is currently working on his second opera with a librettist Dmae Lo Roberts and Portland Opera.


He initiated his career as a media music composer while studying at Kyoto University of Education, where he earned his BLA Degree in Information Music. He pursued his Master of Music Degree in Composition from San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he studied under David Garner. His music vividly illustrates imagery, like a scroll of paint or a sculpture of sound.




Photo credit S. Heo

Yoko Tawada*

Yoko Tawada*


View Bio

Hometown: Tokyo, Japan


Yoko Tawada was born in Tokyo in 1960, educated at Waseda University and has lived in Germany since 1982, where she received her Ph.D. in German literature. She writes in both Japanese and German, and has published several books—stories, novels, poems, plays, essays—in both languages.


She has received numerous awards for her writing including the Akutagawa Prize, the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, the Tanizaki Prize, the Kleist Prize, and the Goethe Medal. In the US, New Directions publishes her story collections Where Europe Begins (with a Preface by Wim Wenders) and Facing the Bridge, as well her novels The Naked EyeThe Bridegroom Was a DogMemoirs of a Polar Bear, and The Emissary.




Photo credit Nina Subin

Kelley Rourke*

Kelley Rourke*


View Bio

Hometown: Brooklyn/Rosebloom, NY, USA


Kelley Rourke is a librettist, translator and dramaturg. Libretti include Eat the Document, Lucy, and Stay (for composer John Glover); The Beekeeper (Wang Lu); The Emissary (Kenji Oh); Wilde Tales and And Still We Dream (Laura Karpman); The Jungle Book (Kamala Sankaram); and Odyssey and Robin Hood (Ben Moore). Her English adaptations of canonic operas have been hailed as “crackingly witty” (The Independent, London) and “remarkably well wedded to the music” (New York Times). Her work has been commissioned and performed by the Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, Royal Opera House/Covent Garden, Welsh National Opera, Washington National Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Boston Lyric Opera, Seattle Opera, Minnesota Opera, Carnegie Hall, among others.


Kelley was founding editor of Opera America Magazine and a contributor to the New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Kelley is resident dramaturg for The Glimmerglass Festival and Artistic Advisor for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative.



Photo credit Brittany Lesavoy

Margaret Mitsutani*

Margaret Mitsutani*


View Bio

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA


Margaret Mitsutani was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the College of Wooster in 1974. She has lived in Japan since the late 1970s and holds an MA in comparative literature from Tokyo University. In addition to Yoko Tawada, she has translated the works of Kyōko Hayashi, Kenzaburō Ōe, and Mitsuyo Kakuta.

Artistic + Production

Nicole Paiement

Nicole Paiement


*Conducting 10/27 & 10/28 4PM Performances
View Bio

Hometown: Montreal, Québec, Canada


Conductor, Nicole Paiement is the Founder and Artistic Director of Opera Parallèle (OP) in San Francisco. Recently for OP, Paiement lead productions of Moravec’ The Shining, Philip Glass’ La Belle et la Bête and Everest: An Immersive Experience by Joby Talbot, a work she originally premiered on stage at The Dallas Opera, where she is Principal Guest Conductor.


An active guest conductor, Mo. Paiement has performed with companies across the US including the Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Atlanta Opera. In 2020 Paiement made her Canadian debut at Opéra de Montréal with Benjamin's Written on Skin, returning in 2023 to conduct Ainadamar by Golijov. Paiement will also return to Montreal in the 24/25 Season. In 2022, Mo. Paiement returned to The Dallas Opera with Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, and made her UK debut with the English National Opera conducting Heggie’s It's a Wonderful Life, followed by a series of concerts with Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana in Palermo. Paiement recently returned to London to conduct Talbot's Everest with the BBC Symphony at the Barbican Center.


The 2023/2024 season includes 2 world premieres with OP, a return to The Dallas Opera for Gonoud’s Romeo et Juliette, followed by a debut with the Volksoper Vienna conducting both a symphonic concert and John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary.


Photo credit Cory Weaver

Yayoi Kambara

Yayoi Kambara


View Bio

Hometown: San Francisco, CA, USA


Yayoi Kambara MFA (she/they) was a company member with ODC/Dance from 2003 to 2015 and danced as a freelance artist with numerous Bay Area companies. Past opera projects include Today it Rains, The Little Prince, Dead Man Walking, and operatic film Goodbye Mr. Chips.
Kambara was in the 4th cohort of Association of Performing Arts Professionals Leadership Fellows Program in 2020 and led "Aesthetic Shift", a year-long Community Engagement Residency for Bridge Live Arts considering aesthetic bias and relationality. She is a co-interrogator of Dancing Around Race (DAR) to research how race impacts the funding, creation and production of dance. DAR presents workshops nationally on racial equity and has published a workbook for the California Arts Council.
Kambara founded the company KAMBARA+ in 2015, as a vehicle to produce dance works and produces multi-media performance works, including film and extended reality (XR). She was awarded a William and Flora Helwett Foundation Hewlett 50 Award as a lead artist for IKKAI means once and her most recent project NI DO TO XR was commissioned by Georgia Tech Arts to share choreographic research.
Kambaraplus.org for more information.


