Sunday, May 14, 2017

Opera Parallèle Celebrates Glass’ 80th Birthday Year with Another Cocteau Opera

In 2011 Opera Parallèle presented the San Francisco Bay Area premiere of Philip Glass’ two-act opera Orphée. This was to be the first opera in a triptych of operas that Glass would compose based on the films and prose of writer and film director Jean Cocteau. In this case the opera was based on the film Cocteau had made in 1949 of the same name. This was also the case with the second opera in the triptych, the one-act “La Belle et la Bête,” which was conceived to be performed in conjunction with Cocteau’s 90-minute film of the same name (with the original soundtrack entirely eliminated).

At the end of this month, Opera Parallèle will present a new production of the final opera in Glass’ triptych. Les Enfant Terribles, which Glass composed in 1996, is based on Cocteau’s novel of the same name, whose first English edition was published under the title The Holy Terrors. Cocteau wrote this novel in 1929; and it, too, found its way into cinema through a film that Cocteau directed in a collaboration with Jean-Pierre Melville in 1950. The “terrible children” of the French title are siblings with a sickly mother and no father. As the plot evolves, the siblings isolate themselves more and more from the world outside their home; and, by the time they reach adolescence, the consequences are dire.

In celebration of the composer’s 80th birthday year (his birthday was on January 31), Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel has prepared an innovative dance-opera staging. His partners in this project have been choreographer Amy Seiwert and media designer David Murakami. The objective of this team has been to create a stage environment that parallels both the reality and the fantasy of Cocteau protagonists, Paul and Lise. Thus, as the plot unfolds, dancers and film sequences will serve as “doppelgängers,” through which the audience may perceive the emotions, motivations, and back-stories of the characters.

The roles of Paul and Lise (Elizabeth in Glass’ opera) will be sung, respectively, by baritone Hadleigh Adams and soprano Rachel Schutz. Other vocalists will be tenor Andres Ramirez and mezzo Kindra Scharich, and the dancers will be Steffi Cheong and Brett Conway. Glass scored the instrumentation for only three pianos, and the participating pianists will be Keisuke Nakagoshi and Eva-Maria Zimmermann (the two ZOFO Duet pianists), along with Kevin Korth. Artistic Director Nicole Paiement will conduct.

This production will be given four performances, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 26, and Saturday, May 27, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 27, and Sunday, May 28. The venue will be the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. This is located at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. Premium seats are $95, and tickets are also available for $75 and $45. City Box Office has created a single Web page with hyperlinks for all four of the performances. Each such link provides a seating chart showing which prices apply to which areas of the Concert Hall.

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