Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirèsias and Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel (2014):

“To a casual observer, there might not seem to be much mileage in combining Kurt Weill's dark-hued Mahagonny Songspiel with The Breasts of Tiresias Francis Poulenc's breathlessly lighthearted jape about sex, folly and procreation. But one of the many splendiferous strokes in the double bill presented over the weekend by Opera Parallèle was to see how tellingly these two pieces could be fit together.

Sunday afternoon's performance – the last of three at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts - was a small miracle of theatrical inventiveness and musical delight. And it demonstrated yet again why this company, led by Artistic Director and Conductor Nicole Paiement along with her husband, stage director Brian Staufenbiel, has quickly become one of the Bay Area's most indispensable artistic assets.

Staufenbiel's production melds the two in a single witty and inventive stroke. He sets Mahagonny in a futuristic dystopia, in which overpopulation and ecological disaster have left the world an arid wasteland. (In a magnificent opening, magazine covers and newspaper fronts from this late 21st century setting are projected on a screen for the audience's uneasy delectation.)

Staufenbiel's concept instantly turns the contrast between the two works into something poignant and rich. The breathless high jinks of Poulenc's score, which could so easily cloy on their own, become deeply affecting against the backdrop of an apocalypse; when the show is over and the performers part from their audience to return to their weary, thirsty trek, the sadness is devastating.

The staging, with spare, nimble sets by Dave Dunning and costumes by Christine Crook, was beautifully efficient.”
Joshua Kosman

“Just when you think it can’t get any better, amazingly it does. In its brief history Opera Parallèle, has presented little-known contemporary works by Phillip Glass, Samuel Barber, John Harbison, Leonard Bernstein and Lou Harrison and better-known operas by Virgil Thomson and Alban Berg. Each year the productions are more polished than the year before and Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar was an absolute triumph in 2013.

Can you top this? You bet. A double-bill of Francis Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias and the Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht Mahagonny Songspiel blew me away with its inventive staging, concept and, above all, fine musicianship. Bravi to director Brian Staufenbiel, who also is credited with the idea, music director Paiement, the soloists and chorus, the San Francisco Girl’s Chorus, adorable whether as desert waifs or spoiled brats, and everybody on the production team. If more people knew that opera could be this cool more people would go to the opera.

Mahagonny wraps around the Poulenc like a frame. Set Designer David Dunning managed to get his hands on a real (albeit small) yacht which is being pulled across a desert by men with ropes, a line of raggedy children trailing dispiritedly behind. The time is the near-future, the setting dystopian. There is no water and, as the singers keep reminding us, the whiskey is running low. Yet they trudge on, in search of something — someplace — better.

Converting the yacht into a performance space, they present the story of Thérèse, an ambitious housewife who is bored with her chores and, changing her name to Tirésias (a legendary Greek sage of ambiguous gender), symbolically cutting off her breasts by taking off a humungous fuchsia bra and donning a uniform and fake facial hair, enlists in the army, quickly rising through the ranks. Her husband, called only ‘le Mari’ (husband in French), decides to stay home and have kids, both for fun and profit. And he produces some 40,000 of them in a single day (don’t ask, it’s a fable). Some complications with a journalist, one of the children and a gendarme ensue and Therese comes marching home. The couple reconcile and the opera ends with the principals urging the populace to go home, be fruitful and multiply.

All very silly, right? But then the fruits of fruitfulness are starkly brought before us as the yacht is packed up again and the people trudge back across the desert in search of sustenance on an overpopulated, despoiled planet. Staufenbiel’s concept brings the two disparate works together to make an ecological statement for our times.

The inventive costumes were by Christine Crook, with wigs and makeup to match by Jeanna Parham. David Murakami did the media design (the before-curtain news projections were fabulous), Frédéric Boulay the projections and lighting was by Matthew Antaky.

Together, the production team gave us a feast for the eye as the musical forces beguiled the ear. No, not your ordinary night at the opera. But Opera Parallèle is not your ordinary troupe.”

