Opera Parallèle’s Harriet’s Spirit

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Music by Marcus Shelby, libretto by Roma Olvera, conducted by Lucik Aprahamian

DATES: January 18 at 6 p.m.; January 20 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

LOCATION: Buriel Clay Theater at the African American Art & Culture Complex
762 Fulton Street, San Francisco

CAST: Tiffany Austin as Harriet Tubman; Christabel Nunoo as Modesty; with Rooftop Alternative School’s 8th Grader Students

Each year, Opera Parallèle partners with school students to create and perform an original opera during an intensive eight-week residency. This year’s world premiere production features an original score by Bay Area jazz great Marcus Shelby and a libretto by Roma Olvera based on the story of a middle school girl who triumphs over the challenges of adolescence with Civil War-era legend Harriet Tubman as her role model and spirit guide. Students of Rooftop Alternative School in San Francisco will share the stage with professional singers and Jazz Ensemble in creating the production. OP’s Hands-On-Opera production annually draws capacity crowds.

For tickets and information about Opera Parallèle’s Harriet’s Spirit, visit: https://operaparallele.org/harriets-spirit/

About Opera Parallele’s Harriet’s Spirit

Harriet’s Spirit is set in two different worlds — on the Combahee River during the Civil War and in a present day middle school. When asked about the opera’s themes, Marcus responded that Harriet’s Spirit is about family and friends, and the strength that they give you in challenging times. Harriet Tubman, first written in 2008 for Shelby’s original secular oratorio for 15 piece jazz orchestra and vocal ensemble, moves into the world of contemporary opera with “Harriet’s Spirit.”

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HARRIET’S SPIRIT CALENDAR DATES:

  • Family Art Night: Harriet’s Spirit with Marcus Shelby – Wednesday, November 1, 5:30pm-7:30pm, Burnett MPR. Families will create their own artwork inspired by Harriet’s Spirit and enjoy an evening of artistic call and response with composer/bassist Marcus Shelby and teaching artist Andi Wong.
  • “Harriet’s Spirit” Open Rehearsal Arts Night with Opera Parallèle – Thursday, November 16, 5pm-7pm, Mayeda Gym. Get an inside look at Opera Parallèle’s Harriet’s Spirit with composer Marcus Shelby, librettist Roma Olvera, conductor Lucik Aprahamian, director Erin Neff and Rooftop’s eighth grade student performers.
  • Open Dress Rehearsal @ the Mayeda Campus – Full Run Thru w Principals – Mon, 8 January, 9:44am-10:34am; Wed, 10 January, 9:44am-10:34am; Fri, 12 January, 9:44am-10:34am. In order to accommodate more classes, we have asked Opera Parallèle for permission to open up these three additional dates to small supportive audiences (approx. 30-40).
  • Final Dress Rehearsal: Harriet’s Spirit – Wednesday, January 17, 2018; 11:00-11:45am at the Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art & Culture Center. Field Trip for Elementary (grades K+) – 200 seat capacity
  • Opera Parallele’s Harriet’s Spirit (World Premiere) – Thursday, January 18, 6pm & Saturday, January 20, 1pm & 4pm; Community performances at the Buriel Clay Theater, African American Art & Culture Center.

HARRIET’S SPIRIT PRE-ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITIES

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Trim A Tree 2017: North Star Ornaments

Rooftop is invited to decorate one of the trees at Davies Symphony Hall during the holidays. Each student at Rooftop, grades K-8, makes an ornament that will be hung on the Rooftop tree. This year’s ornament is inspired by the North Star quilt block. This ornament-making activity is supported by Art Parent Coordinators Brooke Kerpelman, Whitney Couch and Eryn Kurin.

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Harriet’s Spirit Story Quilt Project 

Rooftop classrooms will have the opportunity to create art in support of the production design for Harriet’s Spirit. Rooftop classrooms can learn more about Harriet’s Spirit and help to create three fabric quilts, inspired by the art of quilt maker Harriet Powers (1937-1910), which are integral to the production design of Harriet’s Spirit. These story quilts share family stories recorded by Rooftop families during the November 1st Family Art Night. The Story quilt pre-engagement activities will be supported by teaching artists Andi Wong and Mary Ann Cruz at The Studios at Burnett & Mayeda.

