In May, Opera Parallèle continued the development of Harriet’s Spirit, a new opera inspired by the life of American abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman. An OP Hands-On-Opera commission initiated in 2018 features music by Bay Area jazz composer Marcus Shelby and libretto by Roma Olvera.
Building on the success of the first version of Harriet’s Spirit, Shelby expanded the composition, adding a new aria and orchestrating it to an extended, more developed score for eleven musicians, a wonderful addition to the canon of family operas.
The creative team, including Shelby, Olvera, Conductor Nicole Paiement, Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel, and Assistant Conductor Jaymes Kirksey, came together with singers and orchestral players at the Paul Dresher studios with Dramaturg L. Peter Callender and Creative Contributor Denise Young Smith joining via Zoom, for two days of extensive work on the newly orchestrated opera.
Among the singers reprising their roles from 2018 are Tiffany Austin as Harriet Tubman and Christabel Nunoo as Modesty, 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.
An upcoming production of Harriet's Spirit is planned following the success of the workshop.