Parallèle State
“The latest from Opera Parallèle, a production combining Francis Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirèsias (The Breasts of Tiresias) and Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel, marked a return to form for one of the Bay Area’s most interesting and creative arts companies. After a string of four successful, creative, and increasingly ambitious productions (Wozzeck, Orphée, Four Saints in Three Acts, The Great Gatsby) the small company led by Artistic Director Nicole Paiement and Stage Director Brian Staufenbiel established a reputation for taking big risks that paid off handsomely. Orphée, and especially Gatsby, delivered the kind of creative operatic experience . . .

That turned out to be a good decision because Opera Paralléle’s‘amalgamated surreal double-bill’ was an exceptionally good production, on par with the best of the company’s work. Staufenbiel threaded the needle and stitched together a seamless program cut from two entirely different cloths.

Staufenbiel’s concept manages to make yin and yang out of it all with complete and confident coherence. We’ve seen the disparate elements of the production elsewhere many times before- in fact the audience’s familiarity with them is what makes it all work, but the way he’s weaved them together feels fresh and original. He also manages some genuine golden moments with the help of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, whose presence in the boat was one of the most endearing things I’ve ever seen on a stage.

Opera Paralléle proved it can put on the most interesting, rewarding show in town. I hope they keep it up.”

“The current Opera Parallèle production begins way before music director Nicole Paiement picks up her baton; it begins the minute you enter the theatre and face the futuristic magazine covers projected on the scrim.

Rolling Stone cover stories from December 5, 2049 (for a mere $24.99) blare out ‘Lars Colfer: A Look into the Prince of Aqua-Terrorism,’ and ‘End of the Optical: Is Blueray Finally Dead?’ Some headlines from the February 12, 2067 New York Times seem more of the same, such as ‘Rising Inflation Prompts Uncertainty in the Middle East.’ Others, such as ‘5,000th Desalination Plant Opens,’ suggest a future as grim as that of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Vogue and Wired blare similar headlines, both timely and eerily spooky (Google Genetics and Advertising).

This pre-show immersion, a variant of which was also done with Golijov’s Ainadamar, whose ghostly figures wandered the audience, seeking a place to settle. These pre-show teases whet your curiosity and frame the experience to follow. No one does it better than Opera Parallèle.

The current production melds Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel with Francis Poulanc’s gender bending Les Mamelles de Tirésias. While Mahagonny is an important work, authored before Weill moved to the US, it tends to be dreary so mating it with the surreally funny Mamelles was smart.

One is hard pressed to find other opera companies doing what Opera Parallèle does so well: specializing in contemporary works and infusing them with a new creative approach. This is a risky high wire act at best, and we’re darn lucky that they’re here in the Bay Area.”

“With inspired theatrical and musical insight, Opera Parallèle merged two short operas – Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel and Francis Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tiresias – into a single evening of opera, which they performed this past weekend at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. The two-operas-in-one was impressively devised by Opera Parallèle’s Concept Designer Brian Staufenbiel in concert with Artistic Director Nicole Paiement.

The story is set in a world impacted by climate change and overpopulation. There is little water in this world, and humanity is reduced to starving nomadic tribes wandering vast deserts. It's a grim prediction of where our own green planet is heading under the obsessiveness of human greed. And it's a thematic approach that the original creators, Weill and Brecht, Poulenc and Apollinaire, would have been sympathetic towards. Their culture was that of Europe devastated by the horrifically senseless Great War, a culture where surrealism, impressionism and expressionism flourished, abandoning the sentimentalities of 19th century Romanticism and late neo-classicism.

