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Opera Parallèle Announces 2014-2015 Season, Featuring DEAD MAN WALKING and HEART OF DARKNESS


Founder and Artistic Director Nicole Paiement has announced details of Opera Parallèle's 2014--2015 season, which will feature the premiere of a new production of Jake Heggie's acclaimed Dead Man Walking--marking the 15th anniversary of one of the most widely performed operas of the 21st century--and the U.S. premiere of vibrant composer Tarik O'Regan's Heart of Darkness. Both operas, based on significant literary works, plumb the depths of human emotion, resilience, fortitude, hope and redemption, making them ideal subjects for the operatic stage and for Opera Parallèle's brand of story-telling and rich exploration of the human experience in provocative and intense stagings. Both original Opera Parallèle productions will be led by Paiement on the podium, with production design and direction by Opera Parallèle Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel and members of the creative team responsible for OP's acclaimed productions of Orphée, The Great Gatsby, Ainadamar, and Trouble in Tahiti.

"We are very pleased and honored to present the American opera that defined the genre on the eve of the 21stcentury and originated right here in San Francisco as well as introducing Bay Area audiences to a major dramatic work by an exciting composer not yet well known here," says Nicole Paiement. "I can't think of a better pairing of composers than Jake Heggie and Tarik O'Regan for our season of intense and rewarding music dramas based on important monuments of modern literature. It promises to be a journey of profound emotion from the depths of despair to the heights of humanity."

In addition to the productions of Dead Man Walking and Heart of Darkness, this season Opera Parallèle will present a variety of educational/community outreach and public events, including a new children's opera by Chris Pratorius, OP's first original commissioned work.

Performances of Dead Man Walking will be given Friday and Saturday, February 20 and 21, at 8pm and Sunday, February 22, at 2pm at San Francisco's YBCA Theatre. Opera Parallèle will embark on its first tour with performances of Dead Man Walking at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica March 7 and 8, 2015. Performances ofHeart of Darkness will be given Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2, at 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday, May 2 and 3at 2pm at Z Space in San Francisco. For more information about Opera Parellèle, visit

Tickets for Dead Man Walking are priced at $45-125, and will be available from YBCA starting in mid-November. Tickets for Heart of Darkness are priced at $30-75 and will be available from Z Space. Visit full ticket information for all productions.

About Dead Man Walking

"It's hard to believe it has been nearly 15 years since Dead Man Walking had its world premiere," says Jake Heggie. "Since then, the piece has been heard in nearly 40 separate productions around the globe; it's been the subject of a documentary and two very starry recordings, but the opera has never returned to its birthplace. So, I am overjoyed that Opera Parallèle will bring Dead Man Walking home in what promises to be a startling, stirring, haunting new production. I am a huge fan of this brave, visionary company and have been consistently knocked out by its work. A magnificent cast has been assembled for the occasion and I'm convinced the opera audience here won't know what hit it! I can hardly wait."

Composed by Jake Heggie with libretto by Terrence McNally, Dead Man Walking was commissioned by San Francisco Opera and premiered on the War Memorial Opera House stage in 2000. Since then, it has been rendered in more than 40 productions worldwide, but the Opera Parallèle production will be the first time it has been seen in San Francisco since its premiere 15 years ago. Dead Man Walking is based on Sister Helen Prejean's 1993 memoir, which tells of her time working with death row inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary, and of a particular relationship she developed with one of the inmates. Sister Helen's memoir was also the subject of a celebrated 1995 film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. The popularity of the opera can be credited not only to the timeless relevance of its subject and the humanity of its story, but on how successfully the composer and librettist captured the essence and impact of the story in an intense musical and dramatic setting.

