Opera Parallèle presents a new production of Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse, based on the mysterious and unsolved disappearance of three lighthouse keepers off the Scottish coast in 1900. Opera Parallèle’s new production includes a new immersive experience that pushes the boundaries of conventional opera, and renowned singers Thomas Glenn, Robert Orth, and David Cushing performing the 6 roles of future and past lighthouse keepers. Called “a powerful theater piece,” with music that “creates a spooky atmosphere perfectly appropriate to this creepy tale” by Dallas reviewers, Opera Parallèle’s The Lighthouse brings together a dramatic tale, haunting music, and new artistic communities in this production at Z Space.
The Lighthouse received its premiere at the 1980 Edinbourgh Festival and Opera Parallèle Artistic Director Nicole Paiement conducted it at The Dallas Opera in 2012. Peter Maxwell Davies’ rhythmic, inventive score demands high levels of virtuosity from the cast of three singers and the 12-piece band. The windy and rain-lashed Flannan Isles are powerfully conjured, along with the tense atmosphere that brews in the close confines of the lighthouse.
Composer Peter Maxwell Davies writes, “The original inspiration of this work came from reading Craig Mair’s book on the Stevenson family of Edinburgh. This family, apart from producing the famous author Robert Louis, produced several generations of lighthouse and harbor engineers. In December 1900 the lighthouse and harbor supply ship Hesperus based in Stromness, Orkney, went on its routine tour of duty to the Flannan Isles light in the Outer Hebrides. The lighthouse was empty – all three beds and the table looked as if they had been left in a hurry, and the lamp, though out, was in perfect working order, but the men had disappeared into thin air.
“There have been many speculations as to how and why the three keepers disappeared. This opera does not offer a solution to the mystery, but indicates what might be possible under the tense circumstances of three men being marooned in a storm-bound lighthouse long after the time they expected to be relieved.
“The work consists of a prologue and one act. The Prologue presents the Court of Inquiry in Edinburgh into the disappearance of the keepers. The three protagonists play the part of the three officers of the lighthouse ship, the action moving between the courtroom, the ship, and the lighthouse itself, and the inquiry is conducted by the horn of the orchestra, to whose wordless questions the protagonists answer, making the questions retrospectively clear. The Court reaches an open verdict. At the end of the Prologue the three officers together tell us that the lighthouse is now automatic and the building is abandoned and sealed up, while the lighthouse itself flashes its automatic signal to a rhythm which is reflected in the orchestra.”
Read more about The Lighthouse and its backstory on Peter Maxwell Davies’ WEBSITE
PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS
Friday, April 29 – 8pm
Saturday, April 30 – 8pm
Sunday, May 1 – 2pm
WHERE: Z Space, 450 Florida Street
WHEN: Saturday, April 23rd 4:30pm and Sunday, April 24th 1pm
WHERE: The Firehouse at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture
2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco
Sandy, Officer 1: Thomas Glenn
Blazes, Officer 2: Robert Orth
Arthur, Voice of the Cards, Officer 3: David Cushing
ARTISTIC/ PRODUCTION TEAM
Lighting Designer: Matthew Antaky
Costume Designer: Christine Crook
Wig and Makeup Designer: Jeanna Parham
Fabric Designer: Sean Riley
Stage Manager: Laura Anderson
Supertitles Operator: David Gordon
Production Assistant: Rachael Heiman
Assistant Conductor: William Long
Resident Pianist: Keisuke Nakagoshi
Production Manager: Kathy Rose
Set Construction: Rooster Productions
Assistant Stage Manager: Cicily Clare Gruber
LOBBY INSTALLATION DESIGNERS
Brian Staufenbiel, Robin O’Connor (Hackathon Winner), Owen Parry (Hackathon Winner)
SIR PETER MAXWELL DAVIES (1934-2016) produced a large body of celebrated work, including many operas and other theatrical works. He chose his career path at the age of four, and never wavered. Since 1971, he lived in the Orkney Islands, in a setting not far removed from that of the Flannan Isles where the Lighthouse events occurred. His music features vividly inventive rhythm and color, produced by masterful (and frequently unusual) orchestration and brilliant virtuosity. Read more about Sir Peter Maxwell Davies on his WEBSITE.
With the recent news of Sir Peter’s passing Opera Parallèle dedicates this production of The Lighthouse to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
ROBERT ORTH (BARITONE): BLAZES – has sung 135 roles in London, Berlin, Rome, New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington, Houston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, Portland, Cincinnati, Denver, and more. He was named “Artist of the Year” by both New York City Opera and Seattle Opera. Hailed by Opera News as a “fixture of contemporary opera,” Robert Orth has participated in the world premieres and major revivals of: Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick, John Adams’s Nixon in China, Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath, Terence Blanchard’s Champion, Dominic Argento’s A Waterbird Talk, Lee Hoiby’s Summer and Smoke, and Daron Hagen’s Shining Brow. He created the title role in Harvey Milk by Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie for Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera, and San Francisco Opera. He has appeared as soloist with symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. With Nicole Paiement, Orth has collaborated on Machover’s Death and the Powers and Dead Man Walking, and twice on Maxwell Davies’s The Lighthouse including the current production with Opera Parallèle.
ARTISTIC/ PRODUCTION TEAM BIOS
NICOLE PAIEMENT (CONDUCTOR) 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 conducted the world premiere of Joby Talbot’s opera Everest in 2015. Paiement was also the Artistic Director of the BluePrint Project at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Recently, she appeared as guest conductor with the Washington National Opera and the Saratoga Summer Festival. She will be conducting at Glimmerglass Opera this summer and at the Atlanta Opera in Fall 2016.