Mahagonny’s loose-knit collection of songs makes them easily adaptable to reinterpretation. Staufenbiel presents the singers as a group of actors searching the desert for an audience so they can present a play re-enacting the reasons behind the planet's disasters. The oceans have receded, and the actors drag the empty and damaged boat that is both their home and their theater across barren sands. Dressed like escapees from the Mad Max movie series, in dark tattered jeans and leathers, they are searching for the next whiskey bar and the mythical Mahagonny, where ‘life is lovely.’ ”

“The latest production by Opera Parallèle, given its first performance last night at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Lam Research Theater, takes her company’s reputation for out-of-the-box thinking to a new level that transcends even the vaguest suggestion of a traditional box. On the surface the program involved the presentation of two relatively short pieces from the early twentieth century, the 1927 Mahagonny-Songpiel by Kurt Weill, setting poems by Bertolt Brecht, and Francis Poulenc’s 1947 two-act opera Les mamelles de Tirésias, based on a play of the same name written in 1903 by Guillaume Apollinaire. However, Resident Stage Director Brian Staufenbiel chose to conceive the production as an uninterrupted evening unfolding an ‘über-narrative’ of ‘a play within a journey.’

The backstory for this integrating vision involves a dystopian future world in which all natural resources have been depleted and water has become the most valuable commodity. Mahagonny-Songpiel, a cantata of six songs to Brecht texts with instrumental interludes, is performed by a traveling theater troupe working out of a boat on a trailer (no longer capable of sailing on water). They use it to draw an audience for whom they then perform Les mamelles de Tirésias. At the end of the show, they load up the boat and move on to the next potential audience against a reprise of Weill’s music.

Two more opportunities (tonight and tomorrow afternoon) remain in which to enjoy some of the most imaginative efforts of both Weill and Poulenc; and those opportunities definitely should not be overlooked.”

“It was a well realized evening, of institutional accomplishment and promise. Off-the-wall is meant as a compliment by the way.”

“I was completely engrossed throughout the show, which successfully mixed absurdity & gravity.”

Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti and Barber's A hand off Bridge (2013):

“. . . performed (April 26-28) in San Francisco’s acoustically open and direct Z Space by Opera Parallèle’s wife-husband team of Conductor/Artistic Director Nicole Paiement and Stage Director Brian Staufenbiel, and brought to life by an excellent cast and fine instrumental ensemble, Trouble in Tahiti shines as the engaging, moving, and oft-delightful romp that Bernstein intended. Staufenbiel takes advantage of the venue’s flat, open floor to put his musicians (stage left) and singers on virtually the same plane. The latter stand either on the floor or on a raised, rotating platform that allows the props for the seven scenes to swirl before us as the cast of five cleverly negotiates its way through a physical and emotional obstacle course. Behind them is a projection screen upon which David Murakami, Sam Clevenger (what a perfect name!), and Tai Kamran’s clever video/media create a sometimes-animated, oft-droll backdrop. It’s simple, and it’s perfect.  Into the midst of suburban malaise Bernstein throws the fictional movie, Trouble in Tahiti. As Dinah sits in a movie theater, then sings ‘What a Movie!’, Staufenbiel and his video/media design team have a ball. I’m not going to give it away — if any reviewer starts to describe the footage, stop reading unless you don’t plan to attend — but this little projected scena, filled with as many clichés as the radio trio’s recurring rendition of ‘The Little White House in [Scarsdale, etc…]’ — the precursor to Malvia Reynolds’ Daly City-inspired ‘Little Boxes’ — is not to be missed.”

“Long before Mad Men there was Trouble in Tahiti, Leonard Bernstein's witty and haunting one-act opera about the alienation lurking beneath the sunny veneer of midcentury American suburbia. On Friday night, in a vivacious and beautifully rendered performance by Opera Parallèle, that tale seemed as timeless as ever.  It also shows Bernstein at his most knowing and inventive, crafting smart, intricate monologues and sleek jazz-inflected music to go with them. The scenes between Sam and Dinah are admittedly clumsy, telegraphing rather than dramatizing the couple's problems.  And of course, there is ‘What a movie!,’ the opera's centerpiece and most brilliant achievement. This is Dinah's retelling of her afternoon plunge into Technicolor escapism through the movie musical that gives the opera its title, and it's a beautiful encapsulation of the power of even the cheesiest art to touch our core in unexpected ways.  Friday's performance, the first of three over the weekend at Z Space in San Francisco, was yet another in Opera Parallèle's ongoing series of triumphant outings with 20th and 21st century work. And director Brian Staufenbiel, working on an elaborate but uncluttered set of Formica tabletops and vintage video, mined the piece for all the pathos and comedy it holds. I would quibble with his decision to create his own Trouble in Tahiti – surely the point of that aria is for the audience to experience the movie through Dinah's eyes and ears, not their own – but there was no denying the comic verve that he brought to the task.”