Opera Parallèle presents a new production in "OP style" featuring dynamic, flexible sets, digital projections and ahigh-impact performance style overseen by Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel. Staufenbiel's team of production designers will include Dave Dunning (set design), Matthew Antaky (Lighting Design), David Murakami (Media Design), Frédéric Boulay (Projection Design), Christine Crook (Costume Design), and Jeanna Parham (Wig/Makeup Design). The company will also collaborate in this production with ODC choreographer and co-artistic Director KT Nelson. The work has been newly re-orchestrated under the supervision of Jake Heggie and Nicole Paiement. The cast features Jennifer Rivera (Sister Helen Prejean), Michael Mayes (Joe DeRocher), Catherine Cook (Mrs. DeRocher), Talise Trevigne (Sister Rose), Robert Orth (Owen Hart) plus Kristin Clayton, Michelle Rice, Joseph Mayers, Mark Hernandez, Jonathan Smucker, and members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, a frequent OP collaborator.

Dead Man Walking Outreach Events

A special preview event with Nicole Paiement, Brian Staufenbiel, cast members and special guests Sister Helen Prejean and Jake Heggie will be held Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 7pm at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco. In addition, a staging rehearsal of the opera on February 13 at 4pm will be open to the public for a behind-the-scenes look at the process of preparing for production. Area students will also be invited to various rehearsals as part of Opera Parallèle's active education programs.

About Jake Heggie

Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Moby-Dick, Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, To Hell and Back, and Out of Darkness: a triptych of Holocaust stories (Another Sunrise - Farewell, Auschwitz - For a Look or a Touch). He has also composed more than 250 songs, as well as chamber, choral and orchestral works. The operas - most created with the distinguished writers Terrence McNally and Gene Scheer - have been produced extensively on five continents. Dead Man Walking (McNally) has received 40 productions since its premiere, as well as two live recordings. Moby-Dick (Scheer) was telecast in 2013 as part of Great Performances' 40th Season and was recently released on DVD (EuroArts). It is also the subject of the book Heggie & Scheer's Moby-Dick: A Grand Opera for the 21st Century (UNT Press). Heggie, a Guggenheim Fellow, has served as a mentor to Washington National Opera's American Opera Initiative for young composers and librettists for the past two seasons. Upcoming commissions include Great Scott (McNally) for The Dallas Opera, starring Joyce DiDonato; The Radio Hour (Scheer) for the John Alexander Singers; a new project for Houston Grand Opera; songs for Kiri Te Kanawa at Ravinia; andThe Work at Hand, Symphonic Songs for mezzo Jamie Barton and cellist Anne Martindale-Williams, co-commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony and Carnegie Hall.

About Tarik O'Regan's Heart of Darkness

Opera Parallèle is pleased to introduce Bay Area audiences to the work of highly regarded British composer Tarik O'Regan. Based on the 1899 novella by Joseph Conrad, O'Regan's one-act opera with libretto by Tom Phillips was premiered, to great acclaim, in a co-production by Opera East and ROH2 at the Royal Opera House/Linbury Theatre in London on November 1, 2011. Opera Parallèle's original production will mark the opera's U.S. premiere. Popularized by the film Apocalypse Now, Heart of Darkness recounts the memories of Charles Marlow, who captained an ivory trader's steam boat deep in the Congo and his encounters with other traders, opportunists, profiteers and cannibals and is a profound, metaphoric exploration that blurs and questions the boundaries of what is civilized and what is barbaric.

The cast will include Isaiah Bell (Marlow), Matthew Stump (Kurtz), Jonathan Blalock (Manager/Secretary), Thomas Glenn (Accountant/Helmsman), Daniel Cilli (Thames Captain), Crystal Kim (Fiancée), Shawnette Sulker (River Woman), Jonathan Boyd (Harlequin) and John Bischoff (Doctor/Bowlermaker).

About Tarik O'Regan

Tarik O'Regan, one of the leading British composers of his generation, grew up in London, where he was born in 1978, spending some of his childhood in Morocco and Algeria. Since 2007 he has divided his time between New York City and Cambridge, England.