Photo credit Deeksha Prakash

Jaco Wong*

Jaco Wong*

Associate Conductor*

*Conducting 10/28 1PM Performance
View Bio

Hometown: Hong Kong


Hong Kong native, San Francisco-based conductor and composer, Jaco Wong currently serves as the associate conductor of Opera Parallèle and assistant conductor at Oakland Symphony. Wong has conducted the Orchestre symphonique de Québec under the guidance of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Mason Bate’s Mercury Soul, and has assisted Elim Chan at San Francisco Symphony, Teddy Abrams at Louisville Orchestra, and Edwin Outwater at the Dr. Phillips Center Steinmetz Hall. Other career highlights include serving as assistant conductor for Festival Opera, conducting the Taipei Philharmonic, for Emmy Award-winning composer Jeremy Zuckerman, and participating in the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and Monteux Music Festival.

Wong’s multimedia orchestra work Inkling, in collaboration with animation artist Evan Tedlock and neuroscientist Enrique Vargas, UCSF Sound & Music Perception Lab will be performed in New World Symphony’s “By Ear: A Journey into Musical Perception”. A finalist of the American Prize in composition, Psithaura has been performed in more than 4 countries and 7 cities, including under the baton of Donald Nally at the Northwestern University New-Music Conference. Wong has previously composed for San Jose Chamber Orchestra, Iris Contemporary Dance Company, Hocket piano duo, Lang Lang, and the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra.

As an active educator, Wong led the Harker School Orchestra to perform in Carnegie Hall and is also the resident conductor of the Great Wall Youth Chinese Orchestra, projects including collaboration with Lara Downes in Rhapsody in Blue @ 100 American Kaleidoscope. Wong holds advanced degrees from San Francisco Conservatory of Music and University of Southern California.



Photo credit Michael Stahlberg

Tony Asaro*

Tony Asaro*

Chorus Director - Lick Wilmerding High School Chorus

View Bio

Hometown: San Bruno, CA, USA


Tony Asaro received his undergraduate degree from Santa Clara University in 1998 in Theatre and Music, and later received his Masters Degree in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU, TSOA. He is a Resident Artist at American Lyric Theater. Tony co-founded and Artistic Directed FOGG Theatre in San Francisco. For FOGG, Tony wrote music and lyrics for the musicals The Cable Car Nymphomaniac, Flocked Together: The Green Parrots of Telegraph Hill, and LifeCycle.


Tony’s opera All Wounds Bleed (composer Chris Cerrone) was commissioned by American Lyric Theater and has been produced at Tulsa Opera, Brooklyn Opera Works, Chicago Fringe Opera, and University of Michigan. Tony’s one-act opera The BoatMan (composer Alon Nechushtan) was commissioned and premiered by Con Vivo Music. Tony wrote the libretto for The Halloween Tree (composer Theo Popov) which has received numerous presentations through American Lyric Theatre, and for Zheng (composer Shinji Eshima) which was performed at Opera San Jose last month.


Photo credit Brandon Roberts, Better Rugged Photography

Matthew Linzer*

Matthew Linzer*

Scenic and Costume Designer

View Bio

Hometown: Takoma Park, MD, USA


Matthew Linzer is a graphic designer, art director, creative, and costume designer living in San Francisco, CA. Long before moving into design, he studied dance at The Juilliard School and performed in numerous dance companies around the Bay Area including Smuin Ballet and Diablo Ballet for over a decade. In 2009 Mr. Linzer received his BA in Performing Arts from the LEAP Program at St. Mary’s College of California.


When not focused on creation and design, he is an avid music enthusiast, traveler and explorer, fitness lover, theater-goer, art junkie, and cruciverbalist. He is very excited to be back in the theater—now behind the scenes—and starting this new chapter in his creative life.




Photo credit Leonard Martin Hughet


Spense Matubang*

Spense Matubang*

Lighting Designer

View Bio

Hometown: Oakland, CA, USA


Spense Matubang is a freelance lighting and projections designer currently based in Oakland, California. They have been making theatre in the Bay Area since 2018. They received their degree in Theater Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2020.


