Hadleigh Adams (left) as the Beast and Vanessa Becerra as Beauty in Philip Glass’ “La Belle et la Bête” at Opera Parallèle. Photo: Cory Weaver

Philip Glass’ 1994 opera “La Belle et la Bête” (“Beauty and the Beast”) is a wondrous artistic hybrid combining film and live music into a seamless expressive blend. You might imagine that that would be as many different media as the piece could sustain.

You’d be wrong, though.

In Opera Parallèle’s magnificent new production, which opened an all-too-brief four-performance run at SFJazz on Thursday, July 14, director Brian Staufenbiel and a team of ingenious collaborators add layer upon layer to the original material until it sparkles and swirls like a disco ball. Wherever you look, wherever you listen, the result is an all-enveloping feast for ears and eyes alike.

In its basic conception, Glass’ piece — the second and most rewarding installment in his trilogy of operas based on the films of Jean Cocteau — was already a bold feat of the imagination. He took Cocteau’s gorgeous 1946 cinematic fable, stripped out the musical soundtrack by Georges Auric, and composed his own score in which the film’s silent dialogue is set to music for live singers.

Now Staufenbiel, in partnership with media designer David Murakami, has added not one but two new wrinkles to the formula, each more daring and evocative than the one before.

Hadleigh Adams as the Beast in “La Belle et la Bête” at Opera Parallèle. Photo: Cory Weaver

First of all, they have reinvented Glass’ opera as a live stage performance. The singers no longer simply lip-sync from the side of the stage but enact some of the doings of the film — sometimes in parallel with the film itself, sometimes in its place. For this purpose, the design team (Natalie Barshow, costumes; Mextly Couzin, lighting; Y. Sharon Peng, wigs and makeup; and Marisela Garcia, hair and makeup) created replicas of the film’s design, in a display of scenic virtuosity that pays powerful dividends.

But the new version goes even further. Staufenbiel and Murakami then shot a new version of the film, recreating Cocteau’s distinctive black-and-white visual palette with members of their own cast.

The 90-minute entertainment that results is a multi-veined phantasmagoria of sights and sounds, drama and pathos and humor. Excerpts from the two films complement each another and Glass’ music. The live performers sometimes venture into the aisles of SFJazz’s Miner Auditorium, as video projections on the side walls create an illusion that plunges the audience into the opera’s mysterious world.

If there is a logic or pattern governing the various shifts in medium — some rule to determine what combination of live performers, old film and new film will be deployed for a given scene — I couldn’t puzzle it out. Yet that only made the evening more thrillingly unpredictable. Not knowing where each sequence was coming from, or how, just added to the audience’s delight.

Hadleigh Adams as the Beast in “La Belle et la Bête” at Opera Parallèle. Photo: Cory Weaver

It helps that the underlying works gleam with such dramatic and musical sophistication. Even on its own, Cocteau’s film is a masterpiece of wit and emotional vulnerability, bringing a shadowy psychological vein to its fairy-tale material. (Viewers familiar with the Disney version will recognize some of the plot elements in their original, un-Disneyfied form.)

The score finds Glass at his most inventive. He uses his familiar repertoire of fluid, moody minor-key harmonies and noodling repetitions for heightened accompaniment to the wordless scenes, while setting the French dialogue to crisp, naturalistic vocal phrases.

Artistic Director Nicole Paiment conducts “La Belle et la Bête” at Opera Parallèle. Photo: Cory Weaver

“Belle” marks the completion of Opera Parallèle’s traversal of Glass’ Cocteau trilogy (following “Orphée” in 2011 and “Les Enfants Terribles” in 2017) and it closes out the series in superb form. On opening night, General and Artistic Director Nicole Paiement conducted a chamber ensemble with taut, tender fluency. Baritone Hadleigh Adams and soprano Vanessa Becerra gave superb performances in the title roles — both onscreen and onstage — and they were handsomely complemented by the presence of baritone Eugene Brancoveanu and mezzo-soprano Sophie Delphis in a range of supporting roles.

Music, drama, words, visuals, theatrical spectacle — it’s hard to imagine all these aspects sharing a small performance space with such vividness and grace. But the evidence was unmistakable in this potent triumph of the imagination.

“La Belle et la Bête”: Opera Parallèle. 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 15, and Saturday, July 16. 3 p.m. Sunday, July 17. $55-$135. SFJazz Center, 201 Franklin St., S.F. 415-626-6279. www.operaparallele.org



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