The Team

Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director and Conductor

Nicole Paiement has gained an international reputation as a conductor of contemporary music and opera. Her numerous recordings include many world premiere works.

Maestro Paiement’s 2012 Dallas Opera debut conducting Peter Maxwell Davies’ 1979 thriller, The Lighthouse earned rave reviews. Subsequently, Paiement was appointed Principal Guest Conductor at The Dallas Opera. Paiement has since returned to Dallas to conduct performances of Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers, as well as the critically acclaimed and highly anticipated world premiere of Joby Talbot’s opera Everest, Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and Douglas Cuomo’s Arjuna’s Dilemma. In 2018, Paiement conducted the US premiere of Michel Van Der Aa’s Sunken Garden.

As Artistic Director of San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle, Paiement has conducted many new productions, including: world premieres of Lou Harrison’s final version of Young Caesar, Dante De Silva’s commissioned opera Gesualdo, Prince of Madness (presented as a graphic opera), Luciano Chessa’s commissioned opera A Heavenly Act, the commissioned chamber version of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, the premiere of the re-orchestration of Terence Blanchard’s Champion in collaboration with SFJAZZ Center; the West Coast premieres of John Rea’s re-orchestration of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck and Philip Glass’ Orphée; Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts; Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar; Francis Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias; Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel; the American Premieres of Adam Gorb’s Anya 17 and Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness; the San Francisco Bay Area return of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking; a new production of Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse;  Philip Glass’ Les Enfants Terribles; and Jonathan Dove’s Flight.  In 2017/18 Paiement conducted a new double bill of Jake Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus and Berstein’s Trouble in Tahiti in collaboration with SFJAZZ as well as  Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince. In the 2018/19 season, Opera Parallèle made it’s debut at Phillip Glass’ Days & Nights Festival with Glass’ In the Penal Colony and Paiement conducted Today it Rains, a commissioned opera by Laura Kaminsky based on the life of Georgia O’Keeffe and a return season of Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince.

Additionally, Paiement has served as the Artistic Director of the BluePrint Project at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) where she has commissioned, premiered, and recorded works from many living American composers. At SFCM, she holds the Jean and Josette Deleage Distinguished Chair in New Music. Paiement previously served as the Director of Ensembles at the University of California – Santa Cruz (UCSC). In 2014, she was awarded the UCSC Eminent Professor Award. In 2015, she received the Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship in recognition of her outstanding contributions and achievement in artistic scholarship and teaching.

In 2016, Paiement was awarded the American Composer’s Forum “Champion of New Music Award” for her outstanding contributions to contemporary music. In addition to be a leader in contemporary opera, Mo. Paiement is also a specialist in early 20th Century French music and regularly conducts from the Baroque and Classical repertoire.

Debbie Chinn, Executive Director

Debbie joined Opera Parallèle as Executive Director in February, 2017. Over the past 30 years, Debbie has held executive leadership positions as Managing Director at CENTERSTAGE (the State Theater of Maryland), California Shakespeare Theater, and Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. Most recently, she was Executive Director of the Carmel Bach Festival (CBF) where, from 2012-2016, she led the administrative and operations of the Festival. She established a strategic vision to grow CBF from a two-week summer festival in Carmel into a presenter of classical music concerts throughout the Monterey Peninsula on a year-round basis.

She is the Board President of Theater Bay Area, the largest regional theater service organization in North America. She is also a Board Member of San Francisco Community Music Center, a 98-year old organization that provides free and affordable music classes and programs to students of all ages. 

Debbie was recently appointed to the National Small Business Association’s Leadership Council comprised of a select group of small business activists who work to strengthen America’s small-business community by advocating on behalf of NSBA’s small-business members with Congress, the White House administration, and the media. Based in Washington, D.C, the Association is the nation’s first small-business advocacy organization.

She is past Board President of the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO), the statewide service organization providing programs and services for classical music producers and presenters in California and the west coast region. Her other past board affiliations include Theatre Communications Group (the national consortium for professional nonprofit theaters in the United States), Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, California Arts Advocates, and Network for Ensemble Theaters.

