“Seven Spells”Opera in the Heights - Houston, Texas
Inspired by The Decameron Day 8, Story 7
A celebrity named Elena joins an online dating service in search of some fun while stringing along another man. The tabloids snap some photos of her and it enrages her current lover, who seeks revenge through public humiliation. The aria takes on a dark and sinister quality and hints at mental health issues brought about my public humiliation of female celebrities such as suicide, depression, slut-shaming and more in a collapsing economy during the rise of a fascist regime. In the Decameron story, Elena is sent atop a tower where she must recite seven incantations in the blistering heat. She suffers from sunburns and bug bites, and her scorned lover hides the ladder so she can’t come down, all while berating her for her actions. In this adaptation the tower is metaphorical, symbolizing the pedestal on which we put women in the spotlight and our expectations of them being perfect examples for our society’s girls and womxn.
Donia Jarrar, Composer & Librettist
Donia Jarrar is an Arab and Muslim-American composer, pianist, and interdisciplinary artist. Born to a Palestinian father and an Egyptian mother, she grew up between Kuwait City, Alexandria, Ramallah, and New York. Her personal experiences have strongly shaped her compositional voice, leading her to explore themes of intergenerational memory, trauma, identity, exile, displacement, and cultural narrative in her work. Jarrar was recently awarded the 2019 Discovery Grant for Female Composers from the National Opera Center of America for her work Seamstress, a documentary multimedia opera based on oral history interviews conducted with Palestinian women and girls from her community. She has been commissioned by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and is a featured musician on the Emmy-award winning series Arab American Stories. Jarrar holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan. She is based in Los Angeles.
Elena – Kaarin Cecilia Phelps
Mezzo-soprano Kaarin Cecilia Phelps is making a name for herself throughout the United States. Recent performances include the alto solos in Handel’s Messiah with the Houston Masterworks Chorus and Armelinde in Pauline Viardot’s Cendrillon with Operativo Houston. Kaarin made her company debut with Opera in the Heights in 2020 in Yeltsin in Texas. This fall she will join The Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra as a soloist in Beethoven’s Mass in C. Her favorite roles include Isabella in L’Italiana in Algeri, Augusta Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe and Hänsel. Ms. Phelps has seen great success in the competition circuit, winning first place in both the Moores School of Music Concerto Competition and the Tuesday Musical Club of San Antonio Young Artist Competition as well as placing in many others. Kaarin holds a bachelor’s degree from the Hartt School and a master’s degree from the University of Houston.
Piano & Electronics – Donia Jarrar
Film Director – Abbas Padilla
Abbas was born in Houston, Texas, the son of a Colombian immigrant father and a mother from far West Texas. In high school he was introduced to photography, learning the fundamentals of composition, light, and exposure, and started to discover his creativity. As a student at Sam Houston State University, photography was his passion until he took his first video production class, and the rest is history! Since then, Abbas has filmed projects all over the United States, as well as countries such as Mexico, Israel, Jamaica, Curacao and more. His proudest recognitions have been the three Directors Awards he has received for his international tourism advertising work. In 2010 Abbas opened Big A Productions, a boutique production company based in Houston, Texas. His goal for the future is to work on more collaborative projects with organizations that promote unity, diversity, equality and justice. www.bigavideoservices.com
Eiki Isomura – Producer & Music Director
Japanese-American conductor Eiki Isomura is in his fourth season as artistic director and principal conductor of Opera in the Heights (OH), where he has led over a hundred performances of twenty-five operas, drawing consistent praise for elevating the company’s performance standard.
He has served on the music staff of Opera in the Ozarks, as well as HGOco, preparing and performing numerous world premieres of chamber operas for Houston Grand Opera. A passionate advocate for new music, Eiki launched OH’s’ first-ever new works festival. He previously served as director of orchestral activities at Lone Star College-Montgomery and held a residency as guest music director of opera at Temple University. Eiki holds a doctorate in orchestral conducting from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Kenneth Kiesler, who also mentored him at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
About Opera in the Heights:
Opera in the Heights, now in its 25th season, is a Houston-based opera company that exists to provide a stage for emerging opera professionals and to present accessible and affordable opera experiences to the Greater Houston area. The company holds hundreds of auditions in Houston and New York annually to cast its season repertoire typically made up of standard literature, with an emphasis on providing company and role debuts.