Archive for June, 2014

Author: Ben Kaye - Librettist, Co-founder
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June 26th 2014
Seven people from the same family have been sentenced to 66 years in prison between them after they were convicted of trafficking three Polish nationals into the UK.

We continue to hear from some people who simply do not believe that Human Trafficking exists.

Thank you to City Hearts, who were instrumental in the rescue of three Polish people Trafficked into the UK and the successful prosecution and jailing of seven Traffickers.


The three victims were lured to the UK with the promise of paid work and a better life.

As soon as they arrived, their identity documents were confiscated

The victims were subjected to a catalogue of violence and degrading treatment.

One night, having been held captive for approximately 12 months, one of the victims managed to escape, subsequently living on the streets for four months before finding assistance from a charity called City Hearts.

Sound familiar?

#‎freedom‬ ‪#‎cityhearts‬

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Author: Ben Kaye - Librettist, Co-founder
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June 25th 2014
Audience reaction to Anya17 in San Francisco


“It is an extraordinarily powerful and emotional work. A tough and uncompromising story and the fact that it was in the form of an opera seemed as natural as breathing. There has never been anything like this on stage in San Francisco. Bravo a tutti at Opera Parallele.
While we were in the theatre some very young women being held as sex slaves were rescued in a trafficking sting mere blocks away. “
Mike – 23 June

“STRONGLY recommend ANYA 17. Today at 4pm is the last show, if you haven’t seen it go get your tickets. It’s more than just an opera… it’s an amazing, eye-opening msg bringing awareness around human trafficking… I saw it on FRIDAY and I am still thinking of it. THANK YOU Opera Parallele for bringing awareness on such an important subject to our community through music and theater.”
Raeeka – 22 June

“I saw Anya 17 tonight. I want to say amazing, but in truth it was difficult and disturbing. I think that is the point… Congratulations to you and everyone else for such a difficult piece.”
Quincy – 22 June

“Really proud of Opera Parallele…they are doing important things. Experienced a great piece of theatre tonight.”
Leah – 20 June

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Author: Ben Kaye - Librettist, Co-founder
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June 24th 2014
FT Review: The Scores are in! Mozart – 4, Adam Gorb – 3!

Local premieres for two operas, one wryly whimsical, the other grimly hard-hitting.

The Classical Style, Berkeley/Anya 17, San Francisco – review
[Review of Mozart’s “The Classical Style” removed – Four Stars]

More sober fare came from Opera Parallèle, the community’s leading purveyor of contemporary music theatre. Last weekend’s North American premiere of Adam Gorb’s Anya 17, at the Marines’ Memorial Theater in San Francisco, billed itself as the first opera to deal with human trafficking (though a case might be made for Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri centuries ago). Sincerity counts for much in Ben Kaye’s libretto drawn from the headlines and in the British composer’s eclectic, tart score, which adroitly mingles mild dissonance with jazzy riffs and sour Weillesque lyricism.

In recounting the sad saga of Anya and the other women kidnapped and brought to a brothel in western Europe, Gorb, in one disturbing scene after another, dwells on the brutality inflicted upon these unfortunates at the hands of a pimp with all the compassion of an iceberg. The irony is thick in the air: compassion for Anya comes only from an old customer. It’s all pure melodrama…

Anya 17 was directed starkly by Brian Staufenbiel amid a blizzard of projections. Nicole Paiement conducted her 14-member onstage orchestra with brave commitment. Soprano Anna Noggle’s Anya led a cast imbued with a sense of grim purpose. Show Boat this was not.

Three Stars

Allan Ulrich – Financial Times
24th June 2014

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Author: Ben Kaye - Librettist, Co-founder
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June 23rd 2014
REVIEW: Anya17 emerges a true work of art

Anna Noggle- left- and Shawnette Sulker with Victor Benedetti in background


The American premiere of this opera about human trafficking and sexual slavery rises above agitprop and emerges a true work of art.

