Posts Tagged ‘Opera Parallele’

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
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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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