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Opera Parallèle Announces Schedule for 2015-2016 Season

San Francisco, CA, April 9, 2015 - Opera Parallèle has announced its 2015--2016 season, which will feature its first collaboration with SFJAZZ, a new production of Peter Maxwell Davies' riveting and mysterious The Lighthouse, and the world premiere of a new children's opera by Chris Pratorius. Opera Parallèle and SFJAZZ will present their first collaboration: a new, fully staged production of Champion: An Opera in Jazz by Terence Blanchard, SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director, with eight performances to be given February 19-28, 2016 at SFJAZZ Center. Based on the life of African-American boxing champion Emile Griffith (1938-2013), the production marks both Opera Parallèle's first foray into an operatic jazz idiom and SFJAZZ's first opera. The complete schedule of performances will be announced and tickets go on sale to the general public mid-July, 2015. For more information, visit and Peter Maxwell Davies' three-character opera, The Lighthouse, based on the mysterious and unsolved disappearance of three people off the Scottish coast in 1900 will be given a new production April 29-May 1, 2016 at Z Space in San Francisco. The season will open with the world premiere of a new children's opera by Chris Pratorius entitled Amazing Grace, featuring San Francisco fourth graders and soloists, November 12-14, 2015, at a venue to be announced. For more information about the Opera Parallèle season, visit .

"For our 2016 season, Opera Parallèle is so honored to work with Terence Blanchard and SFJAZZ, two incredible leaders in the field," says Opera Parallèle founder and Artistic Director Nicole Paiement. "The story of Emile Griffith is extremely powerful and personal and at the same time his dreams, determination and triumphs will resonate with just about everyone who has passion and drive. It is perfectly suited to Opera Parallèle's style of operatic story-telling. Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse is based on a true historical mystery from the family of Robert Louis Stevenson, and features an intimate cast of characters who arrive at a lighthouse only to discover its inhabitants have disappeared without a trace. We begin the season with what has become a delightful annual tradition: our Hands-On-Opera education program. This season we present the world premiere children's opera, by Santa Cruz composer Chris Pratorius returning to Opera Parallèle after last year's successful premiere of My Head is Full of Colors."

About Champion: An Opera in Jazz

"SFJAZZ is extremely excited for this unprecedented production with Terence Blanchard and Opera Parallèle," says SFJAZZ Founder and Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline. "Our Resident Artistic Director program challenges artists to look forward, break rules, and present music that pushes the envelope. Terence has embraced this concept and is pushing it further than we could have imagined. The SFJAZZ Center was designed and built with productions like Champion in mind."

A groundbreaking work combining the disciplines of opera and jazz, Terence Blanchard's Champion: An Opera in Jazz (2013) tells the real-life story of world champion boxer Emile Griffith, a man haunted by memories of his past who struggled to reconcile his sexuality in a hyper-macho world. Co-produced by Opera Parallèle and SFJAZZ, Champion's visually stunning production will feature full staging and video elements with soloists, a jazz trio, orchestra and Gospel chorus, bringing out the full glory of Blanchard's soulful score as it illuminates Griffith's triumphs and struggles, which are still broadly and powerfully relevant today.

Tormented by the death of opponent Benny Paret following their 1962 bout for the welterweight title, Griffith spent his life questioning himself and a society that would accept his accidental killing of a fellow athlete, but not his bisexuality. The opera features a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristoferand premiered to widespread critical acclaim at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 2013, starring Denyce Graves, Aubrey Allicock, Arthur Woodley, Robert Orth and Meredith Arwady. It was one of five finalists for the International Opera Award in 2014. Terence Blanchard will re-orchestrate the score especially for the Opera Parallè/SFJAZZ production.

The Creative Team and Cast

The production team includes Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director and conductor; Brian Staufenbiel, Creative Director & Resident Stage Director; Reginal Savage, Choreographer; Dave Dunning, Set Designer; Matthew Antaky, lighting designer; David Murakami, media designer; Frédéric Boulay, projection designer; David Poznanter, mask designer; Christine Crook, costume designer; Jeanna Parham, wig and make-up designer.