“Spunky little Opera Parallèle, which specializes in presenting contemporary chamber works, bless it, just gets better and better with each production. Even this one, mounted at the cavernous, somewhat inhospitable Z Space, made use of a stage turntable to excellent advantage in the multi-locale ‘Tahiti’ and placed Nicole Paiement’s excellent orchestra unobtrusively to the side.

After Dinah visits her analyst (another 1960s benchmark), she goes to the movies because that’s what unhappy housewives did in the ‘60s (and ’50s and ’40s) to escape their troubles. This time the Hollywood dream factory has churned out a clunker called Trouble in Tahiti, reminiscent of an old Esther Williams-Fernando Lamas epic. In a stroke of genius, Opera Parallèle has cast its own singers in the film. And it is hilarious. Brancoveanu is a shipwrecked naval officer, Chavez the grass-skirted beauty who catches his eye and everybody else doubles as bloodthirsty islanders and rescuing mariners (video and media by David Murakami, Sam Clevenger and Tal Kamran). It’s a good thing the movie is silent because the real-life audience is laughing so hard you wouldn’t be able to hear anything anyway.  But there are terrific things to hear before and after the film interlude: Sam and Dinah’s poignant duet of estrangement, ‘Why Did I Have to Lie?’ when they meet on a street by chance and can’t wait to get away; the jazzy interludes of the trio, delivered in front of a mike as if they were singing a radio jingle; Dinah’s sad recital of a dream in the doctor’s office as the impassive shrink shrugs and looks at his watch. Trouble in Tahiti is rarely performed – I heard it once on the radio and was captivated but have never encountered it since – and ‘Hand of Bridge’ is practically unknown. Bravo to Opera Parallèle for rescuing these and other treasures from the junk heap of operatic oblivion.”

“Opera Parallél wins again with Trouble in Tahiti and A Hand of Bridge  

Some works linger around the edges of your consciousness days after the show closes.  The energy continues to pulsate, the issues seek resolution, and ultimately, only the memory remains. That such an impact could be made by a plot about quarreling couples – subject matter that is uncomfortable at best and boring at worst – speaks to the strength of the work itself and the extraordinary talents of those bringing it to life. Opera Paralléle’s take on Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge and Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti is one such production. Billed as ‘where Madmen meets opera,’ the two works remain edgy and vital 60 years after they were written.  In bringing us these high quality, yet immediately accessible works, Opera Paralléle makes opera a vital part of the artistic dialogue in the Bay Area.”

Golijov's Ainadamar (2013):

“Final Ainadamar is thrilling. No previous Opera Parallèle — or really any other recent production by a small company I can think of — had the all-around excellence of the last performance of Ainadamar on Sunday afternoon at the Yerba Buena Center. ... Everything was impressively right, terrific really, especially if you're a fan of Osvaldo Goijov. The intensity and relentless tragedy of the memory of Lorca's execution at the 'fountain of tears' is hard to take, but the music brings catharsis. The silence following the final curtain, and the subsequent ovation were both telling and in the right. Adding to Georgia Rowe's review of the vocal-musical splendor, the production team headed by stage director Brian Staufenbiel well deserves acknowledgment, especially Matthew Antaky, scenic and lighting design (kudos on both accounts), and Christine Crook, costume design. From a small company such a big, spectacular and successful production is something to treasure.”

“Uncommonly vivacious, a sumptuous and vividly sung production, Sitting through Friday's opening performance was like watching a virtuoso display of crepe-paper origami. … Conductor Nicole Paiement and director Brian Staufenbiel took this flimsy concoction and - operating gently but with winning determination - breathed enough life into it to let the piece stand on its own feet. The result was not exactly gripping, but it was impressive in its way. ...All the more remarkable, then, that the mounting by Opera Parallèle, with the collaboration of the flamenco choreographer and dancer La Tania, made for a vivacious and intermittently affecting evening. Staufenbiel's resourceful staging, arrayed on Matthew Antaky's split-level set.”

