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Social Change

Social Change

Social Change

Other Abled Artists Create Costumes for IOT 15th World Premiere


IOT presents our 15th world premiere Italian opera: a new version of “Sogno di Una Notte di Mezza Estate”, based on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, with music by award winning Filipino film music composer, Von De Guzman and libretto by world renowned Italian Maestro, Antonio Fava. This premiere will be presented in conjunction with The World Shakespeare Project in Teatro degli Avvaloranti, Citta’ della Pieve, honoring the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The production will be under the musical direction of Italian conductor, Maestro Mauro Fabbri, who conducts regularly in Germany.

American stage director Karen Lauria Saillant, who has created new works for The Philadelphia Orchestra, Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Modern Art, Bergamo International Festival of Culture, Teatro Valle, Rome’s oldest and largest opera house and many other cultural institutions in the US and Italy, will direct.Professional opera singers have come from more than 40 countries to sing in our projects.
Our project is both diverse and sustainable with costumes and sets made by fiber artists from recycled objects such as water bottles, trash bags, remainder fabrics, rubber bands, panyhose, lathe, duck tape.
This year’s opera will be another world first, as other abled youth from Citta’ della Pieve will design our costumes and sets. Above you can see them at work in their ceramic laboratory. As far as we know, this is the first time in history that other abled youth have designed costumes and sets for a world premiere opera!
We want to emphasize that our objective is to create and develop a non verbal intercultural communication model through musical and theater arts. We have been experimenting with our process and researching its development for the past 13 years in Italy and Philadelphia. This process enables a new generation of opera artists who are empathetic, resilient and filled with unbounded creativity that is in harmony with nature.

Jago: Unconditional Love of an Abused Child Redeems Hardened Criminal


Can the unconditional love of an abused child redeem the soul of a heartless criminal?

The American premiere of “Jago”, sequel to Verdi’s “Otello” took place on May 30, 31 and June 1, 2013 at the Media Theatre in Media, PA. The cast featured Sharon Zhai, winner of The 2nd International Lyric Competition “Città di Saluzzo”, held in Italy in November 2012. It also starred Galen Scott Bower in the title role, with Thomas DeHorney in the double role of Otello/Gedick, Italian tenor Paolo Antognetti as Hassan and The Warden, and 13 year-old Philadelphia boy soprano, Graeme Brown, as little Kasim.

On the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth, International Opera Theater was proud to bring this opera to the US for its American premiere: based on an original story by Karen Saillant, the opera takes place twenty years after the end of Shakespeare’s “Othello” and interweaves re-imagined musical flashbacks from Verdi’s “Otello” and original music by Italian composer, Carlo Pedini.

Karen Saillant – Stage DirectorDesdemona
Gianmaria Griglio – Conductor

Photo of Carlo Pedini taking bow by: Cinthia Costa
All other JAGO photos by Ornella Tiberi



Buffalo Soldier

“Buffalo Soldier” is based on the little known story of the segregated 92nd Infantry Division, who fought with unyielding valor in World War II. Inspired by award-winning documentary “Inside Buffalo” by Fred Kuwornu, the opera will premiere in Città della Pieve (Umbria) Italy on July 22-23-24 as part of the Trasimeno Blues Festival and then proceed to the Teatro Valle in Rome on July 27.

IOT is coordinating more than 25 events in Philadelphia to educate and bring life to the heroic camaraderie of the Italian people and The 92nd Division, beginning with a Members’ Exhibition at DaVinci Art Alliance in November 2011 and including a concert and lecture at The National Constitution Center with participation of The Italian Consulate of Philadelphia, The African American Museum of Philadelphia and veterans of the 92nd Infantry Division.

Members’ Exhibition at DaVinci Art Alliance in November 2011 sponsored by Pennsylvania Humanities Council.

Italian version

IOT will present Buffalo Soldier during a conference in one of the biggest and oldest universities in Europe next June 18, at 5pm: the conference will feature Karen Saillant, Gianmaria Griglio, Daniele Fiorentino and Ernesto Nassi, moderated by Franco Piperno. Click here for the press release, here for the Euronews article in english.

