Arts & Events

SF Cabaret Opera Premieres ‘Solidarity’

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:49:00 AM

The world premiere of Solidarity, a chamber opera by composer-librettist Patrick Dailly about the Solidarity Movement in Poland from its inception until martial law was imposed in 1981, will be presented by San Francisco Cabaret Opera, with music direction by Mark Alburger and stage direction by Harriet March Page, this Sunday at 7 p.m. at Berkeley’s Live Oak Theater. Three additional shows will be presented the following weekends at Flux53, the new artspace/theater in near Mills College.  

The score, which “swings from klezmer to jazz to lyric opera,” is played on keyboard, clarinet and accordion, and the production’s 10 singers represent public figures such as Lech Walesa, General Jaruzelski, Breshnev, Ronald Reagan and the Pope, accompanied by projections of the historical figures.  

“There are three women streetsweepers who are like a Greek chorus,” said Page. “And there will be clowns at the end. We’ve got some really fine singers, some of them playing multiple roles.” 

The cast includes Kristen Brown, Eric Carter, Dalyte Kodzis, Julia Hathaway, Justin Marsh, Nathaniel Marken, Roger McCracken, Eliza O’Malley, Sarah-Nicole Ruddy-Carter and Indre Viskontas. Production design is by Roger McCracken, choreography by Dalyte Kodzis. 

“Patrick [Dailly] looked at our website in 2008 and was impressed by what he called ‘the radical tinge’ of our programming,” said Page. “We liked the piece and the idea. It struck my fancy. Patrick’s English-born, lives in the Netherlands, and has done a lot of musical theater. Solidarity also has a classical music complexity I like. The libretto is well-written, from actual events well-researched. It’s for a classical music audience as well as a classic musical theater audience.” 

Dailly, who attended the Royal Northern College of Music from 1967 to 1972, then toured with ’70s soul bands, wrote musicals in the ’80s and ’90s for the Edinburgh Festival and other festivals around the UK. His musical, Let’s Get Critical, won the Bath Festival Prize in 1998 and was performed in Paris by the Ensemble Aleph. 

Dailly has said the idea for Solidarity came out of “stumbling on The Mitrokhin Archive in my wife’s bookshop, a collection of KGB notes and minutes that were squirreled away by a KGB employee... kept secret in a glass bottle buried beneath his wooden house. Wading through the enormous tome, I discovered the involved game of chess the Kremlin was playing with Poland. It had all the necessary complications and human nastiness, ambition, ideology—lots of elements I thought would make a story ... and the stiff, upright military persona of Gen. Jaruzelski always hiding behind his sunglasses.”  

Dailly says the “key to this is that we lived in Moscow from 1994 to 1996, just after communism collapsed, and we had become darkly fascinated by what you might call the Russian Mind—nationalism, paranoia, brutality, state bullying combined with personal warmth and immense generosity on a one-to-one level.” 

Page spoke of how Cabaret Opera has been “excited about it for a year. We’d like to go around performing it at lots of places in the Bay Area. And it has an appeal for new audiences. We’ve been talking to colleges about staging it.” 

Now in its 13th season, San Francisco Cabaret Opera, the current manifestation of Goat Hall Productions, also produces the annual festival of new works, Fresh Voices. 



Presented by San Francisco Cabaret Opera at 7 p.m. Sunday (gala reception at 6 p.m.) as a special preview at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., and at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 and Saturday, Oct. 10 at Flux53 Theater/Artspace, 5305 Foothill Blvd., Oakland. $20 general admission, $15 students and seniors. (415) 289-6877.