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Seattle Opera.

Charlie Parkers
Yardbird

February 22—March 7

"The audience practically raised the roof with their applause."
Bachtrack

Overview

Music often touches us in a way words cannot, and Schnyder’s score went straight to the heart.”

OperaWire


Music by Daniel Schnyder
Libretto by Bridgette A. Wimberly

What if you could realize one last dream before you die? While the body of tormented bebop innovator Charlie “Yardbird” Parker lies unidentified in a New York City morgue, his ghost travels back to the 1940s–50s heyday of Birdland, the jazz club named after him. As he struggles to complete his final masterpiece, the legendary saxophonist revisits the demons, inspirations, and women who have fueled and hindered his creative genius.

“The whole opera is about the dream of Charlie Parker to bridge these two worlds (of classical and jazz music), something that was historically true,” writes composer Daniel Schnyder, who is also a saxophonist and regularly melds jazz and classical idioms in his work. His dreamlike score for 7 voices and 24-piece classical orchestra showcases the unexpected pairing of a flexible operatic tenor with the fluid, improvisational spirit of bebop: a match made in music heaven.

Watch the preview

Charlie Parker

Hear from the creators

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, Madison Opera, 2017 © James Gill

In English with English Subtitles | at McCaw Hall
Performance Time: 90 minutes with no intermission


Special Events

Friday and Saturday nights post show live jazz at McCaw Hall

After the Friday and Saturday night performances join us in the grand lobby and enjoy the music of Charlie Parker and other Bebop artists performed by students and faculty of Jazz Ed. Concessions will be available and the lobby open for an hour after the opera concludes.

February 11 – Discussion with Composer and Librettist

Join Charlie Parker’s Yardbird composer Daniel Schnyder and librettist Bridgette Wimberly as they discuss their work and the unique task of blending jazz and opera. Moderated by Seattle Opera’s Jonathan Dean and KNKX’s Abe Beeson.
Learn more

February 20 - Special Screening of Bird at SIFF

Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Forest Whitaker as Charlie Parker, Bird is a tribute to the life and music of the famed jazz saxophonist. Presented by SIFF, KNKX, and Seattle Opera.
Learn more

February 24 – Charlie Parker Night at the Royal Room

Seattle Opera and The Royal Room are proud to present Charlie Parker’s New York in the ’50s, an evening celebrating the innovation and virtuosity of Charlie Parker.
Learn more

 

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Synopsis

Imagine having an opportunity to realize one final dream before you die. Charlie Parker has just passed away and while his body lies unidentified in the Bellevue morgue, his ghost appears at Birdland, the New York City jazz club named after him. He will try to compose a musical masterpiece before the news of his death becomes public.

“The Secret”
A panicked Nica de Koenigswarter, in whose segregated hotel suite Charlie died, finds him at last. She is searching for Chan, Charlie’s wife, who, Nica hopes, will identify Charlie’s body and thus protect Nica from scandal. Charlie begs her, “Keep this a secret for now. I’ve got to work.”

“Just Us Birds Trying to Fly”
Charlie tries to write, but the notes continue to escape him. “So how do I capture these black dots, blue notes flying out of my horn? How do I freeze these notes on paper?”

“Twelfth and Vine”
Looking for inspiration, Charlie remembers his youth in Kansas City. But the neighbors complain about the noise and sinfulness of his jazz. His mother, Addie, worries about his lifestyle and drug use.

“Calvary”
Charlie’s first wife, Rebecca, is there with their young son. She and Addie lament the challenges of being a wife and mother to black males in the United States. “This land ain’t no place for a black man child, got dreams.”

“Addie’s Blues”
Charlie tells Addie he will make her proud of him one day, but Addie asks him to leave Kansas City for good, hoping to save his life. He asks her to take care of his wife and son.                     

“Charlie’s Angel”
Sensing his anguish, Doris, Charlie’s third wife, tries to help him make peace with himself and God. Charlie asks “So, if there is a God, why does the negro suffer? Is my prayer, is my music lesser, smaller in God’s eye?”

“Scandal”
Nica hopes all will be well but fears the scandal that will occur when the headlines about where Charlie died appear in the morning papers.

“Bebop’s Gonna Change the World” 
Dizzy brings inspiration and the triumph of BeBop with him. 

“Love Sick”
Suddenly, Chan, the mother of two of Charlie’s children, appears. All at once, they are young again and reminisce about the first time they met.

“YATAG” Chan’s solo
But just as quickly Chan is gone from his arms as Moose the Mooch, his drug dealer, beckons. Despite Dizzy’s protest, Charlie leaves with Moose to get a fix. 