What Monkeys Can Teach Opera Singers

When I begin to create a new opera, one of the first things I do when the cast is all gathered onstage, is to stand in front of them and ask the cast to “do what I do”. I then raise my right arm. In over 50 years of working with singers from more than 50 different cultures, the almost inevitable reaction is that each member of the cast will also raise their right arm, some a little reluctantly, going back and forth between arms, but all usually settling on their right arm- as that is what everyone else seemed to be doing. Of course this might make some sense to some, as the inclination might be to actually “do what I do”.
But there have been occasions, and these occasions have brought me extraordinary joy, when singers have instinctively mirrored my action. These few singers who raised their left arm to mirror my action, actually become standard bearers in our production for transmitting emotion. They were able to instinctively make staging decisions without being told what to do, they were open minded and able to be physically expressive. This was no surprise. They had survived the establishment’s desire to make all children “think before they speak” and many music educators’ goal to put cognitive development before feelings.

But what is the future for those who easily empathize? Why are they so few in number, especially in our artistic community? What can we do as a society to increase the number of artists who are connected to their primary impulse, meaning their instincts- their able to act “before” thinking.

What does the Macaque Monkey and the discovery by scientists in Parma, Italy in the 1990s have to contribute to our search for empathy? And why is this ability so essential for The New Renaissance in Operatic Art and the healing of our society?

Stay tuned for next article upcoming soon.



Opera Singers

“Hildegard Von Bingen: Bambina Mistica e La Vergine Nera” Premieres in Assisi Suono Sacro Festival, August 2016

“Hildegard Von Bingen: Child Mystic and The Black Madonna”
14th world premiere Italian production

Music by Hildegard VonBingen and Mariano Garau, based on writings of Hildegard set in libretto by Karen Lauria Saillant, with Italian translation by Maria Luisa Meo. Publicity by Daniela Cane’ of Adagio Art Agency, with design by Francesca Tiriboco of Studio 54 in Chiusi, Italy.

Hildegard von Bingen: Bambina Mistica Assisi premiere

Hildegard von Bingen

“Hildegard von Bingen: Bambina Mistica” celebrates the life of Hildegard Von Bingen,
as taken from her writings about her childhood. Our World Premiere Cantata
also honors the young saints Ursula and Rupert to whom Hildegard was devoted.

August 7

Convento Porziuncola and Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli

6PM in the Convento Porziuncola: Inauguration of the exhibition: “Consonanze” of Luciano Tittarelli, introduction by Rossella Vasta on the poetics of Hildegard von Bingen e Frances of Assisi.

9PM in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli: world premiere of cantata: “Hildegard von Bingen: bambina mistica” “Hildegard von Bingen: child mystic”

Agnese Pazienti, soprano, as Hildegard Adulta (Hildegard Adult) with the young girls’ voices of International Opera Theater of Philadelphia, directed by Karen Saillant, with music by Sardinian composer, Mariano Garau. Libretto by Karen Saillant. Italian translation by Maria Luisa Meo. Hair Design by Francesca Rivetti of Follicle Studio, Philadelphia. Seamstress, Mira Franzel.

HILDEGARD BAMBINA (Hildegard Child- age 8): Isabella Moitoso
JUTTA (Hildegard’s teacher age 14): Mary Tresvalles
LA NUTRICE: Elizabeth McKenzie

Eight of The Virtues as Named by Hildegard:
UMILTA’ (Humility): Mary Consoli

AMORE CELESTIALE (Celestial Love): Charlotte Croquette
CONOSCENZA DI DIO (Knowledge of God): Emma Giancola
FEDE (Faith): Lia Della Porta
GRAZIA (Mercy): Elizabeth McKenzie
INNOCENZA (Innocence): Gaby Bradbury
PAZIENZA (Patience): Margaret Friedman
SPERANZA (Hope): Maura Koob

L’ARPA (Harp): Mary Tresvalles
Keyboard: Elona Muca

August 8
La Scarzuola, Montegiove (TR)

“La voce della Scarzuola”

6PM – Presentation under the direction of Marco Nicoletti with music of Andrea Ceccomori.

7PM – Cantata: Hildegard Von Bingen: Bambina Mistica
In collaboration with le Cantina di Monte Vibiano and Adagio Art Agency.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia were delighted to host the American premier of Hildegard von Bingen: Bambina Mistica at their motherhouse on Sunday, November 8, 2015. The performance took place in Our Lady of Angels Chapel where the sisters pray daily for the needs of the world. There was no charge for the concert and all were welcomed.

