Music Department’s Spring Opera ‘Little Women’ opens May 31

UCSC music professor Nicole Paiement
 Nicole Paiement
Lecturer Brian Staufenbiel, head of UCSC's Opera Program
 Brian Staufenbiel
Each spring quarter, the UCSC Music Department offers up a major opera production--the only fully staged, live opera presentation in Santa Cruz County.

This year it will present American composer Mark Adamo's Little Women, based on the popular novel by Louisa May Alcott.

Performances take place at the UCSC Music Center Recital Hall from May 31 to June 3.

Directed by Brian Staufenbiel, head of UCSC’s Opera Program, the production will feature the UCSC Chamber Orchestra, conducted by music professor Nicole Paiement.

Paiement and Staufenbiel mentor UCSC students throughout the year to prepare the musicians and singers for the challenging annual event.

The singers not only need to memorize the music and scripts, learn to effectively project their voices, and act convincingly, they also are required to study French, Italian and German as part of the opera program.

Staufenbiel observed that UCSC is one of the few public universities where an undergraduate student has the opportunity to get this level of experience.

"We chose to stage Little Women because we are very interested in contemporary opera, and this provides a great initiation to contemporary opera for our singers,” Staufenbiel noted.

“It's important for them to sing opera of a living composer,” he added. “And we have the singers capable of performing this music."

Paiement described the intense commitment required by students to make such a complex production possible.

“We audition in spring for the following year, so our students can go home and learn the music during the summer," said Paiement.

“In the fall and winter quarters the students continue their work, and by the time spring arrives, students are likely to be rehearsing nearly every day.

"We are providing a lot of experience to our singers," she added.
Paiement is director of ensembles at UCSC, where she conducts the Orchestra, the Chamber Singers and the Opera. She is also the artistic director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble, as well the San Francisco-based Ensemble Parallèle.

Earlier this year, Paiement conducted Ensemble Parallèle's world-premiere production of the chamber version of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby. And in March, she made her Dallas Opera debut conducting Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse.

In addition to teaching voice and directing UCSC’s Opera Program, Staufenbiel is an active stage director in the San Francisco Bay Area.

His work directing contemporary opera has included the world premiere of Lou Harrison’s Young Caesar; the West Coast premiere of John Rea’s re-orchestration of Berg’s Wozzeck; Madame Butterfly with Festival Opera; and the San Francisco premiere of Philip Glass’ Orphée with Ensemble Parallèle.


The UCSC Music Department presents Little Women on May 31-June 3 at the UCSC Music Center Recital Hall. Tickets and more information are available at, the UCSC Ticket Office (831-459-2159), and the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium box office (831-420-5260).