“California”
Maybe conquering California holds the key to Charlie's freedom. Dizzy sings, “Come on, Yard! Let’s get out of here! We still have to write that music down.”

“Jazzman”
Charlie sings “I’m a jazzman. I’m blowing all my pain out through this horn. I’m gonna heal the world with my horn. I ain’t gonna sit in the back of the bus no more, ain’t going around the back no more.”

“My Boy is King”
Addie hears Charlie playing for the first time. “Oh, listen, just listen to that. That’s my boy, that’s my boy, what a joy! My boy is King of Sax.”

“Pree is Dead”
While he is in California, Chan breaks the news that his two-year-old daughter is dead. “Pree is dead. Where were you to calm her fears? Where were you to dry her tears?”

“Relaxin’ at Camarillo/Bellevue”
Charlie breaks down. He is arrested for indecent exposure and sent to Camarillo State Hospital.

“My Horn”
Charlie realizes that playing the saxophone was his life’s work, and that there is no need to write a masterpiece.

“Next of Kin”
Charlie’s body has been indentified in the morgue, and when Addie walks in, she collapses in grief. Chan tries to make peace with her. Chan wants Charlie to remain in New York but Addie wants him buried in Kansas City. Soon Doris and Rebecca are there, and the women argue over where he is to be buried.

“Farewell”
Addie, his three wives, and Dizzy sing of their love for Charlie.

“Starless Night”
Nica, alone on stage, also bids Charlie farewell.

“Why the Caged Bird Sings”
Charlie sings lines from Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s classic poem, “Sympathy.”

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Cast

Joshua Stewart

Charlie Parker

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

Hometown: New Orleans, LA
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird (Atlanta and Arizona Opera); Tenor, Das Paradies und die Peri (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra); Antenore, Zelmira (Belcanto Opera Festival)
Upcoming: Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird (New Orleans Opera); Tenor, I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra); Tenor, A Child of our Time (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall)

Last Updated: January 2020

Joshua Stewart

Charlie Parker

Seattle Opera Debut
Feb. 22 & 26
Mar. 1 & 6

Frederick Ballentine

Charlie Parker

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Seattle Opera Debut: Armored Man, The Magic Flute ('17)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Don José, Carmen ('19)
Hometown: Norfolk, VA
Recently: Sportin' Life, Porgy and Bess (English National Opera, Dutch National Opera, and Metropolitan Opera); Steersman, The Flying Dutchman (Cincinnati Opera); Amon, Akhenaten (Los Angeles Opera)
Upcoming: Don José, Carmen (Los Angeles Opera); Hoffmann, The Tales of Hoffmann (Opera Louisiane); Judah, Castor and Patience (World Premiere at Cincinnati Opera)

Last updated: January 2020

Frederick Ballentine

Charlie Parker

Feb. 23 & 29
Mar. 4 & 7

Angela Brown

Addie Parker

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Addie Parker, Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Seattle Opera Debut
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
Recently: Tosca, Tosca (Portland Summer Musicfest); Addie Parker, Charlie Parker's Yardbird (Atlanta Opera); Porgy and Bess Suite (Phoenix Symphony Orchestra)
Upcoming: Addie Parker, Charlie Parker's Yardbird (New Orleans Opera); Opera...from a Sistah's Point of View (Portland, Seattle, Des Moines)

Last updated: November 2019

Angela Brown

Addie Parker

Seattle Opera Debut
Feb. 22, 23, 26, 29
Mar. 1, 4, 6, & 7

Jorell Williams

Dizzy Gillespie

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Homecoming Soldier, The Falling & The Rising, and Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

Hometown: Brentwood, NY
Seattle Opera Debut: Hannah Before, As One (’16)
Recently: Schaunard, La bohème (Finger Lakes Opera); Hannah Before, As One (New York City Opera); Jake, Porgy and Bess (Budapesti Nyári Fesztivál)
Upcoming: Marcello, La bohème (Kentucky Opera); Moralès, Carmen (Pacific Opera Victoria); Louis/Sean/Phillip, Independence Eve (Opera Birmingham)

Last Updated: January 2020

Jorell Williams

Dizzy Gillespie

Mainstage Debut
Feb. 22, 23, 26, 29
Mar. 1, 4, 6, & 7

Shelly Traverse

Chan Parker

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Chan Parker, Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Hometown: Seattle, WA
Seattle Opera Debut: Hero, Beatrice and Benedict ('18)
Seattle Opera Chorus Member since 2015
Recently: Pamina, The Magic Flute (Vashon Opera);  Lucia, The Rape of Lucretia (Tacoma Opera); Soprano, The Little Match Girl Passion (Eugene Opera)  

