La Traviata, July 1995, Photo by David Bazemore

How do you follow a season that critics declared was “on a trajectory to new heights of operatic excellence”? This was the challenge for Opera Santa Barbara’s Artistic Director José Maria Condemi, who has assembled an imposing array of talent for OSB’s 2011-12 season’s three fully-staged operas: Puccini’s enduring love story, La bohème, November 11 and 13 at the Granada Theatre; Mozart’s delightful Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), March 23 and 25 at The Granada Theatre; and to close the season, a debut production of Gluck’s mythical Orphée et Eurydice, April 27 and 29 at The Lobero Theatre.

“Our last season offered a glimpse into the new Opera Santa Barbara. I hope that we have piqued our audiences’ curiosity so that they join us again for even more thrilling opera,” commented Mr. Condemi, who enters his second year as Artistic Director for the company.

La bohème
The light of one small candle ignites opera’s most touching and poignant love story. Christmas Eve in Paris. An icy garret. Four young Bohemians living in idealistic poverty. There’s a knock at the door… And so begins Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, the quintessential portrait of romance, high-spirited friendship, and the pursuit of love and art. La bohème is Puccini at his most tender and sympathetic, his music piercing our hearts with its beauty and directness.

OSB welcomes back the lovely soprano Rebecca Davis (Mimì), who triumphed in its production of La traviata last season, along with baritone Malcolm MacKenzie (Marcello) who earned rave reviews as Germont in that same production. Also returning is 2011 OSB Studio Artist, the extraordinary bass Gabriel Vamvulescu (Colline), and Jesse Merlin (Benoit/Alcindoro), who was last seen as Reporter #3 in Séance on a Wet Afternoon.

Making their OSB debuts are former Opera San Jose Resident Artist, tenor Christopher Bengochea, (Rodolfo) who sang the role in OSJ’s production of La bohème last season, and soprano Jan Cornelius (Musetta), who made her 2010 debut with Atlanta Opera as Musetta. She is a resident artist at the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.

Stage Director Brad Dalton has directed productions at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington Opera, San Diego Opera, Austin Lyric Opera among others, and recently directed Renée Fleming in A Streetcar Named Desire in Great Britain with Andre Previn conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. He brings his considerable talent to the OSB stage for this production.

Dean Williamson, one of the country’s foremost emerging opera conductors, will conduct. He is Artistic Director of Opera Cleveland in addition to his conducting engagements with opera companies around the country.

The opera will be sung in Italian with English translations above the stage.

Le nozze di Figaro
Here come the Count and Countess Almaviva, Figaro and Susanna. Toss in an amorous teenager, a scheming old maid, a tipsy gardener and a silly young girl, and you have Mozart’s madcap Le nozze di Figaro. Filled with mistaken identities and plot twists, Mozart deftly maintains a balance between drama and comedy as the wiley Figaro outwits his lecherous master in one “folle journée” – one crazy day! With its brilliant, shimmering score and one breathtaking aria after another, Le nozze di Figaro is Mozart at the height of his genius.

Making her OSB debut, Canadian soprano Rhoslyn Jones sang the role of Countess Almaviva at Vancouver Opera last year to great critical acclaim. She is a former San Francisco Merola Program artist and Adler Fellow; in the role of the Count is baritone Jason Detwiler, who has sung over 30 leading roles with regional companies throughout the United States.

Considered by José Maria Condemi as “three of the most exciting young singers today” the production also features Karen Vuong (Susanna) a former Music Academy of the West Fellow; Brandon Cedel (Figaro) also a MAW Fellow, who will sing a leading role in their production of Barber of Seville this summer; and mezzo-soprano Evgenia Chaverdova, a native of Moscow, who will reprise the role of Cherubino which she sang at Livermore Valley Opera this past season. Returning 2011 OSB Studio Artist and audience favorite Alissa Anderson will sing the role of Marcellina.

Maestro Valéry Ryvkin returns to conduct the OSB orchestra. Directing the production is Kelly Robinson, whose career spans opera, theatre, film and television, and brings this production from The Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada where he is the Director of Theatre Arts.

The opera will be sung in Italian with English translations above the stage.

Orphée et Eurydice

In Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice, Orphée’s grief at the death of Eurydice is so profound, L’Amour (alias Cupid) is moved to appear, telling him he may go to the Underworld and bring her back to life. But there is a catch: he cannot look at her! After calming the Furies with his lyre and fleeing with his beloved, Orphée cannot resist gazing upon her, and pays the ultimate price.

Mezzo-soprano Layna Chianakas, an outstanding Santuzza in OSB’s Cavalleria Rusticana (2008), returns to sing the title role in Orphée et Eurydice; soprano Marnie Brekendridge (Eurydice) recently made critically-acclaimed European and Asian debuts as Cunegonde in Candide, and debuted the role of La Princesse in Philip Glass’s Orphée.

Audiences will experience OSB Artistic Director José Maria Condemi’s deft hand as stage director for this production. Conducting honors go to West Bay Opera’s General and Artistic Director Jose Luis Moscovich.

The opera will be sung in French with English translations above the stage.

Subscriptions on sale now!
Opera Santa Barbara 2011-12 Season subscriptions to all three operas start at $77 and are on sale now through July 15. Subscribers receive discounts of up to 15%. Single ticket sales will begin August 1. To purchase subscriptions call 805-898-3890 or visit www.OperaSB.org.


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