Kitka vocalist Barbara Byers (photograph by Dorian Šilec Petek, courtesy of John Hill)
For those that have been following this site over the years, Kitka, an all-women a cappella vocal ensemble, may be best known for its annual Wintersongs tour, which would visit the Old First Presbyterian Church every December to give a performance for Old First Concerts. Astute readers probably know that they did not make such a visit last month. [corrected 1/31, 2:55 p.m.: Actually, I seem to have been less astute than at least some of my readers. That annual visit took place on December 18. This time, however, they probably had already begun preparation for a return visit to San Francisco, this time to present a staged performance of the world premiere of a recently completed opera.]
The title of this opera is BABA: The Life and Death of Stana. Karmina Šilec both composed the music and authored the libretto, and she will also direct the staging of the work’s first performance. Šilec was able to pursue this project on a commission by Kitka.
The opera has been realized as a multidisciplinary and non-narrative take on Balkan epic storytelling traditions. The advance material for this opera provides the following background:
The tradition of sworn virgins is embedded in an ancient social code present in remote rural regions of Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia. Born as women, life circumstances including the loss of male relatives in blood feuds or other vendettas, a lack of sons in the household, taking the place of a brother too ill to serve in the army, eldercare obligations, a desire to escape an oppressive arranged marriage, the death of a fiancé, abandonment by a husband – all lead these individuals to become men thereby gaining the honors, rights, privileges and freedoms of community patriarchs. Crucially, the self-professed motives of sworn virgins are more often than not social responsibility and family honor, as opposed to sexual preference or feelings of being male by nature.
The ten Kitka vocalists to perform in the cast will be Kelly Atkins, Caitlin Tabancay Austin, Leslie Bonnet, Briget Boyle, Barbara Byers, Shira Cion, Juliana Graffagna, Erin Lashnits Herman, Janet Kutulas, and Maclovia Quintana. They will be joined by two guest artists. Shira Kammen, who specializes in instruments for early music ensemble, will also perform in the cast. The other cast member will be Beth Wilmurt, who has had a long involvement with the Bay Area experimental theater scene and performs as both actor and singer. For instrumental accompaniment, Kammen will be joined by Rumen Shopov, who specializes in both Balkan Romani instruments and percussion.
The opera will be given four performances at 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 23, Friday, February 24, and Saturday, February 25, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 26. The venue will be Z Space, on the outer edge of the Mission at 450 Florida Street. The estimated running time is two hours and fifteen minutes, including a fifteen-minute intermission.
Standard admission will be $50, with a $25 rate for students with valid identification. Tickets for the Premium Section will be $75. There is also a $125 Pay-It-Forward Prime Ticket, which will help Kitka provide a wide range of accessible ticket options to various communities. Those purchasing these tickets will also have seating in the Premium Section. A single Web page has been created to allow for all ticket purchases by following hyperlinks on a calendar.