Our production of “Hildegard vonBingen: Bambina Mistica” was dedicated to the memory of American voice teacher, Harold Parker, extraordinary musician, artist and visionary who centered his entire life’s work on the facilitation of truth and sincerity in the execution of music, theater and fine art.

Harold Parker was the first singing teacher of IOT founder and artistic director, Karen Saillant. Ms. Saillant was twelve years old and a full scholarship student at The Settlement Music School in Philadelphia when she began to be imprinted by the noble vision of Harold Parker.

Harold Parker believed that singing without excessive tension could offer to singers, as well as the audience, a transformational artistic experience. Harold Parker constantly took a stand for these important values, no matter what the consequences, or to what dissenting colleagues he had to deliver an enlightening commentary. The desire for harmony and balance was so deeply embraced by Mr. Parker and so thoroughly transferred to Ms. Saillant that it led her to leave Indiana University, where she was a full scholarship student, in her junior year. Eventually in her search for more answers, Ms. Saillant would embrace The Alexander Technique when she was introduced to it while singing in Italy in the 60s.

Her relationship with the Alexander Technique would lead her to a long and intimate relationship with Katherine Wielopolska, a member of FM Alexander’s original class, who Karen sought out after she returned from Italy. Kitty, as she was affectionately called, had just returned from England where she had been officially certified, as she had not been able to finish her original certification because of a mental breakdown. At that time there were no Alexander teachers in Philadelphia. Karen worked diligently to introduce all of her friends to the work. For three years, Kitty gave Ms. Saillant daily lessons and Kitty eventually became Harold’s Alexander teacher. Kitty took Karen to New York to study with Carl Stough, as she believed that he had the answer to a breathing problem which had been creating problems for Karen since before birth. Carl Stough was able to remediate Karen’s sternal angle, a situation believed unchangeable and which no one previous to her work with Carl had understood, which had, unbeknownst to Harold, Kitty and Karen, been at the center of her breathing difficulties for decades.

Harold Parker never stopped supporting his philosophy of release and standing up for what he believed. Ms. Saillant would ultimately engage in decades of research into the essence of balance both onstage and in group settings. This goal would lead to the development of her own work- “The Saillant System: Singing In Harmony With Nature”. This work has its roots in those early days when working with her visionary teacher: Harold Parker. “HIldegard vonBingen: Bambina Mistica” seeks to share that love for nature, for nobility of purpose, for the virtuous life, which was evidenced in all aspects of Harold Parker’s existence. It is with deep gratitude that International Opera Theater celebrates Harold Parker and his life- dedicated to beauty.

Miracle in Acquaiola: My Work With Autistic Young People in Italy, 2007

by Karen Saillant

In the summer of 2007, I was invited to create a first piece of theater with a group of 7 autistic young people in Comunità Terepeutica Riabilitativa, a home for Therapeautic Rehabilitation in Acquaiola, near the town of Città della Pieve, where I was preparing an operatic world premiere, based on Shakespeare. The 7 young people in Acquaiola, from ages 13-27, are considered the most severely challenged in all of Umbria. Only one of these young people can communicate through speech.

As I interviewed my actors for the first time, the kernel of a fairy tale came into my mind, simultaneously with a character that was based upon the present condition and ability of each actor. I observed the movements and behaviors that each one had. Their actions inspired me to create characters that would logically have these types of behaviors. For example, the youngest boy, small and thin, had the behavior of walking around the room quickly, with outstretched arm, touching objects and people and smelling them. He would be our fairy. Soon his character would evolve into our Piccolo Mago, Little Wizard. The movements and behaviors, as an actor, or character, gave meaning to what might have previously been considered meaningless activity. I believe that this affirmation of behavior enabled each actor to begin to accept his/her actions (and therefore himself/herself) as natural, perhaps even more than natural, special or desirable, as each actor began to sense in some small way that their movements were accepted and necessary.

The typical audition sequence, where the director looks for a person with a particular ability to play a particular role was reversed. What occurred in this situation was that the particular ability of the actor determined the nature of the role and it became the job of the director/playwright to create a play and roles in that play that would logically fit the behavior of the actor. Logic is important.  The audience must feel the logic in the presentation of the character. Their imagination/memory must find some link, some access in order to accept the interpretation of the character. Even if this link is stretched to its limit, if there is the slightest possibility of grabbing hold of the character and thereby reeling it into the plausible, the audience will do so. The further the audience must go to find this plausibility, the more satisfying the performance.