Spense uses their career as a never-ending outlet for exploration, creative experimentation, and community building. They have previously designed for The Chikahan Company, City Lights Theater Company, EnActe Arts, Town Hall Theater Company, Ferocious Lotus, New Conservatory Theatre Center, Shotgun Players, SF Playhouse, West Valley Light Opera, Crowded Fire, Hillbarn Theatre, ACT Youth Conservatory, and Jewel Theatre.


Photo credit Ash Brown

*Making Opera Parallèle debut this season.


Support for The Emissary is provided, in part, by The Future Fund; Gordon Getty; Aaron Hoffer & Emi Wang; Candace Zander Kahn; Fred Levin/The Shenson Foundation; Nancy Petrisko & Don Beckham; Sam Mazza Foundation; UCLA's Asian American Studies Center and the George and Sakaye Aratani CARE Award; Akiko Yamazaki & Jerry Yang; the Zellerbach Family Foundation; and Production Circle Members Donna Dubinsky & Len Shustek.

The company debut of Yayoi Kambara was partially supported by OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors, generously funded by the Marineau Family Foundation.

Institutional and Corporate Support

View Institutional and Corporate Supporters

The Aaron Copland Fund, The Amphion Foundation, Inc., Bill Graham Supporting Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, The Lemala Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, OPERA America, The Henry W. & Nettie Robinson Foundation, City & County of San Francisco Grants for the Arts, Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation

Season Supporters

View Season Supporters

Anderson Norby, Martha Allday, Donna Dubinsky & Len Shustek, Bob Ellis, Gordon Getty, Philip Goward & Theodore Ueki, Jane Hartley, Stephen & Diane Heiman, Lisa Lindelef, Bernice Lindstrom, Scott R. Lord, Nicole Paiement & Brian Staufenbiel, Sherry Parker in memory of Dina Kunst, Martha Peak Rochelle, Jerry Roth & Ray Jenks, Jee Young You & Paul Alsdorf

Individual Supporters

View Individual Supporters A-G
Sandra Aley & Darr Aley
Martha Allday
Susan Anderson Norby
Christopher Barefoot
The Beatrice Giving Fund
Lynn D. Berger
David Bertoni
Didi & Dix Boring
Linda Brewer
Machelle Burkstrand & Steve Winick
The Vance E. Carney Revocable Trust
Joseph Chan
Hella & Melvin Cheitlin
Celeste Chin & Vincent Dureau
Debbie Chinn
Janet Cluff
George Cogan & Fannie Allen
Michèle & Laurence Corash
Kip Cranna
Drs. John and Lois Crowe
Philip & Elayne Dauber
Ira Dearing
Dr. Marylene DelbourgDelphis
Deus Ex Machina Family Fund
John Downey & Brad Hise
Donna Dubinsky & Len Shustek
Bob Ellis
Judith & Philip Erdberg
Lisa Erdberg & Dennis Gibbons
Andrea Fineberg & Don Fineberg
Steven Fletcher & Carl Croft
Louise M. Fox & Mats Andersson
Lisa Jill Freeman
The Future Fund
Keith & Priscilla Geeslin
Gordon P. Getty
Susan & Mark Geyer
Alexandra Gillen & Hartmut Koeppen
David Golden & Susan Golden
Chelsea & Michael Gonella
Marcia Barinaga & Corey Goodman
Judy & Jeff Gough
Philip Goward & Theodore Ueki
Geoffrey Green & Marcia Green
View Individual Supporters H-P
Katie Hafner & Bob Wachter
Kennen Hagen
Jane Hartley
William Hays
Kenneth & Christina Hecht
Stephen & Diane Heiman
Malcolm Heinicke & Meg Heinicke
Franklin & Catherine Johnson
Candace Zander Kahn
Jimmy Kansau
Martha Kessler
Paul L. King
Marcia Lazer
Lucinda Lee
Steven Lei
Fred Levin
Deborah Lewis & Martin H. Myers
Lisa Lindelef
Bernice Lindstrom
Scott Lord
Jeffrey A. Lyttle
Betty Maddux
David Madson
Patrice Maginnis & Eric Rice
Jeff Mattlin & Alexa Pitzpatrick
Patrick McCabe
Susan McConkey, in memory of Dina Kuntz
Elizabeth McMillan & George Varian
James Meehan
Judy Miner
Carmelita Mitchell
Moore Dry Dock Foundation
Alice Morison
Simin Naaseh & Farhang Ostadan
Peggy & Boyce Nute
Margie O’Driscoll & Niels Swinkels
Alan Olejniczak & David Bourne
Peggy Otum & Andrew Price
Nicole Paiement & Brian Staufenbiel
Sherry Parker
Erica Pascal & Michael Hostetler
Martha Peak Rochelle
Nancy Petrisko & Don Beckham
Mary Ellen Poole
View Individual Supporters R-Z
Robert Ripps & Steven Spector
Mark Robinson & Leslie Winick
John Roevekamp
Jerry Roth & Ray Jenks
Cheryl Ruby & Richard Hart
Terri & Bob Ryan
Paul Sack & Shirley Davis
Jack & Betty Schafer
Lawrence Siegel & Gail Siegel
Dr. Katherine Slazak
Deb Stallings & Sharna Fey
Joseph Stecher
Hal & Kelly Stober
Francoise Stone
Martin Tannenbaum & Alex Ingersoll
Annette Tracy
Sanjay & Susan Vaswani
Emily Wang & Aaron Hoffer
Henry Weissmann
Marianne A Welmers
Karen & James Wiley
Dee Williams
Paul Woolford & Rick Freeman
Akiko Yamazaki & Jerry Yang
Brenda Yost
Jee Young You & Paul Alsdorf
Denise Young Smith

