With celebrated 20th-century Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet being an ardent supporter of contemporary music, and known for premiering works by Stravinsky and Ravel, it’s no surprise that Opera Parallèle’s Nicole Paiement cites him as a principal influence.
“My personal goal, like Ansermet’s, is to promote new music and sort of help move audiences into the 21st century,” says Paiement, artistic director of the San Francisco-based troupe, which opens its season this weekend with the local premiere of “Ainadamar” by Osvaldo Golijov.
Set in the 1960s and flashing back to the Spanish Civil War, the work by the Argentine-American composer (currently in residency at Carnegie Hall in New York) and librettist David Henry Hwang describes the conflict between poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the Fascist regime in the 1930s.
Calling “Ainadamar” the company’s biggest production of the year, Paiement says: “The music is exquisitely beautiful and we’re going to really capture the atrocities that occur when people fight for things like freedom of speech. Musically, Golijov’s way of weaving electronic sound, of creating flamenco rhythms, gunshots and an extended percussion section, is very original.”
It’s a natural choice for Opera Parallèle. Founded in 1993 and in residency at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the company focuses on chamber productions of contemporary opera and the re-orchestration of familiar scores. Last year, it won first prize at the Opera Production Competition sponsored by the National Opera Association.
Honored, Paiement says, “It lets us know that our work is not isolated to the Bay Area, but is being recognized in the context of artistic institutions across the country,” adding, “of course, we wouldn’t be successful without the dedication and support of opera lovers and supporters here in the Bay Area.”
The conductor, who got her training in Canada and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., particularly enjoys working with composers and discovering new talent.
“When I arrived in California, I found a certain closeness with composers that I had never experienced before. ... I talk to composers from all over the world to find out about what’s going on in their countries, and we are always on the lookout for works that will always bring in new audiences,” she says.
Presented by Opera Parallèle