The cast features baritone Arthur Woodley as Old Emile Griffith, soprano Karen Slack as Emelda Griffith, Emile's mother; baritone Robert Orth as Howie Albert, Emile's trainer; and bass-baritone Ken Kellogg as the young Emile Griffith; and other cast to be announced. A gospel chorus performs as reporters, photographers, hat makers, men at the boxing gym, Caribbean paraders, and female impersonators.

About Terence Blanchard

For his second year as one of four SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Directors, Terence Blanchard firmly establishes himself one of the most forward-thinking musicians in jazz. The SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director program allows artists to curate exclusive programming of new works, unprecedented collaborations, and boundary-breaking configurations at the SFJAZZ Center. Blanchard is jazz's foremost renaissance man. A savvy bandleader, celebrated film composer, brilliant jazz writer and influential educator, the five-time Grammy-winning New Orleans native is a creative force who sits at the apex of the contemporary jazz scene. Since first writing music for Spike Lee's 1990 jazz-set movie Mo' Better Blues, Blanchard has become a renowned film composer with over 50 scores to his credit including Malcolm X, Clockers, Summer of Sam, 25th Hour, Inside Man, Miracle at St. Anna, and the Hurricane Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke for HBO. He also scored Kevin Costner's 2014 critically acclaimed film, Black Or White.

This May will see the release of his new CD, Breathless, in which Blanchard powerfully and playfully journeys into another jazz realm with his new quintet, The E-Collective-an exciting zone of grooved fusion teeming with funky, r&b and blues colors. It's a first foray into straight-up grooveland for Blanchard, and he's thrilled with the dance-steeped party he and his quintet (and guests) have cooked up. "Breathless is the album I've been wanting to do for quite awhile," he says. "Growing up I was listening to the Headhunters and Weather Report, which had a strong effect on me. I always listened to groove-based music-Jimi Hendrix, Parliament Funkadelic and then later listening to Prince and D'Angelo and later what [jazz trumpeter] Russell Gunn was doing. But up to this point, I had never explored it."

In 2014, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis combined forces to premiere Blanchard's first opera, Champion, an "Opera in Jazz" based on the story of the boxing champion Emile Griffith. This follows his recent score for Emily Mann's Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire.

After the broad scope of such lofty undertakings, returning to a small group setting can be a challenge. "You get accustomed to having so many different colors at your disposal," he says. "So I try to figure out a way to have as much diversity in everything that we play, the same expansive color palette as when you have an orchestra and voices."

About The Lighthouse

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.

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."

The Creative Team and Cast

The production team includes Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director and conductor; Brian Staufenbiel, Creative Director & Resident Stage Director; Matthew Antaky, lighting designer; David Murakami, media designer and Frédéric Boulay, projection designer; Christine Crook, costume designer; Jeanna Parham, wig and make-up designer. The cast comprises tenor Christopher Burchett as Sandy, baritone Robert Orth as Blazes, and bass David Cushing as Arthur.

About Amazing Grace

Opera Parallèle has commissioned its second children's opera for its Hands-on-Opera program. Santa Cruz composer Chris Pratorius will return to compose the music for an operatic adaptation of Mary Hoffman's children's book, Amazing Grace, with a libretto is by Brian Staufenbiel and Roma Olvera. The Hands-on-Opera program provides an elementary school class with an eight-week artist in residency program free of charge. Students work directly with an OP artistic team and professional singers to mount a fully staged and costumed opera.

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 performed the world premiere of its commissioned reorchestration of John Harbison's opera The Great Gatsby. 2013/2014 was 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. The company comes to its May 2015 production of Heart of Darkness project fresh from hugely successful performances of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, which was presented in February, 2015 in San Francisco and in March, 2015 at Santa Monica's Broad Stage.

Since it was founded, Opera Parallèle has presented 157 performances including 31 world premieres, released 14 recordings, and commissioned 20 new works; and has performed in North America, Australia, and Asia.

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