We are deeply grateful for the collective generosity of our patrons at all levels. Giving at the Collaborator+ level includes digital program recognition, and gifts of $100+ are recognized on our website. This listing recognizes gifts received between April 1, 2022 to October 25, 2023. If an error or omission is noted, please accept our sincere apologies and contact development@operaparallele.org with any updates.

Donate toOpera Parallèle

Help us move opera forward. Giving sustains Opera Parallèle’s artistic excellence and our community partnerships in a changing performing arts landscape.

(415) 626-6279

44 Page Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94102

About Opera Parallèle

Read About Opera Parallèle

Opera Parallèle is a prominent contemporary opera company based in San Francisco, known for its innovative and boundary-pushing productions. Founded in 2007 as Ensemble Parallèle by conductor Nicole Paiement, the company has been a driving force in redefining the operatic experience for modern audiences. Collaboration is in Opera Parallèle’s DNA: the company was named for founder Nicole Paiement’s belief that working “in parallel”, or in partnership, with organizations and artists in our own communities is essential for the survival of opera as a living art form.


Opera Parallèle is deeply committed to presenting works that explore relevant social and cultural themes. Its productions often challenge traditional operatic norms by incorporating multimedia elements, technology, and unconventional staging. By blending classical opera with contemporary ideas, the company has garnered a reputation for pushing artistic boundaries and fostering creativity within opera.


Throughout its history, Opera Parallèle has garnered critical acclaim for its thought-provoking and artistically rich performances. The company has been a champion of new and lesser-known works, shedding light on pieces that might not receive mainstream attention. This dedication to artistic exploration and collaboration has made Opera Parallèle a significant cultural contributor to the vibrant San Francisco arts scene.


As Opera Parallèle continues to evolve, it remains a vital platform for both established and emerging artists to experiment with and present opera in fresh and engaging ways, solidifying its position as a dynamic and influential force in the world of contemporary opera.

Mission Statement

Read Opera Parallèle Mission Statement

Opera Parallèle merges tradition with innovation to re-invent opera for our modern world. We are committed to the highest artistic standards in our productions. We foster an inclusive and creative environment that values curiosity and innovation. We are committed to equity, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our work. We embrace communication, respect and are accountable for our actions.

Land Acknowledgment

We, Opera Parallèle, acknowledge that we are on the unceded ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone who are the original inhabitants of the San Francisco Peninsula.

As the indigenous stewards of this land and in accordance with their traditions, the Ramaytush Ohlone have never ceded, lost nor forgotten their responsibilities as the caretakers of this place, as well as for all peoples who reside in their traditional territory. As guests, we recognize that we benefit from living and working on their traditional homeland. We wish to pay our respects by acknowledging the Ancestors, Elders and Relatives of the Ramaytush Community and by affirming their sovereign rights as First Peoples.