Debbie’s transformative work at the Carmel Bach Festival is featured as one of thirteen case studies in “Creative Social Change: Leadership for a Healthy World”, a recent volume (spring, 2016) in the International Leadership Association Series which assembles thought leaders to reimagine leadership in building a healthy, sustainable, and equitable world.

Brian Staufenbiel, Creative Director

Brian Staufenbiel is the creative director and stage 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 with film and 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 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. Last season he directed new productions of Glass’ In the Penal Colony and was director and dramaturge for the world premiere of Today it Rains by Laura Kaminsky and librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed.

Upcoming engagements include a new production of Strauss’ Elektra for Minnesota Opera, Stewart Wallace’s Harvey Milk with Opera Parallèle, Miguel Zenon’s Golden City Suite (an immersive design project) with the SF Jazz Center and the creation of a new work for Fort Worth Opera.  

Mr. Staufenbiel recently created a new production of Das Rheingold for Minnesota Opera, which was reprised at Arizona Opera and at L’Opéra de Montréal. He also recently created a new production of Gordon Getty’s Usher House and Canterville Ghost for the Center of Contemporary Opera in NY and LA Opera. He directed and was dramaturge for the world premiere production of Sophia’s Forest by composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch performed in Philadelphia in Fall 2017.

Staufenbiel directed the World Premiere of Angel Heart by Luna Pearl Woolf which was performed at Cal Performances in Berkeley, Carnegie Hall, 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 enjoys working as a dramaturge for dance companies and he has curated and created several art installations to accompany and enhance his productions with audience immersive experiences. 

Staufenbiel’s interdisciplinary approach to opera extends to his academic activity. He recently left his position after seventeen years as the director of the opera program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he has mounted a wide spectrum of award winning productions ranging from traditional operas to original works by contemporary composers. Staufenbiel holds degrees in Philosophy and Music including a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Eastman School of Music and currently resides in San Francisco.

Jacques Desjardins, Artistic Administrator 

Jacques Desjardins served as the General Manager of Opera Parallèle from 2004 until 2013 when he became the company’s first Artistic Administrator. As a composer, Desjardins was responsible for the re-orchestration of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby performed by OP at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and at the Aspen Music Festival in 2012. He has received commissions from BluePrint, the Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra, the Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, the Arthur-LeBlanc Quartet, the Québec Youth Orchestras Association, and the Musica Nova Ensemble.  Desjardins is on faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he teaches Conducting, Music Theory, and Musicianship. He received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree (DMA) in Composition at the University of Michigan.

Lori Beth Milburn, Marketing and Communications Manager

Lori comes to Opera Parallèle with over thirty years of marketing and communications experience. A Fine Art and Communications graduate from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Lori is a talented and accomplished visual artist with extensive professional experience in graphic design and print production. Before joining Opera Parallèle she served as Communications & Marketing Director with PARCA, a Bay Area non-profit dedicated to enriching the lives people with developmental disabilities. Her desire to employ her talents toward nonprofit work in the Arts and her commitment to the support of socially relevant causes is what brought her to Opera Parallèle.

Daniel Harvey, Artistic Assistant: Community Programs

Daniel Harvey is a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia and moved to San Francisco in 2017. Daniel’s background in set and costume design, and theatre production informs his current work as producer for Opera Parallèle’s community programs. In addition, Daniel also works as a program manager for Intersection for the Arts, furthering their mission of supporting sustainable artistic practice in the Bay Area. Select theatre credits: As Costume Designer: In the Penal Colony (Days & Nights Festival – Opera Parallèle); Tannhauser (Regent Theatre – Melbourne Opera); Loving Repeating (Vic Theatre Co – Melbourne Green Room Award Nomination); Xanadu: The Musical (Australian Premiere).  As Set Designer: Look Back in Anger (Fourth Wall Theatre, New Wimbledon London). As Assistant Designer to Richard Roberts: Fiddler on the Roof (TML). As Associate Designer to Leslie Travers UK: La Boheme (Malmo Opera, Sweden); Peter Grimes on the Beach (Aldeburgh, UK). As Associate Designer to Tobias Hoheisel: Don Carlo (Bolshoi Opera, Moscow). As Assistant to Christopher Oram UK: Uncle Vanya (West End); Privates on Parade (Michael Grandage Company); Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Broadway). As Assistant to Anna Tregloan: Spring Awakening: A New Musical (Sydney Theatre Company). Daniel has also worked as a lecturer and student mentor at the VCA/University of Melbourne, and currently serves on the board of LEVYdance.