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Harriet’s Spirit Daguerreotype Portraits

The production design of Harriet’s Spirit is also influenced by a newly discovered daguerreotype portrait of Harriet Tubman, found in a souvenir album in 2016. The Metropolitan Museum of Art noted that “…the medium’s success in America was built upon the patronage of the average worker who desired a simple likeness to keep for himself, or more likely, to send to a loved one as the era’s most enduring pledge of friendship. Among the many momentous social transformations generated by photography’s invention was the possibility of self-representation by a large variety of groups previously excluded from official portraiture.” Advances in the art of digital photography make it a snap to add your own selfie to the Rooftop family photo album of 2017-2018.

Harriet’s Spirit for Hamilton Families

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After the war Harriet Tubman returned to her home in Auburn, New York, and began what was to be her life-long work of caring for aged and indigent African Americans when she purchased 25 acres of land at auction for $1450 in 1896. In 2016, Rooftop began filling the rainbow-colored shelves of the Blake Mini Library at Hamilton Families in San Francisco as a recipient of a gift from youth philanthropist Blake Ansari who resides in Brooklyn, New York. Our 3rd annual Blake Mini Library Book Drive kicks off on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, when students of all ages are invited to help by writing notes of encouragement and donating a new or newly read children’s book to the children at Hamilton Families in the Tenderloin. Harriet’s Spirit is sharing our love of books about #MonumentalWomen with a special selection of children’s books such as Nikki Grimes & Michele Wood’s “Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony (Inspired by Historical Facts).”

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Classes can take a ten-minute hike to Kite Hill from Burnett & Tank Hill from Mayeda and explore the natural surrounds of Twin Peaks and contemplate the benefits of outdoor experiences.  In September of 2017, Atlanta artist Mashona Council became the first person to complete the 125-mile Freedom Walk across the Tubman byway alone. “To come across that line, it really was this bringing (Tubman’s) spirit with me. And we know that when she crossed there was no one here to welcome her.” The trek helped Council to gain a better perspective of Harriet Tubman’s considerable accomplishments, whether leading others to freedom on the Underground Railroad or planning the Combahee River Raid of 1863. Harriet Tubman has the unique distinction of being the only woman to have played a decisive role in planning and carrying out a military operation during the Civil War. Today, Bay Area organizations such as Girl Trek and Outdoor Afro are heading outside to reflect on Harriet Tubman’s relationship with the land and learning more about the benefits of active engagement with the natural world.

MSJO Harriet Tubman 2008

Harriet Tubman, Marcus Shelby’s musical oratorio, was the central work of Rooftop’s “Art Is Jazz” study in 2007-2008. The Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, featuring vocalist Faye Carole, performed for students at the Swedish American Hall on February 1, 2008.Marcus Shelby & Harriet Tubman at Rooftop

Rooftop School’s “Art Is… Jazz” (2007-2008) website  http://artsed4all.org/ArtIsJazz/Home.html

Marcus Shelby’s website https://www.marcusshelby.com

The Google Cultural Institute: SFJAZZ: Sounds of Freedom A celebration of the spirit of resistance in African American music.

Marcus speaks about his jazz oratorio “Harriet Tubman” for SFJAZZ https://youtu.be/lWZ3O6Ffub4

At The Center ~ Marcus Shelby’s ‘Harriet Tubman & The Blues’ https://youtu.be/lWZ3O6Ffub4

KQED Arts: Bassist Marcus Shelby Finds Freedom’s Message in the Music https://ww2.kqed.org/arts/2014/04/24/bassist-marcus-shelby-finding-freedoms-message-in-the-music/

SFGate: What I Do: Marcus Shelby, Jazz Musician/Educator (2010) http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Marcus-Shelby-mixes-music-politics-history-3261035.php

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Did you know that Rooftop School is the source of inspiration for TWO musical compositions written by Marcus Shelby?

 

In 2008, Marcus wrote Peaceable Kingdom – a tone poem for 15-piece jazz orchestra and speaker, based on the 1847 painting by Edward Hicks. This work, which premiered at the De Young Museum on January 18, 2008. was an artistic call and response inspired by his time working with the students at Rooftop School. In turn, two Burnett murals were created during Rooftop’s 2007-2008 study of Marcus’ musical composition, Harriet Tubman.

The Peaceable Kingdom garden wall mural, created by Ms. Margot’s 4th grade class, was inspired by Harriet’s role as a conductor for The Underground Railroad. In Our Peaceable Kingdom, the entrance mural, created by Ms. Woo’s 4th class, features student poems about peaceThe now familiar Rooftop logo was designed by 4th graders Bobby McCollough, who designed the lettering, and Aida Irving, who drew the Raven and The Dove.