“The production is ambitious, confidently executed, classy. Visually stunning, with its dream-like video projections and steamy flamenco dancing. That's Opera Parallèle's new production of Osvaldo Golijov's ‘Ainadamar’ (‘Fountain of Tears’), which opened Friday for a short run at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Lam Research Theater.”

“A stunning new production . . . . a riveting 80-minute staging . . . . Staufenbiel’s staging was powerfully focused in every scene. The director introduced an atmosphere of mourning even before the opera began, as chorus members, dressed in bloodstained gowns as brides, widows, and children, wandered through the lobby looking like lost souls . . . . Staufenbiel and designer Matthew Antaky (sets and lighting) devised a two-level stage with discrete playing areas. Christine Crook’s costumes helped delineate the shifts in time; A superb corps of flamenco dancers led by choreographer and lead dancer La Tania were seamlessly integrated into the action.”

“Opera Parallèle’s production also featured five women flamenco dancers led by La Tania, who are seen during the opening chorus having their children torn from their arms by male soldiers, a reference to the tens of thousands of “lost children” who were stolen from Republican families by Nationalists for re-education. By casting a chorus of young girls alongside the women, and also adding a corps of female dancers who at times appeared as mother figures, Opera Parallèle’s production, directed by Brian Staufenbiel, highlighted the impact of the war on women as well as intergenerational female relationships. This choice was a significant and thought-provoking shift.”

“Outstanding . . . Opera Parallèle’s Ainadamar is the most exciting opera to hit San Francisco in several years. This nuanced production operates on many levels, yet is easily embraced by folks who know little about opera or the Spanish Civil War. Like many of the offerings by Opera Parallèle, this striking work makes a resounding case for the vitality of contemporary opera.

That something extraordinary is afoot is evident even before the curtain opens as singular ghostly figures, white dresses matching white pancake, wend their way through the lobby, coursing slowly throughout the theatre, pausing to sit briefly before picking up a white bloodstained suitcase and moving on. Thus primed, the audience is open to appreciate the single deep horn leading the orchestra. Operatic, video, and dance elements are individually added, building slowly to a explosive crescendo in which electronic hoof beats organically morph into a flamenco heel dance. Leaving the audience breathless, a triparate story of Federico García Lorca, his muse, Margarita Xirgu, and Mariana Pineda unfolds.”

Harbison's The Great Gatsby (2012):

“The director Brian Staufenbiel made an impassioned case for the virtues of Harbison’s creation. Staufenbiel’s staging made resourceful use of space in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center Theater. The God-like gaze from the billboard advertising the services of the oculist T. J. Eckleburg—a weighty symbol in Fitzgerald’s novel—was conveyed by eerie film clip, and another one helped shuttle the main characters in and out of Manhattan in their deadly motorcars.”

“This production, conducted with crisp directness by Nicole Paiement and inventively staged by Brian Staufenbiel with an imaginative use of a few film clips.”

“Staufenbiel and designers Matthew Antaky (sets), Christine Crook (costumes) and Austin Forbord (video) fashioned a credible 1920s setting, bringing jazz crooners, a live band and dancers (choreography by Tom Segal) onstage for the party scenes. At the Buchanan home, things were somewhat scaled down, though tasteful. The Wilsons' garage offered a grimy contrast, and video projections of rippling water, veils of fog and fast-moving road scenes enhanced the action. The eyes of the novel's Dr. Eckleburg watched over the proceedings like some omniscient god.”

“Many aspects of the production reach a level close to perfection. “T. J. Eckleburg, Oculist” billboard became a coup de theatre when its glasses suddenly lowered down and surrounded Wilson and paramour Myrtle on the stage.”

“Director Brian Staufenbiel found just the right dispassionate approach to take in bringing these characters to life, and Conductor Nicole Paiement elicited performances through which they were entirely convincing even though they were singing, rather than speaking. It is thus important that the results have turned out both impressive and rewarding and may well have breathed new life into an opera whose proper place may have finally been found in a chamber setting.”

