The documentary "Flicka" follows Frederica von Stade’s remarkable journey in the years following her retirement from a legendary opera career. Along the way we learn that Flicka is an extraordinary artist and inspirational humanitarian, giving countless hours and energy to her causes, working to bring both musical training to low-income, underprivileged students and the joy of music to the lives of unhoused people. Flicka reflects on her life as a child, mother and singer, and we learn about her through the experiences of colleagues Renée Fleming, Susan Graham and Jake Heggie and in conversations with her family. In archival footage of performances from stages around the world, we celebrate her talent as one of the best mezzo-sopranos in the repertoire. During the journey, we try to answer the question, “Why does everyone want to be in the room with Flicka?” Quickly one realizes it’s because, from family to friends, colleagues to opera fans, and those whose lives she touches in her community, all feel she is a hero, friend and mentor.

  • Brian Staufenbiel
    Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Everest, Flight
  • Nicolle Foland
    Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  • Brian Staufenbiel
    Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Everest, Flight
  • Frederica von Stade
    Key Cast
  • Diane B. Wilsey
    Executive Producer
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 13 minutes 37 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 11, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    1,000,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Brian Staufenbiel

Opera and film director Brian Staufenbiel is the creative director for Opera Parallèle where he has directed and spearheaded the conceptual designs of the company’s productions since it was founded in 2010. Specializing in multimedia, immersive, and interdisciplinary productions, he actively works across a wide range of artistic disciplines collaborating in film and with media designers, choreographers and dancers, circus and fabric artists, and designer fabricators. His progressive approach to stagecraft has garnered critical acclaim for many of the company’s productions, including Wozzeck, Orphée, Champion and Dead Man Walking.

On film Staufenbiel recently directed pieces for the online festival season of the Sun Valley Music Festival, a film of Dove/Angelis’ Flight for Seattle Opera, a graphic novel opera film of Talbot/Scheer’s Everest with Opera Parallèle, and a feature length film of Gordon Getty’s opera Goodbye Mr. Chips.

His current film projects include a documentary about the life of Frederica von Stade with Paper Wings Films, and Out of the Darkness a dance film about Japanese incarceration camps in the United States during World War II.

Future Opera projects include a new production of Moravec and Campbell’s The Shining for Opera Parallèle and Das Rheingold for the opening of Seattle Opera’s 60th season.

Staufenbiel enjoys an ongoing relationship with composer Philip Glass, having directed several of his operas including In the Penal Colony for Philip’s own festival. The production is currently streaming on a new platform, Philip Glass Days and Night’s Festival Presents and was named a New York Times Top Ten pick.

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Director Statement

Flicka. If you are an opera fan or, like me, work in the field, that name alone conjures a kind of awe. For a long time, I was an admirer from afar. I’d obsess over her many landmark recordings and made a deep dive into her video oeuvre. But Flicka—Frederica von Stade in the program notes of opera companies around the world—was said to be a different kind of diva: a woman of faith who was given to expansive generosity, an artist known for her warmth and approachable humanity. She was—could it be?—humble.

Yes, it could be. Which I discovered for myself in 2013 while working on a project to bring underserved children from Oakland, California, into a theatrical production. I would be collaborating with the children’s voice teacher, a local volunteer named…Frederica von Stade. She had been teaching these kids in between singing gigs around the globe. They had no idea who she was—she was just Miss Flicka to them—and she reveled in that. Crossing paths with Flicka was pure luck; becoming friends with her was pure joy.

It is rare to come across a story that you feel must be told, if only to confirm that there is still goodness in the world. Flicka is that kind of story. The film follows von Stade’s remarkable journey in the twilight years of her legendary opera career. We tag along with von Stade as she uses her formidable skills to bring music to the unhoused and lessons to Oakland’s underserved communities. Along the way our film flashes back on her life as an artist, incorporating famous archival footage of performances from all over the world. This is a story of the deeply human and the superhuman. Of art and community activism fusing into the most sublime form of high art: Flicka!