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Family Art Night: Harriet’s Spirit with Marcus Shelby

The community at Rooftop Alternative PreK-8 School will enjoy an evening of artistic call and response with composer Marcus Shelby and teaching artist Andi Wong on Wednesday, November 1, 2017.

At this very special Family Art Night, Marcus will discuss his newest musical composition: a brand new opera written for Rooftop School. Opera Parallèle’s Harriet’s Spirit tells the story of a middle school girl who triumphs over the challenges of adolescence with Civil War-era legend Harriet Tubman as her role model and spirit guide. Marcus will also introduce families to the opera’s musical themes. Families will work together create their own family story quilt artwork, art which will be incorporated into the opera’s production design.

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FAMILY ART NIGHTS & MAYEDA MEDIA NIGHTS were established to provide Rooftop students and their families with additional opportunities to further their learning, share educational resources, and build community through the arts.

Kindergarten Family Art Night 2017: “Listen to The Water”

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On Thursday, October 5, 2017 former Rooftop Kindergarten teacher Mary Ann Cruz and Kindergarten parent Laura Jean Ruppert sailed into the Burnett MPR, to lead Kindergarten Family Art Night, an art & music workshop for families at Rooftop School.

In addition to dancing the Lobster Quadrille and singing water songs, families made their own ocean-inspired shadow puppets. Ms. Cruz and Ms. Ruppert also spoke about their on-going work  exploring the theme of water with the kindergarteners in Ms. Lampear, Mr. Lane and Mr. Mayhew’s classrooms  This classroom introduction to opera was conceived as pre-engagement for this Fall’s work of art for study, Harriet’s Spirit, a children’s opera composed by Marcus Shelby, with a libretto written by Roma Olvera, for Opera Parallèle.

kinder-art-night-songs program_Page_1Download a copy of the kinder-art-night-songs

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To play is to engage. When we play, we pick up objects, ideas, or themes and turn them upside down, experiment with them, often arriving at something inspiring and amazing; yet we don’t play for the outcome, but for its own sake. For humans and some animals, play is a vital part of development. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Adults also play to break from conventions, to experiment, to shift from normality into a rich world of imagination or to push themselves in new ways.

Play in children can be generally divided into four broad types based on the developmental purposes each serves. These are: physical play, play with objects, symbolic play, pretence and socio-dramatic play, and games with rules. Beyond participating in children’s play, adults can support it by creating a supportive environment, providing a range of opportunities for play and thoughtfully providing structures that support play. 

— from the Lego Learning Institute’s “The Future of Play: Defining the role and value of play in the 21st Century (2016).

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Engaging play experiences offer a set of gifts, innate rewarding experiences that encourage individuals to continue their engagement. These are reflection and integration of what we have learned, the pleasure of Flow, self-expression, positive emotions, new ways of seeing, mastery, innovation, connecting with and learning from others, and lastly self-realisation.

— from the Lego Learning Institute’s “The Future of Play: Defining the role and value of play in the 21st Century (2016).

San Francisco Opera’s Dream of the Red Chamber

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San Francisco Opera’s Dream of the Red Chamber is a story of cosmic creation, of marriage choice, and of family decline, both financial and moral. It is a meditation on the nature of reality and illusion, of the interconnectedness of the dream state and the waking world. Thus the Monk begins the opera with the greeting, “Welcome to my dream.” 

More at: https://sfopera.com/1617-season/201617-season/dream-of-the-red-chamber/

The Flower becomes Dai Yu, a brilliant, but sickly young woman 

The Stone become Bao Yu, Lady Wang’s spoiled son, the sole heir of the Jia Clan. 

Dao Chai – The beauty from the wealthy Xue Clan

At a discussion hosted by the Chinese Cultural Center of San Francisco, Dream of the Red Chamber production designer Tim Yip shared how his designs were created in response to Bright Sheng’s poetic music. Also inspired by novelist Cao Xueqin’s talent as a kite master and author of books on kite artistry, Yip’s costumes are inspired by kites, people moving through space as broad fields of expressive color.

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“I do not use detailed designs on the fabric itself, as in real silk brocade,” Instead, my costume designs are more abstract, allowing you to sense the body within—or perhaps the aura of character’s spirit.” Characters are distinguished by different colors. For Dai Yu, green reflects her living quarters in the garden, surrounded by bamboo. The embossed gold patterns on Bao Chai’s robe remind you that she comes from a rich family.” 

