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Students connect with opera, jazz, and Harriet Tubman in Opera Parallèle's "Harriet's Spirit"

Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries via AP, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

Since 2013, San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle partners with local schools to create and perform an original opera.

They’re premiering the world premiere of this year’s show this week. It’s called Harriet’s Spirit, and is about a young girl struggling with bullying who gets advice from Harriet Tubman herself. The show’s composed by jazz great Marcus Shelby, and features students from Rooftop Alternative School. Jazz-opera singer Tiffany Austin is in the title role of Harriet Tubman herself.

Erin Neff, the show’s director, came to KALW’s studios to talk with Jen Chien about working with kids and finding their own inspiration in Harriet Tubman.

"This opera is an odd mix of historically what Harriet Tubman did, plus this aspect of bullying . . . how this girl finds Harriet Tubman's strength in herself to confront and overcome bullying."

Harriet’s Spirit is premiering this week at the Buriel Clay Theater in San Francisco. Shows are on January 18 and 20.