His recent projects include Suite from Heart of Darkness for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (2013); two North African-influenced compositions: Raï, for the Dutch National Ballet, and Chaâbi, commissioned by the Australian Chamber Orchestra (2012); a third solo album on the Harmonia Mundi label, Acallam na Senórach; the premiere of his first opera Heart of Darkness at the Royal Opera House, London (2011); and Latent Manifest with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (BBC Proms commission, 2010).

Currently O'Regan is working on a full-length ballet, commissioned by the Dutch National Ballet; and large-scale new works for the Hallé Orchestra, Sydney Dance Company, SOUK at the Royal Concertgebouw, American Opera Projects, and the University of Michigan. In 2014 he is the featured composer in the Vale of Glamorgan Festival (BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Chamber Choir Ireland) and New Music for a New Age (Washington Chorus).

Recorded on over 25 albums and published exclusively by Novello & Co./Music Sales Classical, O'Regan's work has been recognized with: two GRAMMY® nominations (including Best Classical Album) for Threshold of Night; a Gramophone Award nomination for Scattered Rhymes; the NEA Artistic Excellence Award, a South Bank Sky Arts Award nomination for Heart of Darkness; and two British Composer Awards.

Hands-on-Opera: Opera Parallèle Education Outreach Nov. 1 at SF Public Library

Opera Parallèle is proud to continue to nurturing young audiences with the continuation of its Hands-on-Opera program. This year, Opera Parallèle will partner with Creative Arts Charter School to present its first commissioned children's opera. Written for soprano, baritone, and a children's chorus, My Head is Full of Colors was composed by Chris Pratorius with a libretto by Opera Parallèle Artistic Director Nicole Paiement. The opera, based on the beloved children's book by Catherine Friend, will be performed during National Opera Week, on November 1, 2014, in the San Francisco Public Library's Koret Auditorium. Children from all over the Bay Area will be invited to attend free of charge. Opera Parallèle's education outreach programs are generously supported by the Kimball Foundation and Aroha Philanthropies.

About Opera Parallèle

The award-winning Opera Parallèle develops and performs contemporary operas in a dynamic balance of known and new works, in new productions that shed light on their subject matter and engage audiences' senses and sensibilities. Opera Parallèle is the only organization in the Bay Area presenting fully cast and staged contemporary operas exclusively.

Opera Parallèle also commissions new orchestrations of contemporary grand operas, to give a sense of intimacy to its productions and to give a new life to works which might not otherwise be performed.

Artistic director Nicole Paiement founded Opera Parallèle (originally Ensemble Parallèle) to perform new music and to collaborate "in parallel" with various artists including dancers, choreographers, visual and multimedia artists. These collaborations have enriched the Company's productions and appeal to a wide-ranging audience, from seasoned opera-goers and classical music enthusiasts to contemporary art and dance-goers.

In 2007 Opera Parallèle began to focus exclusively on contemporary opera, and in February of that year the organization presented the world premiere of Lou Harrison's opera Young Caesar. Most recently its productions have included the California premiere of Alban Berg's Wozzeck in a chamber orchestration by composer John Rea (2010); the Bay Area premiere of Philip Glass' opera Orphée(2011); and Virgil Thompson's Four Saints in Three Acts in collaboration with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in conjunction with the international exhibition The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde. In February 2012, Opera Parallèle embarked on the world premiere of the chamber orchestration of John Harbison's opera The Great Gatsby. 2013/2014 has been a year filled with new works, from Osvaldo Golijov's riveting opera Ainadamar, Opera Parallèle's Graphic Opera Project, Gesualdo - Prince of Madness, Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, Adam Gorb's Anya17 and a double bill of the Weill/Brecht Mahagonny Songspiel with the Poulenc/Apollinaire Les mamelles de Tirésias.

Since it was founded, Opera Parallèle has presented 134 performances including 30 world premieres, released 14 recordings, and commissioned 20 new works; and has performed in North America, Australia, and Asia.

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