Last updated: November 2019

Shelly Traverse

Chan Parker

Feb. 22, 23, 26, 29
Mar. 1, 4, 6, & 7

Jennifer Cross

Doris Parker

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Doris Parker, Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Hometown: Boise, Idaho
Seattle Opera Debut: Glasha, Katya Kabanova ('17)
Seattle Opera Chorus Member since 2009
Recently: Chorus, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, Carmen, Eugene Onegin (Seattle Opera)
Upcoming: Chorus, La bohème, Pagliacci & Cavalleria rusticana (Seattle Opera); Knoxville: Sumer of 1915 (Washington Wind Ensemble)

Last updated: November 2019

Jennifer Cross

Doris Parker

Feb. 22, 23, 26, 29
Mar. 1, 4, 6, & 7

Chrystal E. Williams

Rebecca Parker

At Seattle Opera 2019/20: Rebecca Parker, Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Hometown: Portsmouth, VA
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: Stewardess, Flight (Minnesota Opera); Maketaten, Akhnaten (The Metropolitan Opera); Katerina, Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk (Birmingham Opera Company)
Upcoming:
Recitalist (Sun Valley Opera); Holly, Stay (On Site Opera); Soloist, Songfest (Seattle Symphony)

Last Updated: January 2020

Chrystal E. Williams

Rebecca Parker

Seattle Opera Debut
Feb. 22, 23, 26, 29
Mar. 1, 4, 6, & 7

Audrey Babcock

Nica

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Nica, Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: Elizabeth Proctor, The Crucible (Opera Santa Barbara); Maria, Maria de Buenos Aires (San Diego Opera); Carmen, Carmen (Teatro Angela Peralta)
Upcoming:  Soloist, Verdi’s Requiem (Reading Symphony Orchestra); Soloist, Beethoven’s 250th Birthday Celebration (Santa Barbara Symphony); Soloist, Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope (Halton Theatre)

Last updated: January 2020

Audrey Babcock

Nica

Seattle Opera Debut
Feb. 22, 23, 26, 29
Mar. 1, 4, 6, & 7

Mikhail Calliste

Principal Dancer

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Principal Dancer, Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Hometown: Trinidad and Tobago
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: 
Dance Artist, Donald Byrd: The America That Is To Be (Frye Art Museum); Dance Artist, Flesh & Blood (Seattle Art Museum); Dance Artist, Donald Byrd's The Harlem Nutcracker (Spectrum Dance Theatre) 
Upcoming: Dance Artist, CHOP SHOP: Bodies of Work (CHOP SHOP Festival); Dance Artist, Race and Climate (Spectrum Dance Theatre)

Last Updated: January 2020

Mikhail Calliste

Principal Dancer

Seattle Opera Debut
Feb. 22, 23, 26, 29
Mar. 1, 4, 6, & 7

Cast

Creative Team

Daniel Schnyder

Composer

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Composer, Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Hometown: Zurich, Switzerland
Seattle Opera Debut
Highly regarded as a composer and performer of both jazz and classical and classical music, Daniel Schnyder has shared the concert stage, recording studio with many well-known classical musicians, world music artists, and jazz players. He’s been commissioned by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the NorrlandsOperan, the Chicago Sinfonietta, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra to name a few. He’s recorded more than 10 CDs of his own music. The American Symphony League, Meet the Composer, the National Arts Council of Switzerland, and the International Clarinet Association have awarded him top honors for his chamber music. He is the composer in residence with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Last Updated: January 2020

Daniel Schnyder

Composer

Seattle Opera Debut

Bridgette A. Wimberly

Librettist

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Librettist, Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Hometown: Cleveland, OH
Seattle Opera Debut
An awarding winning poet and playwright, Bridgette’s commissions, workshops, and productions include Exile,Saint Lucy’s Eyes starring Ruby Dee (Alliance, Cherry Lane, and Women’s Project Theaters); The Separation of Blood (Kuntu Repertory Theater, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Arena Stage, Cleveland Play House); Forest City (Cleveland Play House); Cool (Dance Theatre of Harlem); and others. She is the author of a book of poetry Ghetto Music. The Founding Artistic Director of From Breast Cancer to Broadway. She teaches survivors how to write short plays for stage, empowering women to be proactive about their breast health.