Additionally, a path, or link, was created between my imagination and that of the actor. The actors’ access to my belief in their ability was deepened through melding. This was a behavior that I had unknowingly practiced when I took care of my husband, who was in a coma in my home for 15 months. Almost immediately in Acquaiola I found myself going into this state with the actors. In this state, I was able to communicate, to transfer a possibility into the self image imagination of the actor. This created a link or path through which each actor, some more successfully than others, could see into the reality of my world-the present world and thereby not only sense my belief in him/her, but have a glance at my reality- one that can shift between many other possible realities.

The affirmation of the actors was strengthened by the love, talent and belief that my friend, David Zenini, the person who brought me to Acquaiola, the enlightened individual who so believed in the possibility of his young actors, poured into the days that he spent with them after my two afternoons there. In addition, David’s colleagues, he tells me, were inspired, by my force of belief, to believe that such miracles as we were proposing, were possible. They gave David the support and affirmation that he needed in order to make our vision possible.

It was not just the performance that impressed me so much, even though I was deeply moved by it and well aware of the evolution of the piece which had taken place during the month between the times that I saw the actors and the presentation for family and friends. What impressed me the most was the behavior of all of the actors AFTER the play. During the party and celebration that followed, the behavior of the actors was so much more normal. Each one was much more connected to present reality and therefore more connected to their family and friends and the behaviors that they exhibit.

Throughout the play one could feel the involvement of the audience in the realization of the actions of the actors. David, who was playing the servant of the only actor that could speak, would make statements that would cue the appearance of a particular object or person (always with the help of an assistant). On one occasion a large flag was to appear. David, as the servant, told the audience that the flag was coming. We could see it trying to arrive as it was visible high above the flat that had been placed in front of the stage, but we could see that it was not actually arriving. David kept telling us that the flag was coming and we in the audience sat there willing it to come, giving all of the force that we had to make its arrival possible. When the flag finally arrived along with the mildly confused faced of the bearer (and the assistant hidden well behind the flag), we all shouted and cheered and clapped. The face of the flag bearer changed to one of realization, of realization that an action requested had been fulfilled. Then satisfaction slowly filled his face and as it did, more cheers rang out from the audience. It was one of the most authentic and exciting theatrical moments I have ever experienced-a moment of complete unity between audience and actor when a goal, an impossible goal had been accomplished by the same type of will that enables a mother to lift an automobile off of her dying child.

I believe, in thinking about this amazing performance, that our flag miracle and so many other miracles occurred because the parents and friends of the actors were able to accept the new image of the actors that we had created. They were able to join with us on that path to communication. The self image of the actor was transformed and transferred and just as the mother of the young boy who had fallen from a window when he was two said, she never imagined that he would have been able to do such a thing. This boy is so gifted. He is the only one who can speak and it was thanks to his incredible imagination and creativity that the play was named and given its continuity as he spoke his lines.

In the house, prior to the performance he told me “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.” over and over. As I hugged him, I reassured him that he was totally right. He could and he did and it was such a victory for everyone involved. If his mother, who loved him so much could not imagine it, how would it have been possible for him to do this? Only with the deep imprinting and love and power of the imagination of others was this possible. We must continue to talk about this miracle and we must keep making miracles like this happen all over the world!

The Power of Quiet

by Karen Saillant

As printed in the Fall 2008 issue of Surface Design Journal

Last August, the costumes and sets for a new opera, Romeo et Giulietta, arrived at an eighteenth century theater in Città della Pieve, a walled medieval town on a hillside in Umbria, Italy. The response would be much like the last time the work of a quiet South Korean artist came into town. Then, the citizens came to Teatro Avvaloranti far in advance of opening night. They had heard that an unusual piece of art was running the length of their theater, and they were curious. Some sat down and gazed without speaking for hours. Others pointed and whispered conversation. The work gave pause. It excited. It calmed. It shared a sense of pleasure and joy. It was the backdrop for the 2006 world premiere of the opera La Tempesta. Some saw hurricanes. Others, webs. Others, suns. Still others felt the waves of the tempest reaching out at them. It stimulated the imagination and offered a sense of peace and calm.

Brundibar Article: Youth Opera Resonates With Pain And Victory