For more information, please visit ramaytush.org

OP Team

View OP Team

Nicole Paiement
General & Artistic Director

Ruth Nott
Managing Director

Brian Staufenbiel
Creative Director

Daniel Harvey
Artistic Producer & Community Director, Assistant to the General & Artistic Director

Francis Aviani
Marketing Director

Phil Lowery
Director of Production

Jacques Desjardins
Artistic Administrator

Brett Metzger
Finance Manager

Michael Mohammed
Scholar in Residence

Muskan Parashar
Development Associate

Michael Stephens
Grants Manager

Jocelyn Shratter
Marketing Associate

Emerson McAlister
Community, IDEA, & Contracting Associate

Keisuke Nakagoshi
Resident Pianist

Jon Finck
Press Consultant

Jay Cruz
Marketing Assistant

Nick Jones/Nature Studio
Graphic Designer

Elizabeth Broderson
Recruitment Consultant

Board of Directors

View Board

Jerome C. Roth

Peggy Otum
Vice Chair

Lisa Lindelef

Jane Hartley

Clifford (Kip) Cranna
Dr. Melinda Luisa de Jesús
Marylene Delbourg-Delphis
Louise Fox
Marcia Lazer
Steven Lei
Jeff Mattlin
Simin Naaseh
Nancy Petrisko
John Roevekamp
Deb Stallings
Jee Young You

Honorary Board

View Honorary Board

Terence Blanchard
Ruth A. Felt
Philip Glass
Jake Heggie
John Holiday
Frederica von Stade

Advisory Council

View Advisory Council

Joseph Chan
Steve Kesten
Robert Ripps
Nancy Roberts
Lawrence Siegel, JD

ODC Theater
3153 17th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110


View ODC Theater Staff

Brenda Way
ODC/Dance Artistic Director/Founder

Carma Zisman
Executive Director

Chloë L. Zimberg
Theater Creative Director

KT Nelson
ODC Fellow

Kimi Okada
ODC School Director

Jack Beuttler
Director of Production

Sophie Leininger
Director of Marketing and Communications

Brian Williamson
Theater Venue Manager

Katya Ponomeranko
Audience Services Manager

Luna Sofia Ruiz
Assistant to the Creative Director

Christopher Chamberlin-Miner
Production Coordinator

Sima Belmar
Dance Cast Host

Garth Grimball
Chief of Staff

John B. Hill
Theater Publicist

ODC Mission and Impact

View ODC Mission

ODC Theater exists to empower and develop innovative artists. It participates in the creation of new works through commissioning, presenting, mentorship, and space access; it develops informed, engaged, and committed audiences; and advocates for the performing arts as an essential component to the economic and cultural development of our community. The Theater is the site of over 150 performances a year involving nearly 1,000 local, regional, national, and international artists.


Since 1976, ODC Theater has been the mobilizing force behind countless San Francisco artists and the foothold for national and international touring artists seeking debut in the Bay Area. Our Theater, founded by Brenda Way and currently under the direction of Julie Potter, has earned its place as a cultural incubator by dedicating itself to creative change-makers, those leaders who give our region its unmistakable definition and flare. Nationally known artists Spaulding Gray, Diamanda Galas, Molissa Fenley, Bill T. Jones, Eiko & Koma, Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, Ban Rarra, and Karole Armitage are among those whose first San Francisco appearance occurred at ODC Theater.


ODC Theater is part of a two-building campus dedicated to supporting every stage of the artistic lifecycle-conceptualization, creation, and performance. This includes our flagship company, ODC/Dance, and our School, in partnership with Rhythm and Motion Dance Workout down the street at 351 Shotwell. More than 200 classes are offered weekly and your first adult class is $5.


For more information on ODC Theater and all its programs please visit: odc.dance


View ODC Supporters

ODC Theater is supported in part by the following foundations and agencies:


Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, Anonymous Foundation Partner, New England Foundation for the Arts / National Dance Project, The Koret Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission, MAP Fund, The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Zellerbach Family Foundation, Sam Mazza Foundation, and The Fleishhacker Foundation.


ODC Theater is a proud member of Association of Performing Arts Presenters, California Presenters, Dance USA, Dancers’ Group.

ODC Theater relies on the generous support of donors like you.
To give to ODC Theater, visit odc.dance/givetheater

Coming up in the OP 23|24 Season

April 5-7, SFJAZZ Miner Auditorium, San Francisco. Director Brian Staufenbiel. Conductor Nicole Paiement. Opera Parallèle & SFJAZZ present Birds & Balls. Composers David T. Little & Laura Karpman. Librettists Royce Vavrek & Gail Collins.
June 21-23. Presidio Theatre, San Francisco. Director Brian Staufenbiel. Guest Conductor Jaymes Kirksey. Opera Parallèle and Presidio Theatre present Fellow Travelers. Composer Greg Spears. Librettist Gregory Pierce.


Opera Parallèle’s Annual Benefit Celebration will be
March 14, 2024 at the
General’s Residence at Fort Mason