by composer ALEKSANDRA VREBALOV and director ROY RALLO


San Francisco, September 19, 2017 — Niloufar Talebi Projects announces the first public viewing of the 70-minute opera Abraham in Flames with three workshop performances at the Wilsey Center for Opera on Tuesday, October 3 at 7:30pm, and on Wednesday, October 4 at 1:00pm and 7:30pm. These performances end a 5-day working residency and will showcase the first half of the opera through an intimate viewing followed by discussion with the creators. Abraham in Flames is the result of a five-year long process by its creator and librettist Niloufar Talebi in close collaboration with director Roy Rallo, joined by composer Aleksandra Vrebalov. The team of collaborators and partners include the Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco, the Merola Opera Program, The Living Earth Show, and conductor Ming Luke. The all-star cast of for the opera features coloratura soprano Nikki Einfeld, tenor Brian Thorsett, tenor Andrew Metzger, mezzo-soprano Jasmine Johnson, and bass Colin Ramsey.

The creation of Abraham in Flames stems from Talebi’s upbringing during the post-Iranian revolution marked by sudden raids by the Islamic police, the brutal Iran-Iraq war, martial law, mandatory hijab, and political unrest as the country was transforming from a monarchy into a religious republic. Amidst the chaos, her family’s hosting of and interactions with iconic Iranian poet and writer Ahmad Shamlou (1925-2000) highlighted Talebi’s childhood. Nominated for the Nobel prize, Shamlou drew upon both Iranian and world literatures to pioneer a cultural revolution and push the boundaries of Persian poetry. Talebi writes, “Alongside witnessing the external chaos which expanded my worldview, I was experiencing an exquisite internal awakening of the imagination, growing into the artist that I am today driven by the defining and disruptive presence of Shamlou in my life.”

The opera is set in a garden with a single Tree of Life, where the drama of the lead character played by the young women’s chorus unfolds. Among other images that animate Abraham in Flames are the central metaphor from one of Shamlou’s seminal book of poems, Ebraahim Dar Aatash (Abraham in Flames). The title is taken from the story of Abraham surviving unscathed the trial by fire that Nimrod subjects him to for not believing in false idols. The heart of this imagery resonates with Talebi, Vrebalov, and Rallo as it speaks to those who risk everything for their truths, similar to the life of artists, immigrants, and other risk-takers.

Through Abraham in Flames, Talebi aims to open a larger dialogue about bringing cultures — such as her Iranian heritage — onto the world stage, especially in times when the Iranian narrative is scarcely visible and often vilified in her home in the United States. Vrebalov is passionate about stories of empowering women. The goal is to bring together opera lovers, new patrons with an open mind, Iranian-American audiences, and all others to the same room for a shared experience in the arts and an expansion of stories told through the operatic form.

The October 4, 1:00pm viewing is offered to educational groups through a partnership with the San Francisco Opera Education Department. Following the Wilsey Center residency, the completed opera is planned to premiere in Spring 2019 in San Francisco.

Abraham in Flames has received incubation support from the San Francisco International Arts Festival, and is supported in part by grants from the Creative Work Fund, the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, the San Francisco Arts Commission, New Music USA, the CA Arts Council, the Sam Mazza Foundation, and is fiscally sponsored by the Intersection for the Arts.

Ticket Information: available online at Early Bird tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for under age 18. Door prices are $25 general admission and $15 for under age 18.

Contact or Questions: Alex MacArthur at

Brief video:


Niloufar Talebi Projects presents

Abraham in Flames Opera Residency Performances

Featuring the first public performances of the first half of the opera

Tuesday, October 3, 7:30-8:30pm

Wednesday, October 4, 1-2pm (educational groups)

Wednesday, October 4, 7:30-8:30pm

Wilsey Center for Opera

401 Van Ness Ave.
War Memorial Veterans Building, 4th Floor Education Studio
San Francisco, CA 94102-4509

Creative Team:

Niloufar Talebi, creator and librettist

Aleksandra Vrebalov, composer

Roy Rallo, director and dramaturg


Cath Brittan


Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco (YWCP)

The Merola Opera Program

San Francisco Opera Education Department


Nikki Einfeld (Merola), coloratura soprano

Jasmine Johnson, mezzo-soprano

Andrew Metzger, tenor

Brian Thorsett (Merola), tenor

Colin Ramsey, bass

Young Women’s Choral Projects, chorus


Ming Luke, conductor

Matthew Boyles, clarinet

The Living Earth Show, percussion, electric guitar

Ron Borelli, accordion

Rachel Patrick, violin

Lucas Chen, cello