Earlier this year a film called “Twelve Years a Slave” walked away with the Best Picture award at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes. The true story of a free American man of color who was kidnapped in Washington D.C. and sold into more than a decade of involuntary servitude in the antebellum South shocked well-bred audiences. How could such a thing happen? Well, as I drove through San Francisco’s tough Tenderloin District on my way home from Opera Parallèle’s searing “Anya17,” I looked up at darkened windows and wondered what kind of tragedy was being enacted behind the curtains. How could such a thing happen? It’s happening every day, here and all around the world.


“Anya17,” a new opera by composer Adam Gorb and librettist Ben Kaye, deals with human trafficking, especially the abduction of young girls from underdeveloped, poverty-stricken countries. Lured by the promise of jobs and riches in the West, these women end up as virtual slaves, their bodies a commodity and their lives in ruin. According to the program notes, this is a $32 billion industry, second only to the drug trade. Yet, it goes largely unnoticed. If “Anya17” is agitprop, it is so in the best sense of the term. And leave it to San Francisco’s adventurous Opera Parallèle to bring it to our attention.


It also is art. Gorb’s score is listenable, modern with touches of jazz, and appropriate to the subject (although I’m not ready to buy the record). Sometimes the melodic line is in the orchestra (ably directed by Nicole Paiement), with the singers’ voices riding atonally atop it. Sometimes it is the other way around. There is a beautiful Britten-like orchestral interlude (Gorb is British) following the death of one of the girls.


Kaye’s libretto is pure poetry — even when he is writing about women as meat on display in a butcher shop (a powerful aria sung by Viktor, the villain of the piece). Brian Staufenbiel’s direction and design is exceptional, as it has been in every Opera Parallèle production I have seen. Portions of the orchestra are visible through screens at the back of the stage. Projections of buildings and fields rushing by give you the feeling that you are traveling to “the West” with the girls. A brutal rape scene is all the more horrifying for remaining offstage.


The tale of Anya (a powerful Anna Noggle), betrayed by a man she thought loved her, and two of her fellow-abductees, as well as those who are profiting from their servitude, plays out in 11 short, tense scenes, with two dancers (Janet Das and Quilet Rarang), clad in plastic, moving props (notably a stained mattress) comforting and, occasionally, threatening the girls. Anya’s companions are well-sung by Shawnette Sulker as Mila, a young mother hoping to provide a better life for the child she left behind, and, especially, Laura Krumm as the lovely Elena, blind, addicted and heartbreaking.


San Francisco Opera regular Catherine Cook is her usual fabulous self as Natalia, an older woman, once trafficked, now turned trafficker. Her jazzy, tragic, autobiographical aria is a show-stopper. Her accomplice, the cruel Viktor, is well-sung by the impressive baritone Victor Benedetti and Andres Ramirez plays Anya’s lovers, one false and one true. Cook also doubles as a hospital social worker who tries to get through to the traumatized Anya after her escape.


Yes, Anya does escape and the opera ends on a note of hope as she begins to piece together the shards of her shattered self. But, in the real world, for every girl who gets away, many more remain stuck in a life of degradation that they did not choose. By shining a spotlight on this tragedy, Opera Parallèle has given us more than a work of art. Well done!


Suzanne Weiss – CultureVulture
June 20-22, 2014

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Author: Ben Kaye - Librettist, Co-founder

June 22nd 2014
REVIEW “Anya17 thus follows in a literary tradition of books like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin…”

Opera Parallèle presents a North American premiere with uncompromising impact.

Last night at the Marines’ Memorial Theater, Opera Parallele began their weekend run of the first North American performances of Adam Gorb’s opera Anya17. Ben Kaye described his libretto as “an amalgam of just some of the horrific, real stories from the world of sex trafficking which I discovered during my research with leading charities and caseworkers in the field.” One might say that the result is a musical dramatization of ethnography, much the same way that Charles S. Dutton’s miniseries for HBO The Corner was a dramatization of The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, an ingeniously conceived synthesis of ethnography and journalism by David Simon and Ed Burns.

