Once again, Opera Parallèle, the professional “cousin” of Music Director Nicole Paiement’s New Music Ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, has planned an imaginative season of two full-length programs, as well as their first fundraising event, which will include a performance of a one-act opera, and a rather unique community outreach program.
The opera to be featured at the fundraising event will be “At the Statue of Venus.” This is a single-scene monodrama scored for soprano and piano by composer Jake Heggie based on a text by Terrence McNally that might be called a reflection of “first-date angst.” On this occasion Heggie himself will perform the piano part, accompanying Kristin Clayton. Mezzo Frederica von Stade will also be present at the fundraiser to give a special performance.
This special event will take place at the General’s Residence at Fort Mason, accessible through the entrance of the corner of Franklin Street and Bay Street. It will take place on Thursday, October 24. Cocktails will be served at 6:30 p.m. “At the Statue of Venus” will begin at 8 p.m. Heggie will then accompany von Stade’s performance at 8:30 p.m. The evening will conclude with a fundraising auction at 8:45 p.m. Tickets are available for $125. (The $200 VIP tickets have all been sold.) They may be purchased through an event page on the Opera Parallèle Web site or by calling Roma Olvera at 415-503-6279.
The community outreach program involves a performance that will take place during National Opera Week. As has already been discussed on this site, it will involve an opera composed to be performed by young people. The opera is The Spider’s Revenge by Peter Maxwell Davies, and it will involve a collaboration between Opera Parallèle and fourth grade students from Daniel Webster Elementary School. Maxwell Davies composed this opera with a libretto that invites children to discover the wonders of the insect world and appreciate that there is a place of each of us on the earth.
This performance will be presented on Saturday, November 1, at 1 p.m. The venue will be the Forum Theater of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Admission to the Academy will be required, but there will be no additional charge for attending the opera performance.
The first full-length production will be a double bill of two one-act operas. Kurt Weill’s “Mahagonny-Songspiel,” with a libretto by Bertolt Brecht, will be followed by Francis Poulenc’s “Les mamelles de Tirésias,” based on the play of the same name by Guillaume Apollinaire. Both operas mount an attack on the dehumanizing consequences of an industrialized society dominated by “scientific” management. However, their approaches could not be more different.
In spite of its name, the “Mahagonny-Songspiel” was originally conceived as a cantata for concert performance, although Caspar Neher arranged for the performance to take place in a boxing ring in front of projections giving the titles of each of the short sections. However, it was subsequently staged and would later expand into the three-act Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The text reflected Brecht’s dark imagination of an America ruled by the brute force of criminals, although it was written long before Brecht himself actually saw the United States.
Apollinaire’s play, on the other hand, takes a more jocular (and absurdist) view of the battle of the sexes. A wife decides to “liberate” herself from her breasts, which are then taken up by her husband. He then applies the latest knowledge in industrialized efficiency to give birth to 40,049 babies in a single day. (They all get to sing, even if their part consists only of the word “Papa!”)
This two-opera production will be entitled A Surreal Evening and will be given three performances in the Lam Research Theater at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). These will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 27. Ticket prices will range from $30 to $85 with a 10% discount for YBCA members and students.
In addition, the performance will be preceded by two free preview events:
- April 9, 6 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Recital Hall: Paiement and Concept Designer Brian Staufenbiel will give an informal lecture about the production, illustrated with excerpts performed by the cast members.
- April 19, 4 p.m., Kanbar Performing Arts Center: This will be an open rehearsal lasting two hours. Following the rehearsal itself, Paiement, Staufenbiel, and members of the cast will be available for a Q&A with the audience. The space is limited; and pre-reserved seating will be arranged for donors. The general public will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Both of these events will be offered at no charge.
The final production will be the North American premiere of Anya17, written by British composer Adam Gorb with a libretto by Ben Kaye. The narrative concerns the brutal realities of modern slavery and human trafficking. Kaye based his text on extensive research by both experts and caseworkers affiliated with ten supporting charities.
This production will be given three performances at the Marines’ Memorial Theater at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 20, and Saturday, June 21, and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 22. Tickets will be priced from $35 to $100 but are not yet on sale. There will again be an open rehearsal event, which will also take place at the Marines’ Memorial Theater, on June 14, starting at 4 p.m. As with the previous rehearsal, admission will be free with pre-reserved seating for donors and first-come first-served availability for the general public.