Elaina Guyett, Development Manager

Elaina is a Bay Area native and graduate of California State University, East Bay majoring in Sociology and Ethnic studies, with an emphasis on gender and race. She joined Opera Parallèle in 2018 with an interest in development, marketing, and non-profit management. Elaina is an advocate for the arts, participating and supporting Contra Costa Civic Theatre since 2016 as their House Manager. While Opera is entirely new to Elaina, music, and art has always played a very central role in her life. She believes that art builds healthy, happy lives, and that everyone deserves the opportunity to experience art regardless of their income, race, or gender. She hopes to take her experience within the non-profit world and establish her own non-profit organization that provides art and music to at-risk youth within underserved communities. Elaina’s other interests include hanging with her dog, baking goodies, and gardening on her balcony, that’s too small for the number of plants she has.

Lisa Yu, Bookkeeper

Lisa joins Opera Parallèle with over 15 years of finance and business management experience. She has a passion for assisting not-for-profits achieve their mission. Prior to joining Opera Parallèle, Lisa worked with the Merola Opera program, community organizations, and foundations. She earned a Masters in Accounting from Golden Gate University. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and working with the Sierra Club. Her dream is to visit as many opera houses as possible.

Michael Stephens, Grants Manager

Michael Stephens comes to Opera Parallèle with more than 30 years of diverse fundraising for performing arts, most especially as a grant writer. An anthropology graduate of U.C. Berkeley, Stephens’ first career was as a museum anthropologist and curator in Berkeley and Taos, New Mexico. In 1984 he shifted to the performing arts as grants manager at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.  Subsequently, he has held positions as grants manager, associate director of development or director of development at San Diego Opera, California Shakespeare Theater, Harmony Foundation International, and Stagebridge Senior Theatre Company.  Stephens has served on a variety of Boards and professional committees, including the Southwestern Association on Indian Affairs (SWAIA), the New Mexico Association of Museums (Vice President), the Curator’s Committee of the American Association of Museums, Sinfonia San Francisco, the Mexican Cultural Institute of San Diego, Fern Street Circus, and California Arts Advocates.

Tony Shayne, Production Manager

Tony has formerly toured with and served in the roles of PM/TD for ODC, REDCAT, and Rosanna Gamson/Worldwide, and worked at some of California’s best colleges including UCLA, CalArts, Berkeley & UC Davis. Recently he helped Music Academy of the West with the West Coast premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain. When not working on a new production Tony has the pleasure of being a Lecturer at Stanford University where he endeavors to promote new and passionate advocates for dance, opera, and performance art. Now in his third year there, he enjoys teaching Hands-on Technical Theater, Lighting Design, and Producing, as well as working with student designers and technicians.

Ian W. King, Assistant Production Manager

Ian is a semi-recent transplant to the Bay Area from Boston, MA. Selected credits include: Rapunzel Variations (Levy Dance), Song from the Uproar (Beth Morrison Projects), Sound From the Bench (Beth Morrison Projects), From the Sea to Somewhere Else (Flotsam Jetsome), The Body Politic (Juventas), Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (Lyric Stage), Hidden Faces of Courage (OWL), Reel to Reel, Dreambook (FPTC), El Gato, La Hija De Rappaccini, Der Vampyr (OperaHub), Chalk, Girls’ Sports and I.N.A.M.M.(Fresh Ink Theatre), Boxer Shorts (Brown Box Theatre), Turn of the Screw (Simple Machine), The Farnsworth Invention (Flat Earth Theatre), Three, C.O.T.E. (Boston Public Works) and The Polish Joke (Titantic Theatre Co.) and technical design and support for the Illumious Project at Fenway (’15). He is also a former co-artistic director with Fort Point Theatre Company.