The most important thing to note about Anya17 is that it is not easy to take. Those looking for little more than a pleasant night out at the opera would be advised to look elsewhere. This is an uncompromising treatment that thoroughly justifies Kaye’s use of the adjective “horrific.” At the same time the production forces us to recognize just how fine the line is between an uncompromising account of the horrific and a pornographic one. As the narrative unfolds as brutality after brutality, it would be hard for anyone in the audience to avoid questioning if (s)he has been reduced to a voyeur of atrocities.

It is clear, however, that Kaye wanted to get beyond mere voyeurism. Rather, his goal was to compel an otherwise passive audience to pay attention to basic realities that most would prefer to ignore. Anya17 thus follows in a literary tradition of books like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which forced dark truths about the treatment of slaves on readers who preferred to avoid such uncomfortable thoughts, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which approached the food processing industry the same way, and, closer to home, Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, which exposed the willful negligence from all levels of government at the onset of the AIDS epidemic. Each of those books thrusts the reader into making highly disturbing observations, without reducing him/her to the level of a perverted voyeur.

Thus, the more important questions concern how such an uncompromising narrative can be handled by both a musical setting and a staging of the performance as opera. For the former, Gorb chose to work with the resources of a chamber orchestra. The only extensive resource is the diversity of instruments played by the percussionist (Erika Johnson). The remaining parts also have single performers. These include a string quartet (violinists Roy Malan and Stephanie Bibbo, violist Ellen Ruth Rose, and cellist Adaiha Macadam-Somer), along with bass (Stan Poplin), a wind section of flute (Carmen Lemoine), oboe and English horn (Kyle Bruckmann), clarinet and bass clarinet (Peter Josheff), and bassoon and contrabassoon (David Granger), a brass section of horn (Alicia Telford), trumpet (John Freeman), and trombone (Hall Goff), and pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi.

Gorb has a keen ear for harnessing the intensity of dissonance to Kaye’s narrative. This involves some highly imaginative combinations of instruments, along with a few well-chosen and highly arresting outbursts from the entire ensemble, led deftly by Music Director Nicole Paiement. Only six vocalists were involved, each with a voice as intensely controlled as the instrumental parts. Anna Noggle sang the title role in a style that was both musically and dramatically convincing; but the same can be said of her two fellow sex slaves, Mila and the blind Elena, sung, respectively, by Shawnette Sulker and Laura Krumm. Victor Benedetti was not afraid to evoke all of the brutality of Viktor, the “keeper” of these three girls, while Andres Ramirez doubled as Uri, who first lures Anya into the “system” and Gabriel, the customer who falls in love with her. The real powerhouse, however, was Catherine Cook as Victor’s assistant Natalia, instrumental in managing all the “business basics” of this trade.

As in his past productions, Director Brian Staufenbiel made rich use of media. This included some highly imaginative use of projected images to substitute for extensive use of scenery and sets. However, what mattered most was the acting technique of each of the six singers. It was through that technique that Staufenbiel arrived at the fundamental dramatic elements that ultimately made this performance so unrelenting and uncompromising.

This was clearly the work of highly committed courage and focused attention to detail, without which the whole affair could have devolved into triviality (or, worse, pornography). Those considering attending one of the two remaining performances need to be aware of what is in store for them. Those who then take the plunge will emerge, possibly uncomfortably, with a deeper understanding of one of the uglier trends of our contemporary life.

Stephen Smoliar -San Francisco Classical Music Examiner
June 21, 2014

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Author: Ben Kaye - Librettist, Co-founder
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June 21st 2014
News from San Francisco!

The first night!

Following a triumphant first night in San Francisco, (left to right) Nicole Paiment (Artistic Director and Conductor of Anya17), Composer Adam Gorb, Shawnette Sulker (“Mila”), Brian Staufenbiel (Stage Director and Concept Designer) and Anna Noggle (“Anya”) enjoy a few moments after the USA Premiere before gearing up for further performances.


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Author: Ben Kaye - Librettist, Co-founder

June 18th 2014
Video Interviews for Anya17 USA Premiere

Anya17 watercolour by Evan Wright

Anya17 watercolour by Evan Wright for USA Premiere

I was very excited to find this video today with interviews with Opera Paralelle for the USA Premiere which is TOMORROW on 20th June 2014!

For the video, please go to and scroll down and then press the Play button!

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