“The casting was excellent & the acting so good that I sometimes felt I was watching a play. Front & rear video projections enhanced the production without overdoing it. Rippling water appears out the windows of the Buchanans' home, & reflections from a swimming pool dreamily wash over Gatsby's home. The eyes of the iconic eyeglasses billboard are alive, & they watch & then entrap George & Myrtle. A proscenium-filling video illustrates the tense car journey to New York. The party scenes were lively & included dancers & an on-stage band with singers. In the opera's final moments, Daisy's green light descends into the auditorium above the audiences' heads.”

“Director Brian Staufenbiel put forth a bold production, employing much videography and period dance.”

“Ensemble Parallele was again doing the work of arts angels last weekend when they presented the world premiere of Jacques Desjardins ' chamber orchestration of John Harbison 's opera The Great Gatsby at the Novellus Theater in SF. We're not sure why the world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera was greeted with apparent indifference, but this talented ensemble of artists and musicians have returned it to its rightful place in the center of the American canon.”

“Not surprisingly, given Ensemble Parallele’s track record, it was a success both musically and dramatically, much more so, in fact, than the Met production, which I saw in its final 2002 appearance.

Staufenbiel provided a fast and fluid staging (about half an hour was cut from the opera, with Harbison’s consent), which reflects the layering in the music. Through the clever use of projections, scrims, and a few moveable elements (including Gatsby’s lovely shirts that make Daisy cry, which come down from above, laid out on a rack in rows in a rainbow splendor of pattern and soft color), all the fundamentals of the novel appear: Tom and Daisy’s place, Gatsby’s place, the water in between them, the distant green light at the end of the Buchanan dock, George Wilson’s garage in the Valley of Ashes, the dispassionate stare of the eyes of Dr Eckleburg.”

“An almost audaciously ambitious production of The Great Gatsby. Director Brian Staufenbiel's work is impressive.”

“Ensemble Parallèle specializing in contemporary works, has mounted a lavish, polished production of John Harbison’s “The Great Gatsby.”

Thomson's Four Saints In Three Acts (2011):

“Director and production designer Brian Staufenbiel created a witty, bright-colored theatrical panorama and interjected Stein's verbal nonsense with an arbitrary but welcome hint of narrative. Staufenbiel had the fine idea of taking a circus view of the whole thing. The Commère and Compère, the clerical authorities who serve as ringleaders for the proceedings, gave readings out of an enormous book, and the costumes and makeup were a nice blend of Christmas pantomime and Ringling Brothers.”

“Director Brian Staufenbiel put his own narrative atop Gertrude Stein's charming libretto. Staufenbiel certainly does not lack ambition or ideas, and in the end the structure probably helped keep some audience members awake and engaged. The scene changes were seamless, all the props were either on wires or wheels. The colors used for the costumes gave the production cohesion, lots of white, with pops of red, yellow.”

“Ensemble Parallèle, a San Francisco-based producer of avant-garde operas, captures much of the madness of the heavily abstract work – which, despite what the title says, features some 20 saints and spans four acts – with a playful, exquisitely sung and elegantly designed production.”

“Staufenbiel has gone for much darker images, including sickness, surgery, trial, and ultimately electrocution. It is as if he decided to complement Thomson’s rejection of dissonance by imposing a “cognitive dissonance” in the action on stage. What had been celebratory to a point of ecstasy in the music has yielded to the most horrific stuff of Freudian dreams. Once again Ensemble Parallèle has demonstrated its capacity for original thinking dignified with the conscientious execution it deserves.”

“Director, Brian Staufenbiel did a wonderful job staging the opera, using the words and music as the key to the action, so that sometimes it all made excellent (and even surprising and new) sense, and other times it created a wonderful disjunction between sense and scene (as in the trial, when the arbitrary-seeming phrases made a satirical point about the workings of earthly justice versus the higher morality of St Ignatius’s actions).”

