Opera Parallèle’s pandemic-era creation ‘Everest’ set for in-person experience in S.F.

Opera Parallèle's pandemic-era creation 'Everest' set for in-person experience in S.F.

Artist’s rendering of Opera Parallèle’s “Everest: An Immersive Experience” Photo: Opera Parallèle

When Opera Parallèle unveiled its adaptation of the opera “Everest” in 2021, it represented a new hybrid genre perfectly adapted for development during the pandemic shutdown: a video-opera-graphic novel that used the narrative elements of all three forms to telling effect.

Now the company has repurposed the work yet again, this time for a live audience.

“Everest: An Immersive Experience,” which is scheduled to open Feb. 3 at Z Space in San Francisco, places the audience at the center of a space designed to simulate the opera’s Himalayan setting.

“The film will be projected in 360-degree surrounding sound,” said director Brian Staufenbiel, who conceived the project. “It’s as if you enter the film. You feel the storm on your body.”

“Everest,” with a score by the British composer Joby Talbot and a libretto by Gene Scheer, tells the story of the 1996 mountaineering disaster that was also the basis for Jon Krakauer’s 1997 bestselling book, “Into Thin Air.” The piece had its live premiere in 2015 at the Dallas Opera, conducted by Nicole Paiement — Opera Parallèle’s artistic director, and also Staufenbiel’s wife and longtime collaborator.

The cast of “Everest” in the new graphic novel version by Opera Parallèle Photo: Opera Parallèle

During the 2020 lockdown prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Staufenbiel worked with illustrator Mark Simmons and director of photography David Murakami to turn “Everest” into a video that combined a recorded performance of the opera with visuals drawing on the language of the graphic novel.

The new version, Staufenbiel said, will add a new physical dimension to the work.

“The audience will be wearing white ponchos, which we can provide, so that they’re part of a uniform white surface that the film is projected on. The performance space is 55 feet by 40 feet, so there’s enough space for everyone to sit.”

The prerecorded cast includes mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and baritones Nathan Granner and Hadleigh Adams.

The production is initially slated for eight performances, running Feb. 3-12, but Staufenbiel said the company anticipates adding more performances as required to meet audience demand.

“Everest: An Immersive Experience”: Opera Parallèle. Feb. 3-12. $20-$75. Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F. www.operaparallele.org

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