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West Edge on the Move Again: New Venue, New Operas

December 4, 2018

Burma Road — a vital corridor in World War II history and the subject of books and movies — was built with slave labor through impenetrable jungles and uncrossable mountains between China and what is now Myanmar.

Today, Oakland’s Bridge Yard, at 210 Burma Road, has been named by West Edge Opera as the next venue in the company’s peripatetic existence. Not quite on the order of its Asian namesake, this Burma Road represents challenges as daunting as any opera company can face — pretty much modus vivendi for West Edge.

From Berkeley Opera’s original home to temporary quarters in El Cerrito, the Freight & Salvage, Pacific Pipe, an abandoned train station, the Odd Fellows Hall, and more (in whatever order), West Edge has been all around the East Bay during its homeless years, and once again, the company has located a new unusual venue.


General Director Mark Streshinsky and Music Director Jonathan Khuner will bring their company to this 24,000-square foot, 1930s-era industrial building, now repurposed to serve as recreational anchor for the planned Gateway Park on the shoreline to the south of the Bay Bridge’s east end. It was once a repair facility for rail cars that traveled over the Bay Bridge.

West Edge’s plan for the 2019 festival, Aug. 3–18, has the same variety and offbeat mix that has characterized the company all along: the Weill-Brecht Three Penny Opera, Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, and the West Coast premiere of the 2016 Breaking the Waves by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek.

Elkhanah Pulitzer is stage director for Three Penny Opera — Aug. 3, 11, and 15 — the music director and piano accompanist will be David Möschler. The cast will be led by tenor Derek Chester as MacHeath in his West Edge Opera debut.. The opera will also feature soprano Maya Kherani as Polly Peachum,Catherine Cook (Mrs. Peachum), Erin O’Meally,(Lucy Brown) and Sarah Coit (Jenny).

Orfeo ed Euridice opens Aug. 4, repeat performances are on Aug. 9 and 17. “As perhaps a small correction to our male dominated art form,” says the West Edge announcement, “Orfeo & Euridice will be conducted, directed, choreographed, designed, and performed by women. KJ Dahlaw leads the production as both director and choreographer.

Soprano Christine Brandes takes on the musical direction as she begins a new career as a conductor. Presented as a love story between two women, Orfeo will be performed by mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz who last was with West Edge in the role of The Fox in The Cunning Little Vixen. Soprano Shawnette Sulker is slated for the role of Amore. Euridice will be announced soon.

Breaking the Waves — Aug. 10, 16 and 18 — is based on a film by Lars von Trier, it has been hailed as one of the best new operas of recent years. Streshinsky directs and Khuner conducts; in the cast are soprano Sara LeMesh, baritone Morgan Smith, mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich, and tenor Alex Boyer.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].