“Faced with the creators’ contemplation of the lives of Spanish saints, director Brian Staufenbiel fashioned a tragicomic scenario in which these gentle souls, clothed in primary hues, suffer the perils of the Inquisition. The vision of Saint Ignatius in an electric chair may be jarring but the mood remained airy and an improvisatory feeling – the imagination can take you anywhere – prevailed.”

Philip Glass' Orphée (2011):

“ . . the opera is a word-for-word rendition of the film, but re-imagined here by director Brian Staufenbielwith stunning video and circus effects, especially in the second act. And the result is a thing of exceeding beauty, more surreal than the original, if such a thing is possible.”

“Triumphant . . . Ravishing and delicate, haunting and playful, somber and romantic, the production fused story, music and stagecraft into an engrossing evening of music theater.”

“Spellbinding!  Haunting, hypnotic and dreamlike.  A spellbinding performance true to the intent of Glass and enhanced by superb acting and visual effects.”

“Much like love, Ensemble Parallèle's production of the Philip Glass opera Orphée was a many-splendored thing.Director Brian Staufenbiel's production design expanded upon the traditional elements of opera in an astonishingly effective fashion.”

“I was amazed at the high level of quality and imagination permeating every aspect of this superb production. Director and production designer Brian Staufenbiel did a hell of a job.”

“Staufenbiel had to develop his own repertoire of techniques to confound the senses.  This involved a rich repertoire of media that ranged from multi-screen video projection to a circus aerialist dancing high above the rest of the performers, supported by only two long swathes of cloth.  One could not have hoped for a better approach to Glass.”

Berg's Wozzeck (2010):

Operatic Heaven From Hell
“ ‘Brian Staufenbiel paid equal attention to Wozzeck’s musical and theatrical elements.’ A 90-minute multimedia wow of a production was whole and complete unto itself.”

“Staufenbiel drew brilliant acting out of the three male principals, all familiar to Bay Area audiences: the resonant bass-baritone Bojan Knezevic in the near catatonic title role; tenor John Duykers as the Captain; and Bass Philip Skinner as the Doctor. When was the last time you saw an opera where you raved about the acting?”

“… splendid and gripping production”

Tenor Soloist (2010-12):

Carmina Burana was given a special treatment by the Choral Society. In keeping with its original intention as a “scenic cantata,” the performance was semistaged, complete with costumes, dancers, and theatrical lighting. Tenor Brian Staufenbiel, also the production’s stage director, sang and played the part of the roasted swan in ‘Cignus Ustus Cantat.’ In suitably sneering falsetto he gave a funny interpretation of the various stages of his fate as a cooked waterfowl.”

“Tenor Brian Staufenbiel came out in a black leotard & flapped white wings attached to his arms while singing in a high, supernatural voice. Between verses he switched to a black pair of wings & for the final verse put on a black mask.”

“Though tenor Brian Staufenbiel had the smallest singing role, he rendered it unforgettable as the unfortunate roasted swan in ‘En Taberna’ ‘In the tavern.’ Costumed in black, with a lifelike bird's head, and large, white-feathered wings folded on his back, he swooped and flapped while lamenting his sad fate in rich, vibrant tones. The scene turned melodramatic as Brancoveanu, whose character's macho boasting had been interrupted by the impetuous swan, raised an imaginary shotgun and fired in perfect synch with the orchestra's percussion section. The theatrical interlude provided a high-spirited humorous touch.”

“Tenor soloist, Brian Staufenbiel, sang well the aria Bewundert, a Menschen Mr. Staufenbiel’s graceful phrasing underscored Bach’s contrapuntal mastery.”

“Brian Staufenbiel sang the Evangelist’s recitatives . . . He was impressive as the Evangelist, telling the story vividly.”

Allen Shearer's Dawn Makers (2009):

Brian Staufenbiel Director: “The evening's affair recalled the updated stagings of Peter Sellars. Ironically, the updates of Shearer's and Stevens' work came prepackaged. Staufenbiel pulled off a bevy of sight gags for the horses cum Valley Girls, did not bother to figure out what would make a pool boy look particularly Pasadena-ish, and even managed to figure out some way to stage the immobile, eternally aging Victor.”

