San Francisco Opera Announces Instigators

Release date: 6/9/2022


 Jad Abumrad, Samantha Gorman, Abhishek Majumdar, Paula Te, Bryant Terry and Peter Zuspan Launch Company's Bold, New Multidisciplinary Initiative

INSTIGATORS  Instigators_bios_2022  Photos

As the Company is poised to celebrate its 2022–23 Centennial Season, San Francisco Opera today unveiled Instigators, a bold new multidisciplinary program that brings a group of remarkable thinkers and artists into the world of opera.

The initiative, designed to pioneer future directions for San Francisco Opera and the art form, launches this week with six Instigators who will take part in conversations, rehearsals, performances and immersive activities both on and off the Company’s campus in the heart of the Bay Area. 

San Francisco Opera’s inaugural cohort of Instigators includes storyteller-musician-journalist Jad Abumrad, creator of Radiolab and other podcasts; writer-director Samantha Gorman (co-director/founder of Tender Claws), whose stories unfold using emerging media such as AR/VR;writer-scenographer-director Abhishek Majumdar, artistic director of Bangalore's Nalanda Arts Studio; design technologist Paula Te, researching the intersection of the digital and the physical in culture and education; chef-educator-author Bryant Terry, James Beard and NAACP Image Award-winning activist; and architect-designer-software engineer Peter Zuspan of Bureau V, a queer architecture and design studio.

Over the course of a one- or two-year relationship with the Company, the Instigators will immerse themselves in the art form, exchanging knowledge, experience and creative ideas with the San Francisco Opera community, tapping the Company’s resources and developing new approaches around the future of opera.

Each Instigator, based on their individual artistic practice and expertise, will pursue an avenue of inquiry in a lab-like framework, supported by the Company. In identifying, exploring and developing ideas, their work may take many forms, from research and experiments to workshops and presentations, with the ultimate goal of bringing new perspectives and innovations to the art form.

San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock said: “As we begin San Francisco Opera’s second century, I’m thrilled to welcome the Instigators into our artistic family. Creativity is in this Company’s DNA, and this bold initiative will allow us to surge forward with a group of innovators leading our R&D lab. Just as they push the boundaries of their own diverse disciplines, they will bring their rigor, intelligence and curiosity to opera. They will help us to envision future directions for our opera community and art form—ones we can’t even imagine at this moment. The donors to our Creative Edge Fund believe in the vital importance of exploration and risk, and I’m so grateful for their partnership as we embark on this new chapter."

During this inaugural week of the program, the Instigators will have the opportunity to meet artists, observe musical, technical and production preparation and techniques, and explore ideas with key leadership, artistic and production personnel. In addition to activities on the War Memorial campus, the Instigators will travel to the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto to meet with futurists and take part in interactive work in their Emerging Media Lab.

Future convenings will follow in the fall and spring, with independent work taking place both in San Francisco and remote locations. The Company will provide updates as the inquiries unfold.

The initiative will be led by San Francisco Opera’s Director of Innovation Programs, Lee Helms, Instigators Curator Elena Park and Instigators Creative Advisor Jocelyn Clarke. "We were looking for individuals doing singular and exciting work in fields outside of opera, who would bring fresh perspectives to the Company, and challenge and provoke us to dream about new pathways for the future," said Park.

"So we welcome this group of Instigators—all of whom have adventurous minds, expansive curiosities and a love for the unexpected,” she continued. “Their individual paths of inquiry will enable us to learn and collaborate together, to deepen and advance our understanding of what the art form can be and to broaden our community of artists and audiences—creating an even more vibrant future for opera."

Learn more at For more information about San Francisco Opera’s 2022–23 Centennial Season, visit

Instigators is one of San Francisco Opera’s many Innovation Programs made possible, in part, by the Creative Edge Fund with major support from Carol and Dixon Doll, Peter Fenton and Kate Greer, and Bob Ellis.

Innovation Program sponsorships are available. If interested in learning more or making a gift, please contact San Francisco Opera Chief Philanthropy Officer Lisa Bury at [email protected] or (415) 551-6226..

*For the complete press release, including full bios of the Instigators, please view the attached PDFs.