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Dreamweavers: An all-star creative team transports an epic Chinese novel to the operatic stage. Writer Ken Smith interviews composer Bright Sheng, co-librettist David Henry Hwang, and director Stan Lai. https://sfopera.com/1617-season/201617-season/dream-of-the-red-chamber/dreamweavers/

Chinese versus European opera 

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Along with the European operatic tradition, the opera Dream of the Red Chamber is also inspired by other traditional theatrical versions of the story, such as those of Peking (or Beijing) opera, Kunqu, or Shaoxing opera, particularly in terms of choreography, costumes, and set design. 

How do these Chinese operatic genres compare with European opera? There is no easy answer, but production designer Tim Yip makes one important distinction, especially regarding sets. “Symbolism is a big part of Chinese traditional aesthetics. all you need are a few shapes and the audience can fill the rest of the scenery with their imagination,” says Yip. “Traditional Chinese opera contains formulas and guidelines in expressing emotions and actions; Western opera is based on creating quicker paced dramatic arcs. [For this production of Dream of the Red Chamber], rhythm is conveyed in the set and costumes, enhancing specific plot developments as emotions flare and then subside.”

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San Francisco Opera recently announced that Sheng & Hwang’s Dream of the Red Chamber will tour to the People’s Republic of China in September 2017, traveling to  three Chinese cities in six performances.

Delving Deeper into “Dream of the Red Chamber” by Stephen Roddy: http://sfopera.com/discover-opera/201617-season/dream-of-the-red-chamber/delvingdeeper/

Verdi’s AIDA – High School Night at San Francisco Opera

The final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera’s Aida on Wednesday, November 2 at 6:00pm is Madeleine H. Russell High School Night at the Opera, and attendees can anticipate an especially fun night with a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience of students arriving from all over California.

 San Francisco Opera presents Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida in a new production directed by Francesca Zambello and featuring designs by Los Angeles-based, contemporary visual artist RETNA (Marquis Duriel Lewis). A co-production with Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera and Minnesota Opera, this striking and bold vision for Verdi’s enduring classic will feature soprano Leah Crocetto and tenor Brian Jagde in their role debuts as the lovers at the heart of the opera, the enslaved princess Aida and the Egyptian war hero Radames. Mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk is Amneris, the daughter of the king who desires Radames’ love, baritone George Gagnidze portrays Aida’s vengeful father, Amonasro, and bass Raymond Aceto is Ramfis. The international cast and San Francisco Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Company Music Director Nicola LuisottiIan Robertson is Chorus Director.

Aida, one of Verdi’s most intimate dramas set within arguably his grandest spectacle, employs the sets of Michael Yeargan, costumes designed by Anita Yavich, lighting design by Mark McCullough and choreography of Jessica Lang.

To learn more about Aida and access San Francisco Opera’s education materials, visit:
http://sfopera.com/discover-opera/education-programs/for-schools/classroom-materials1/2016-17-classroom-materials/aida1/


How are the strokes and marks associated with letterforms used to create a timeless setting for San Francisco Opera’s new production of Aida?

RETNA’s art, which combines elements of traditional street art with hieroglyphics, draws from a variety of typographies, including Arabic, Egyptian, Hebrew, Old English, and Native American.

RETNA (Marquis Duriel Lewis) was born in 1979 in Los Angeles. At the age of fifteen, he began painting on posted fashion advertisements and, from there, led one of the largest and most innovative art collectives in the city. His work has exhibited at institutions and galleries in Los Angeles (including the façade of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s Grand Avenue location for their 2013 Gala celebrating the exhibitionArt In The Streets), Miami, London, New York (including the prestigious public exhibition space of the Houston-Bowery Wall), and Hong Kong.

Concurrently, RETNA’s work can also be seen at the Legion of Honor. The Future of the Past: Mummies and Medicine, is on view May 14, 2016–August 26, 2018.


WHAT’S IN A NAME? #artisatthecenter activity

Try creating your own “glyph,” inspired by the letters in your name.


Cantastoria Cornucopia

Following up on the October 8th Bread & Puppet cantastoria workshop for San Francisco Unified School District, Clare Dolan kindly shares the following examples of International and American Cantastoria. Clare is the co-creator and festival curator for Banners & Cranks, an annual festival of cantastoria performance by artists and musicians from all over the United States, and the Chief Operating Philosopher of the fascinating Museum of Every Day Life in Glover, Vermont, whose goal is to explore, analyze and celebrate everyday life objects.

