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Opera Parallele Announces EVEREST as Graphic Novel Opera Film For Summer 2021

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It was conceived by Opera Parallèle's Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel, in collaboration with illustrator Mark Simmons and cinematographer David Murakami.

Opera Parallele Announces EVEREST as Graphic Novel Opera Film For Summer 2021

Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer's acclaimed opera Everest will be given a bold new theatrical treatment reimagined as a graphic novel opera film, a concept where the singers are integrated into an animated environment creating a one-of-a-kind operatic experience. The world premiere of this unprecedented interpretation of Everest is anticipated for summer 2021, and will be available for on-demand streaming for home viewing; complete ticketing details will be revealed later this spring.

Conceived by Opera Parallèle's Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel, in collaboration with illustrator Mark Simmons and cinematographer David Murakami, this company initiative skillfully combines the power of musical storytelling with the dynamic visuals of graphic novels along with some good old fashioned movie magic.

The creative process begins with studio recordings of the singers, followed by an emotion capture process which forms the basis of the animated characters. The singers' own movements control the animated expressions of their characters, creating an authentic experience for the audience.

At the musical helm is Opera Parallèle's General and Artistic Director Nicole Paiement, currently in recording sessions with an impressive roster of singers, all of whom have extensive performance experience with contemporary opera and concert music: Sasha Cooke (Jan Arnold), Nathan Granner (Rob Hall), Kevin Burdette (Beck Weathers), Hadleigh Adams (Doug Hansen), Matt Boehler (Guy Cotter, Mike Groom and Vocal Quartet), Charlotte Fanvu (Meg Weathers), Shawnette Sulker (Vocal Quartet), Whitney Steele (Vocal Quartet), and Kevin Gino (Vocal Quartet).

Opera Parallèle began developing this new genre in 2013, based on a concept by Staufenbiel, with an exploratory performance combining specially-commissioned illustrations projected during live performance. The success of these early steps inspired the company to merge tradition with innovation by developing the second installment of this unique graphic novel opera concept. These initial steps proved successful and led to the creation of a proof-of-concept video created during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, reaffirming the creative team's assumptions.

"Opera Parallèle first developed this graphic novel opera concept several seasons ago and has been waiting for the right time to bring this genre-bending approach to opera to fulfillment. Now is the time, and Everest is the opera and story for the very first graphic novel opera film," said Staufenbiel.

Maestro Paiement added, "Rather than focusing on what we couldn't do because of the pandemic, we imagined what we could do. Opera Parallèle is all about telling remarkable stories in new ways, so I'm thrilled that the company is able to add a new dimension to the story of Everest, moving it from the stage into the imaginative world of the graphic novel opera."

Talbot's contemporary masterpiece Everest is based on the documented 1996 Mount Everest disaster when eight climbers perished. The composer and librettist Gene Scheer created the opera based on interviews with survivors of their ill-fated attempt to descend the summit of Mount Everest in the midst of a relentless blizzard.

The story takes place on May 10 and 11, 1996, and follows the fates of three expedition climbers, Rob Hall, Doug Hansen and Beck Weathers. Told in a non-linear fashion, the opera moves between the climbers and their families at home. It explores both the cost of ambition and the collective hope we derive from challenging ourselves in the world's most unforgiving places.

Everest premiered in 2015 under the baton of Nicole Paiement at The Dallas Opera, the company that commissioned the original work. Maestro Paiement is Principal Guest Conductor for Dallas Opera and subsequent to the Texas premiere, she conducted Everest for Lyric Opera of Kansas City in 2017, and is scheduled to make her UK debut in June 2022, conducting a concert version with the BBC Symphony at London's Barbican Centre.

The Everest graphic novel opera creative team is led by Director & Creator Brian Staufenbiel; Conductor Nicole Paiement; Illustrator Mark Simmons; Cinematographer David Murakami; Audio Engineer Miles Lassi; Project Manager Daniel Harvey; Assistant Conductor Jessica Bejarano; and Production Manager Tony Shayne.

Support for this production has been generously provided, in part, by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Amphion Foundation, the Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation, Donna Dubinsky and Len Shustek, Bob Ellis, National Endowment for the Arts, the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, San Francisco Grants for the Arts.

Celebrating its 11th season in 2020-2021, 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 new life to works which might not otherwise be performed. The company was founded by critically acclaimed award-winning musician and conductor Nicole Paiement.


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