“Brian Staufenbiel’s production proved how much can be accomplished by ingenuity on a modest budget.”
OPERA 2009



“… the low voices of the group were answered by Tenor Brian Staufenbiel, whose rich tone and admirable declamation added much to the performance.”

“This performance had four highly distinctive people up front . . . Tenor Brian Staufenbiel, strong and elegant . . .”

“The third movement features a beautiful unaccompanied passage for tenor on wordless syllables, and in Staufenbiel’s earnestness a listener really could hear the call of the wild.”

Brian Staufenbiel Director: “The evening's affair recalled the updated stagings of Peter Sellars. Ironically, the updates of Shearer's and Stevens' work came prepackaged. Staufenbiel pulled off a bevy of sight gags for the horses cum Valley Girls, did not bother to figure out what would make a pool boy look particularly Pasadena-ish, and even managed to figure out some way to stage the immobile, eternally aging Victor.”

“Supported by the impressive tenor Brian Staufenbiel, this was a satisfying performance musically. It was left . . . to a gloriously bedecked Staufenbiel to screech out the Roasted Swan's anguish.”

(Tenor, Brian Staufenbiel) “Outstanding” (Handel’s Jephtha)
LA PRESSE (Montréal) 2007

“The performances were polished, notably the ones by the Requiem's solo quartet, . . . and tenor Brian Staufenbiel. . . ”

“Judging by the spirited production of Kurt Weill's opera Street Scene, presented last week by the UCSC music department, Santa Cruz has another locus of arts energy and inspiration in the university’s growing opera program.”

“Staufenbiel’s Tony [West Side Story] immediately charms the crowd. He has a powerful, captivating voice and a charismatic presence onstage. Stand out performances include those of the actors who play Maria and Tony (Puentes and Staufenbiel).”

“. . .Tenor Brian Staufenbiel, sent chills up the spine.”
SAN MATEO COUNTY TIMES 2003 ( Mozart's "Requiem)

“Tenor Brian Staufenbiel was a show-stopper in his single solo as the condemned swan in ‘Cignus ustus cantat.’ He mimed his way from freedom, flying above the lake, to his cruel fate as a roasted dinner. Even though sung in the original Latin, Staufenbiel’s falsetto perfectly conveyed the poor bird’s lament (‘Misery me! Now black and roasting fiercely’).”

“Tenor soloist Brian Staufenbiel used his clear and supple voice to good effect, delivering cleanly articulated recitatives. His aria The Enemy Said, ‘I Will Pursue’ was neatly and stylishly done.”

“With a pleasing tenor and charming manner, Brian Staufenbiel played Valere, the eager fop who loves Marianne.”

“ . . . the narrative of the Evangelist, powerfully sung in this performance by tenor Brian Staufenbiel. (He) succeeded admirably in furthering the action with his dramatic sense of pacing and dynamics-- a very model of recitative singing.”

“Tenor Brian Staufenbiel sang with style and conviction, a fine Bach tenor.”

“Tenor, Brian Staufenbiel got to show off his fabulous falsetto in 'Cignus ustus cantat' (the roasted swan) -- an unforgettable episode. The episode was gruesome and glorious.”

“Staufenbiel's true pitch and easy natural delivery concealed the inherent difficulty of the music's embellishments and harmonic nuances.”

“. . . Staufenbiel possesses the perfect light tenor for the composer's constant coloratura, and takes full advantage of Lindoro's ‘Languir per una bella.’ ”

“Staufenbiel displays luminously exquisite placement, beautiful phrasing, and effortless support.”

“The outstanding Evangelist, Brian Staufenbiel, was not only sweet-toned but a dramatic and involved narrator.”
CITY (Rochester, NY) 1997

“Tenor, Brian Staufenbiel was the most appreciated soloist for his vocal quality, his expression, and his style.” (Messiah)
LA PRESSE (Montréal) 1997

“Outstanding performance by Staufenbiel . . . ”