Contemporary International Cantastoria

Jhadpur Cantastoria

Sicilian Catastoria

Papel Machete

French Cantastoria

Documentary about the Belgali scroll painting singers

Bengali performers performing

Contemporary American Cantastoria

Takes After His Father – by Dave Buchen

As I Walked Out One Evening – by More of Everything Theater Company

Old Reliable Amusements – by The Dolly Wagglers

Bread & Puppet’s The Foot (narrated by Andrea diFrancesco)

Where’s My f-ing Bailout — by Clare Dolan/Museum of Every Day Life

St James Infirmary – by Blair Thomas

Happy Narouz – by Great Small Works

Hurricaine Manifesto – Clare Dolan/Museum of Every Day Life

Answers to 4 Questions – Clare Dolan/Museum of Every Day Life

Ballad of Jacob Apfelboek – Clare Dolan/Museum of Every Day Life

Mack the Knife – Meredith Miller

SFUSD / Bread and Puppet Theater: A Cantastoria Workshop at the Curran

“Our glorious civilization glorifies itself with what it calls high art. Puppeteers have no soul-searching trouble in that respect. What we produce has no ambition to be high art. Low art is what we make and what we want. Not the Fine Arts—the Coarse Arts are what we use.”

— Peter Schumann, lecture to art student at SUNY Purchase, 1987

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On Thursday, October 8, 2015, from 4pm-6pm, San Francisco Unified School District Visual and Performing Arts Department Elementary/K-8 and Secondary Arts Coordinators gathered on the stage of the Curran Theater for a Cantastoria Workshop, led by Clare Dolan and members of the 2015 West Coast touring company of Bread and Puppet Theater.

The workshop participants were welcomed to The Curran: Under Construction by Carole Shorenstein Hays, Greg Backstrom and Brian Farley. Andi Wong of Rooftop Alternative School spoke on the theme of “Inspiration,” having received a healthy dose of wonder at the Bread and Puppet Farm in Glover, Vermont, in advance of the troupe’s Bay Area visit. SFUSD Arts Education Master Plan Implementation Manager Antigone Trimis drew connections to student learning, school site culture and climate. After an introductory slide show about Bread and Puppet Theater and cantastoria by Clare Dolan, the art coordinators gathered on the stage of the historic theater to learn by doing.

Cantastoria is one of the oldest performance forms known to humans, originating in India more than two thousand years ago. It typically involved one or two performers, often performing on the street, and a multi-image scroll or a series of paintings mounted together at the top. Bread & Puppet Theater’s version of Cantastoria is usually performed with a narrator who points at the pictures and one or two “choruses” who respond to the narration. The subject of the cantastoria can be anything and directed to any age audience.

Clare Dolan and Bread and Puppet performers Esteli Kitchen, Joshua Krugman,Kali Therrien, Luis Gabriel Sanabria, MJ Hicks, and Tom Cunningham guided participants through the creation, narration and choral performing of this ancient art form.

Bread and Puppet Theater & Cantastoria / Common Core Connections

• Ensemble • Risk • Improvisation • Visual Literacy • Inquiry (necessary for the ensemble to create the piece, will bring added empathy for subject being presented) • Oral Presentation • Close Reading (visual and physical movement, etc, what is the ‘text’ in this work? For the performer? For the audience?) • Student Voice (primary in this work)

For additional information about Bread and Puppet Theater and Cantastoria:

• Bread and Puppet Theater http://breadandpuppet.org/

• The Internet Archive “Bread and Puppet Archive” is preserving 150 hours of video of circuses, pageants, passion plays, 250 puppeteers, and making it available to the public. https://archive.org/details/breadandpuppet

• “Ah! The Hopeful Pageantry of Bread and Puppet” by Dee Dee Halleck and Tamar Schumann https://archive.org/details/ah_the_hopeful_pageantry_of_bread_and_puppet

• “About Sung Paintings or Cantastoria” by Clare Dolan, Museum of Every Day Life http://museumofeverydaylife.org/wp-content/uploads/About-Sung-Paintings-or-Cantastoria3.pdf

• Clare Dolan answers the question: What is cantastoria?
https://youtu.be/_kEVoCsgsS0

• Clare Dolan & Bread and Puppet Theater perform “The Sky” (2007). https://youtu.be/NcmvHzeLwvY

• Banners and Cranks: a traveling cantastoria & cranky festival http://bannersandcranks.org/