Don Pasquale 2013; David Bazemore Photo
Archive for March 2011

Lawrence Edelson

Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti” with “La serva padrona”:
Guest directed by Artistic Director of American Lyric Theatre

Santa Barbara, CA, March 23, 2011 – Opera Santa Barbara welcomes six emerging artists from the San Francisco Opera Center Adler Fellowship Program, along with New York-based Director/Choreographer Lawrence Edelson (pictured at left) for a new production of Leonard Bernstein’s first opera, the bittersweet satire, Trouble in Tahiti, paired with a comic opera La serva padrona, to be performed Friday, April 8 (7:30) and Sunday, April 10 (2:30) at The Lobero Theatre. When asked why turn these two very different works into a double-bill, Director Edelson notes that although written almost two hundred years apart, both operas explore the dynamics of choosing one person with whom to spend the rest of your life: “Through both comedic and dramatic lenses, these short opera explore questions that remain relevant today: Is ‘till death do us part’ something to which everyone aspires? Might true joy be found in unexpected places? How hard do we have to work to find happiness? And how hard should we work to hold on to something that may no longer be there?”

Before focusing on directing, Lawrence Edelson enjoyed a successful performing career as both a classical singer and ballet dancer. He performed a diverse dance repertoire including world premieres by Merce Cunningham and founded the New Choreographer’s Workshop in 1991 at The Joffrey Ballet School. As a singer, he appeared in opera, oratorio and musical theatre, and as a director he has served as Staff Director for Glimmerglass Opera, guest director at New York City Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, and Toledo Opera, among many others. In 2005 he founded American Lyric Theater in New York and serves as its Producing Artistic Director. Upcoming directing engagements include a new production of Philip Glass’s Hydrogen Jukebox for Fort Worth Opera and a new production of Florencia en el Amazonas.

Ryan Kuster (Sam) Maya Lahyani (Dinah), along with Sarah Gartland, Ao Li, and Daniel Montenegro, are seen in Trouble in Tahiti. Featured in La serva padrona are Susannah Biller (Serapina), and Ao Li (Uberto). They are six of the 2011 Resident Artists of San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship Program. Adler Fellowships are performance-oriented residencies for the most advanced young singers and coach/accompanists that offer intensive individual training and roles of increasing importance in San Francisco Opera’s mainstage season. Each year a select group of exceptionally gifted singers from the Merola Opera Program is invited to continue their education as Adler Fellows. Former Adler Fellows have included Ruth Ann Swenson, Deborah Voigt and Patricia Racette. Mark Morash, Director of Musical Studies for the San Francisco Opera Center will conduct the OSB orchestra.

Tickets are available from the Lobero Box Office: 805.963.0761 or online at Lobero.com.

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Today’s clip is Sam’s aria “There’s a law”. A prototypical alpha-male, he gives his worldview on the natural selection amongst men – “There are men who can make it, and men who cannot.” Some men are born winners, and those that aren’t will never measure up – no matter how hard they try. Read on…


Clip of the day – Trouble in Tahiti

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Love the look of this 2001 BBC film version of Trouble in Tahiti! Housewives tippling during the day?! Why, I never!

Here Stephanie Novacek sings scene 6 – Dinah’s aria “What a Movie!” (The aria mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack knocked out of the Park when she shared the stage with Patricia Racette this past November.) Read on…


Spotlight on Jose Maria Condemi

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Spotlight on Jose Maria Condemi
From the Lobero Theatre Magazine/ February 2011:

With a broad smile, Artistic Director Jose Maria Condemi immediately radiates the confidence of a seasoned professional; illustrating the very characteristic that makes him such a wonderful new addition to Opera Santa Barbara. His resume of creative achievements and innovative ideas pay testament to the eloquent man who aspires to rejuvenate opera in Santa Barbara.

The idea of making opera accessible to wider audiences is a theme that crops up regularly. Opera Santa Barbara’s (OSB) General Director Stephen Sharpe says that “Mr. Condemi brings a fresh approach to the field, and we are confident that his talent, skill and vision will enable us to create productions and programs which will appeal to a broad and diverse audience.”

Originally from Argentina, Condemi comes to OSB with a wonderfully extensive resume. He has vast experience and awards commemorating his skills in artistic and stage direction, collaborating with new opera composers, and he is in high demand to teach young opera singers. He has a passion for teaching, and is currently leading OSB into bold new territory with his Opera Labs, an experimental interactive school program where singers visit schools and improvise skits based on student suggestions, thereby creating their own opera on the spot. This program not only represents a strong effort in building future opera audiences, but “gets [students] excited about the art form,” he says.

In the surprising double-billing choice of La Serva Padrona by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, and Trouble in Tahiti by Leonard Bernstein, pairing an 18th century Italian comedy with a 20th century American character drama, Condemi embarks on a journey exploring the notions of power in relationships in a charming new way. Unifying these two seemingly disparate operas are a common theme and a talented director, Joe Goode. The first act will be the comic opera, La Serva Padrona, which showcases a cunning and beautiful maid, who tricks her master into marrying her, as the tables are turned and ‘the servant becomes the master.’ The second act is a bittersweet tale by Leonard Bernstein set in the 1950’s, focusing on the decline of a suburban marriage set to the backdrop of jazz and Top 40 radio shows.

While designing the 2010-11 season programming, Condemi chose to produce an opera at both the Lobero and the Granada, highlighting each venue’s respective strengths while showcasing operas from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Describing his enthusiasm for the April performances at the Lobero, he says of the pairing, “[they] are perfect for the Lobero for several reasons. [Since] it is small, the audience will get a close relationship with the performers. And it’s an opera from the 20th century which will provide a different sound for modern audiences, in addition to the comedy. So it’s very accessible.” Though Condemi is not directing these pieces himself, he is intimately familiar with both shows and continuously compliments the wonderful performers from the San Francisco Adler Fellowship who will be playing the roles.

Condemi has been pleased with his reception in Santa Barbara, and hopes to build on this momentum. “I’m looking forward to hopefully making opera something that people will come to Santa Barbara to see,” he says, referencing existing summer programs like Glimmerglass Opera in upstate New York, or Opera Theatre of St. Louis. “Hopefully opera will become part of the life of the city.” He summarizes the spirit of his efforts to get audiences excited about renewing an art form dating back hundreds of years. “We have big plans, but we need people to come and support us, and be with us for the performances. [To] just kind of experience it.”

– by Angie Bertucci