Sunday, March 1, 2020

Praise for Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

Joshua Stewart (Charlie Parker) and Shelly Traverse (Chan Parker) in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird. Photo by Sunny Martini.
“A well-organized progression of scenes and music that take the listener on a lively, thought-provoking journey through the life of a brilliant, erratic innovator who was a major influence in transforming 20th century American music.” —Bachtrack

“There’s no doubting the talent at work in Seattle Opera’s Charlie Parker’s Yardbird.” —The Seattle Times

“I was transfixed. Gloriously done. From staging, to lighting, to choreography to the score and libretto, I’d see and hear it again immediately.” —Lucy Ann L. via Facebook

“Telling the story of a jazz legend on stage through opera and classical music is an ambitious, and unexpected, undertaking. Yet with a talented cast, an intriguing premise, a composer—Daniel Schnyder—with a strong background in both jazz and classical music, and a librettist [Bridgette A. Wimberly] who has a family connection to Parker and a background as a poet, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird is certainly poised to deliver on its ambition.” —The Seattle Times

“Simply amazing. Wonderful tribute to a man of extraordinary talent... One of the best experiences at the Opera. A must experience.” —Margaret B. via Facebook

Frederick Ballentine as Charlie Parker. Photo by Sunny Martini.
“Daniel Schnyder’s score is beguiling, never for one bar failing to grab the ear. Leaning extensively but not exclusively on jazz, from Gershwin to Parker-style bebop itself, plus hints of the then-contemporary composers Parker is known to have admired (Berg, Stravinsky), his music is expert, colorful, and imaginative, making the orchestra a bubbling fountain of ideas.” —Seattle Magazine

“The orchestra was excellent playing the dazzling score with references to jazz classics.” —The Seattle Times

“The cast, which included a number of Seattle Opera debuts, was consistently strong, both vocally and dramatically. All of the leading roles require considerable athleticism, and each of these outstanding singers delivered impressively.” —Bachtrack

“WOW. What an incredibly moving show, especially if you love jazz history.” —Sarah F. via Facebook

Joshua Stewart (Charlie Parker) and Audrey Babcock (Nica). Photo by Sunny Martini.
“As ‘king of saxophone’ Charlie Parker, New Orleans native Joshua Stewart’s clarion tenor projected superbly, with spot-on operatic placement from the low to high ranges and in some notable Mozartian flourishes, poignant soul style, and deftness. He handled the stratospheric tessitura and dramatic demands of this non-stop tour de force with such great proficiency that the audience practically raised the roof with their applause at the end.” —Bachtrack

“Joshua Stewart as Parker (Stewart alternates in the role with Frederick Ballentine) masterfully navigates the challenging score, adapting with jazzier vocals or powerful vibratos.” —The Seattle Times

Angela Brown as Addie Parker, Charlie's mother. Photo by Sunny Martini.
“In the significant role of Parker’s mother Addie, Angela Brown filled the hall with her full, lush lyric soprano. Her instrument is so powerful and robust that, while Stewart generally carried the show, Brown at times stopped the show with her commanding voice, buoyant, vivacious manner, and dramatic authoritativeness.” —Bachtrack

Jorell Williams as Dizzy Gillespie. Photo by Philip Newton.
“As Parker’s contemporary and friend Dizzy Gillespie, Jorell Williams steals the show with his easy charm and stunning vocals.” —The Seattle Times

“Baritone Jorell Williams played the part of Parker’s best friend Dizzy Gillespie, with whom Parker created bebop. The ‘Bebop-Freedom’ duet, ‘You are the beep, I am the bop’, in which the two envision the as-yet uncreated bebop sound, was a highlight of the evening, its ‘message to the people’ one that remains relevant. ‘Freedom!’ Williams performed with convincing dramatic comedic skill and great vocal strength; one would have liked to hear more of his mellifluous voice.” —Bachtrack

Chrystal E. Williams (foreground) and Jennifer Cross as two of Charlie Parker's wives, Rebecca and Doris.
“The other women in Parker’s life, his wives (soprano Shelly Traverse as Chan Parker, soprano Jennifer Cross as Doris Parker, and mezzo Chrystal E. Williams as Rebecca Parker) as well as mezzo Audrey Babcock as Parker’s friend and patron, Nica, each sang with maximum power and great control, especially in their difficult upper registers. Debuting conductor Kelly Kuo skillfully handled the well-selected 24-piece ensemble in the enormously complex score.” —Bachtrack

Photo by Philip Newton.
“Ron Daniels’ stage direction was effective and dynamic, with little or no lag in the action. ... Scenic designer Riccardo Hernandez created a visually authentic vision of Birdland and other locations involved in the lengthy time period encompassing the timeline of Parker’s story, from the 1920s through the mid-1950s. ... Costume Designer Emily Rebholz dressed the characters simply but authentically.” —Bachtrack

“Although the set changes minimally during the 90-minute opera, its design is brilliant in its simplicity and works beautifully with the lighting to highlight the many different moods and scenarios that the opera moves through. ... Nearly every independent element of the opera is enchanting.” —The Seattle Times

Principal Dancer Mikhail Calliste. Photo by Sunny Martini.
“Donald Byrd’s choreography, nimbly performed by Seattle Opera principal dancer Mikhail Calliste, heightened the overall drama of the piece. The concept of a madman’s wild dance symbolizing the pain of asylum inmates overall, and Parker in particular, was a brilliant one, and the audience was both pleased and astonished at the spectacle.” —Bachtrack

“The most gripping scene of all is a dance, performed by Mikhail Calliste and choreographed by Donald Byrd, representing Parker’s stay in the asylum.” —Seattle Magazine

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird plays through March 7 at McCaw Hall.
Tickets and information: