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Parties: Raising Funds and Voices

by Catherine Bigelow | Photography by Nico Henderson Of Drew Altizer Photography

“You can’t have a rainbow without rain,” noted Michael Tate in his opening remarks as the emcee for Opera Parallèle’s benefit celebration, Over the Rainbow. The rain didn’t keep 200+ supporters of the San Francisco contemporary opera company from coming together at Saint Joseph’s Arts Society on April 14.Tate praised OP for “connecting people who are creative, who lean in, who want to amplify diverse voices, who want to make opera accessible and fun and challenging and moving for as many people as possible.”

Throughout the evening — chaired by Alan Olejniczak with lead artist sponsor Bernice Lindstrom — guests noshed on savory and sweet bites by Hugh Groman Group while sipping cocktails featuring St. George Spirits and wines from Medlock Ames. All eyes and ears were on the converted church’s stage — lit up in a spectrum of hues — as OP’s board president Deb Stallings, general and artistic director Nicole Paiement, and creative director Brian Staufenbiel addressed the gathering.

Interspersed with their speeches, countertenor John Holiday, accompanied by pianist Kevin Korth, wowed the crowd. Audience participation was encouraged for “This Little Light of Mine,” while “Misty” recalled Holiday’s time on NBC’s The Voice. Renowned mezzo-soprano and OP honorary board chair Frederica von Stade later joined Korth and Holiday for a duet of “Send in the Clowns.” “I’m not sure we’re supposed to have this much fun in church,” quipped Stallings, who also announced the launch of the Rainbow Chorus, a LGBTQ+Ally social network for which she and Paul Woolford serve as cochairs.

By the time attendees filed out of Saint Joseph’s — still humming “Over the Rainbow,” Holiday’s finale — about $130,000 had been raised. “When we started Opera Parallèle, we were filling a niche in San Francisco,” said Paiement. “We decided to embark in contemporary opera, which is not necessarily embarking in selling ice cream. It’s more like selling … vitamins. But for us, it was like ice cream. And it still is. … Opera is the perfect vehicle for telling stories.

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