'Heart of Darkness' North American premiere with San Francisco's Opera Parallèle

'Heart of Darkness' North American premiere with San Francisco's Opera Parallèle
© Production design for Opera Parallèle
Opera Parallèle presents the North American premiere of Tarik O'Regan's opera Heart of Darkness based on the acclaimed novella by Joseph Conrad, with a libretto by noted artist and writer Tom Phillips. Performances take place on May 1-3 at San Francisco's Z Space with an all new production featuring art by Mark Kish and newly commissioned sculptures by Jon Altemus. This innovative new production is designed and directed by OP's Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel. The cast features Isaiah Bell as Marlow and performances are conducted by OP's Artistic Director Nicole Paiement.

Heart of Darkness portrays the greedy world of ivory smugglers in Central Africa as narrated by the central character, Marlow. The plot unfolds through a series of short, fast-paced scenes that gradually increase in tension, as Marlow's tale approaches its climax. The opera was developed in workshops with American Opera Projects and premiered in London in 2011.

O'Regan comments:
The contemporary relevance of this timeless tale needs no underlining. For librettist Tom Phillips and me, our goal was to distill Conrad's dense narrative as much as possible (while maintaining its potent nuances) into a fast-paced psychodrama. I've always felt that the music and words of our opera form a skeleton over which myriad interpretations can be layered, depending on the vision of the production. It's so exciting to see, therefore, what Opera Parallèle has in store: it's going to be a brilliant and radical departure from the opera's recent world premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, but with an equally formidable cast and artistic team.
Staufenbiel describes the production:
For Heart of Darkness, to accompany the magnificent artwork from Matt Kish's illustrated edition of Conrad's novella, we are commissioning life-size tusks (created by Jon Altemus) into an art installation which will envelop our audience as soon as they enter Z Space. The tusks will help bring attention to the horrors of the ivory trade, as we integrate them into the performance by bringing all 70 of them into the theater to create a boat and walls that will then be part of the sets in the opera.

Opera Parallèle is thrilled with our partnership with illustrator Matt Kish. His imprint is all over the production, as we use his spectacular images to create a virtual environment. Recent breakthroughs in video mapping make it possible to project images on any surface or shape. The audience — in ponchos — will become a collective gigantic screen upon which multi-dimensional video will be projected, creating an immersive experience as they become virtual scenery, and expanding the stage to have a living feeling as if in a jungle.

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