Last Updated: January 2020

Bridgette A. Wimberly

Librettist

Seattle Opera Debut

Kelly Kuo

Conductor

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

Hometown: Hermiston, OR
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: Romeo and Juliet (Brevard Music Center); Camelot (Indianapolis Opera); Korngold, Mozart, Tchaikovsky (Memphis Symphony Orchestra)
Upcoming: The Poppea Project (Opera Columbus); Artistic Director (Oregon Mozart Players); Con moto (Reno Chamber Orchestra)

Last Updated: January 2020

Kelly Kuo

Conductor

Seattle Opera Debut

Ron Daniels

Director

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

Hometown: Cambridge, MA
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: Madame Butterfly (Lyric Opera of Kansas City); Orfeo ed Euridice (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis); Sweeney Todd (Michigan Opera Theatre)
Upcoming: A Midsummer Night's Dream (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro)

Last Updated: November 2019

Ron Daniels

Director

Seattle Opera Debut

Riccardo Hernandez

Scenic Designer

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Scenic Designer, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

Hometown: Havana, Cuba 
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: Jagged Little Pill (Broadway); Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (Broadway); Lucia di Lammermoor (Santa Fe Opera)
Upcoming: Waiting for Godot (TFANA); Lempicka (La Jolla Playhouse); Le Roi Arthus (Bard Summerspace)

Last Updated: January 2020

Riccardo Hernandez

Scenic Designer

Seattle Opera Debut

Emily Rebholz

Costume Designer

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

Hometown: New York, NY
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: Orfeo ed Euridice (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis); Lucia di Lammermoor (Santa Fe Opera); Charlie Parker’s Yardbird (English National Opera)
Upcoming: Jagged Little Pill (Broadway)

Last Updated: November 2019

Emily Rebholz

Costume Designer

Seattle Opera Debut

Scott Zielinski

Lighting Designer

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Lighting Designer, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

Hometown: New York, NY
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: Turandot (Opera Australia); Miss Fortune (Bregenzer Festspiele, Royal Opera House); The Magic Flute (Canadian Opera Company).
Upcoming: Trojan Women (National Changgeuk Opera of Korea), Eugene Onegin (Opera Bastille), Red Waters (Opera de Rennes)

Last Updated: November 2019

Scott Zielinski

Lighting Designer

Seattle Opera Debut

Donald Byrd

Choreographer

At Seattle Opera in 2019/20: Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Hometown: Clearwater, FL
Seattle Opera Debut: Julius Caesar (’07)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Aida (’08);  Semele ('15)
Recently: Greenwood (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre); Love and Loss (Pacific Northwest Ballet); Carousel and Oklahoma (5th Avenue Theater); The Color Purple (Broadway); Julius Caesar (Israeli Opera)  

Last updated: January 2020

Donald Byrd

Choreographer

Creative Team

Orchestra & Additional Artists

Orchestra

Violin I
Noah Geller, Concertmaster
Cecilia poellein Buss
Any Liang, Assistant Concertmaster
Mihail Shmidt
Jeannie Wells Yablonsky
Arthur Zadinsky

Violin II
Gennady Filimonov, Principal
Brittany Breeden Asst. Principal
Stephen Bryant
Xiao-po Fei
Tori Parker

Viola
Mara Gearman, Principal
Wesley Dyring, Asst. Principal
Sayaka Kokubo
Rachel Swerdlow

Cello
Nathan Chan, Principal
Walter Gray, Asst. Principal

Bass
Joseph Kaufman, Principal

Flute/Alto Flute
Demarre McGill, Principal

Oboe
Ben Hausmann, Principal

Clarinet/Saxophone
Benjamin Lulich, Principal

Bassoon
Seth Krimsky, Principal

Horn
Jeffrey Fair, Principal

Trumpet
David Gordon, Principal
Christopher Stingle

Trombone
David Lawrence Ritt, Principal

Percussion
Michael Werner, Principal
Michael Clark

Piano
David McDade, Principal

Personnel Manager
Scott Wilson

Assistant Personnel Manager
Keith Higgins

 

The Orchestra is composed of members of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Rotating members of the string section are listed alphabetically.

 

Actors

Henry Brown
Rosetta Greek
Jummp Harrop
Ronnie Hill
David Hsieh
Rich Lewis
Tyrone Olds
Lisa Price

Orchestra & Additional Artists

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Plan Your Visit

Performances take place at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street, Seattle. Join our email list to receive personalized alerts with updates on traffic, dining, and parking for your specific performance, or choose a topic below to learn more.

Directions & Parking

Seating Chart

Dining

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Sponsors

2019/20 Season Sponsor

In memory of Karyl Winn

Production Sponsors

Tagney Jones Family Fund at Seattle Foundation
Office of Arts & Culture | Seattle
Lenore M. Hanauer
Eugene and Jean Stark
Nesholm Family Foundation

Community Partner

KNKX logo

 

Main Image © iStock/pidjoe | Photos: Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, Lyric Opera of Chicago, 2017 © Todd Rosenberg