The highly anticipated West Coast premiere of composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch’s critically acclaimed opera, Sophia’s Forest, will be given four performances from Thursday, February 24 through Saturday, February 26 at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street. . Ticket prices are $35, $85 and $145 and can be purchased online at www.operaparallele.org.
All audience members, staff and performers aged 5 and over must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Prior to entering Grace Cathedral, ticket holders will be asked to provide proof of vaccination via a QR code generated by the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record website, or an original vaccination card or photograph thereof , along with a valid government-issued photo. Identity card (a student card for minors under 18 is also acceptable). Opera Parallèle strongly encourages all eligible audience members to get vaccinated at least 10 days prior to the ticketed event. Ticket holders are required to wear a non-ventilated N95, KN95 or KF94 mask at all times for maximum protection inside Grace Cathedral.
A one-act opera, Sophia’s Forest tells the story of a young girl, Sophia, who recently immigrated to the United States, after surviving a traumatic journey through the chaos of a civil war in her homeland. During the lyrical drama, we see Sophia as an adult remembering her childhood, as a nine-year-old recent immigrant to the United States, and in flashbacks to years earlier, as a runaway child. his native country with his mother, Anna and her sister Emma.
Sophia’s Forest is an exploration of both the lasting effects of the immigration experience on families and how children use their imaginations to deal with trauma. These themes are part of the librettist’s and composer’s family tradition: Moscovitch’s great-grandparents escaped a wave of massacres in Eastern Europe to find their way to Canada, while Moscovitch’s grandmother Beecher and her then two-year-old mother fled Estonia during World War II, having survived the Nazi and Soviet occupations of their country.
During the month of February 2022, Opera Parallèle will be the artist in residence at the Saint Joseph’s Arts Society of San Francisco, 1401 Howard Street, and will rehearse Sophia’s Forest in this room. The company will host a public rehearsal in Saint Joseph on Tuesday, February 15 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend and register in advance at operaparallele.org/sophia.
On Wednesday, February 16 at 6 p.m., there will be a Grace Forum Online, co-presented by Opera Parallèle and Grace Cathedral via Zoom. Grace Cathedral Dean Malcolm Clemens Young will lead a conversation with composer Lembit Beecher and neuroscientist and opera director Indre Viskontas about the lasting effects on families of the refugee/immigrant experience, how children use their imaginations to deal with trauma, and how art can help us connect with ourselves and others. https://gracecathedral.org/calendar-events/grace-forum-online-sophias-forest/
One hour before the four performances at Grace Cathedral, ticket holders are invited to attend a conversation with the creators of the opera in Grace Chapel with the artistic direction of Opera Parallèle, Nicole Payment and Brian Staufenbiel, and the composer Lembit Beecher. To enhance the Sophia’s Forest performance experience, Opera Parallèle has created a comprehensive resource page with suggested music, poetry, books and more; operaparallele.org/sophiaenhance/
Sophia’s Forest was presented in an exploratory first production at the Drexel University Black Box Theater in Philadelphia in 2017, directed and directed by Nicole Payment and Brian Staufenbiel of Opera Parallèle, with support from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. The opera was critically acclaimed by David Patrick Stearns writing in The Philadelphia Inquirer: “A startling introspective study of immigrant children, the opera was full of vocal lines reflecting psychological depths but also electronic music effects that added greatly to the dreamlike atmosphere.”
A central part of the production consists of nine electronically controlled sound sculptures placed on the stage. These were built in collaboration with Drexel University’s ExCITe Center, an interdisciplinary center for research and innovation that combines arts and engineering. The sound sculptures featured in Sophia’s Forest form part of the opera’s setting and function as an instrumental choir, intertwining with the string quartet and percussion to create the fantastical, dreamlike musical landscape of the piece.
Opera Parallèle’s fully realized production of Sophia’s Forest features soprano Maggie Finnegan as Sophia; mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich as Anna; baritone Bradley Kynard as Wes; young sopranos Victoria Ko and Samantha Fung-Lee as Emma; and actress Charlotte Fanvu as young Sophia. The creative team is headed by the company’s general and artistic director, Nicole Payment, conductor; company Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel, concept and director; Jessica Bejarano, assistant conductor; Mariseley Cortés Fonseca, costume designer; Jon Altemus, set designer; and Aaron Curry, lighting designer. The opera will be presented with projected surtitles in English.
The musical score will be performed by the Del Sol Quartet, percussion by Divesh Karamchandani and electronic Sound Sculpture by Lembit Beecher.
Opera Parallèle’s presentation of Sophia’s Forest is made possible, in part, by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Bob Ellis, Stephen and Diane Heiman and Paul L. King, with support from Producer’s Circle members Donna Dubinsky and Len Shustek.
On Thursday, April 14, Opera Parallèle will present Over the Rainbow, a benefit celebration for the company with special guest artist John Holiday, acclaimed countertenor, crossover singer, recording artist and finalist on NBC TV’s The Voice. The season will close with iconic composer Philip Glass’ Beauty and the Beast, a surreal new take on a timeless tale, merging opera and film live on stage; presented in collaboration with SFJAZZ at Miner Auditorium, July 15-17.
For more information on Opera Parallèle’s 2021-22 season, visit www.operaparallele.org.