Lucia di Lammermoor, April 2002, David Bazemore Photo
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By Charles Donelan

Santa Barbara Independent

What a splendid night this was for Opera Santa Barbara. The double feature of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi succeeded in conveying two crucial features of the operatic form—the lightheartedness of make-believe and the soul-searing intensity of a grand passion.

Opera Santa Barbara - Gianni Schicchi 4/20/16 Granada TheatreIn Schicchi, Puccini thematizes the double spectacle of opera as public event by playing off the real privilege traditionally displayed by opera audiences against the pretend aristocracy of the figures on stage. As the poet James Merrill wrote of his first experience of a matinee performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, “with pulsing wealth the house is filled,/ No one believing, everybody thrilled.” In this production, thanks to superb direction by Fenlon Lamb and excellent scenic, lighting, and hair and makeup design, the peculiar thrills of make-believe were out in full force.

The ensemble rose to the challenge of this fast-paced farce by displaying a seemingly effortless but no doubt hard-earned cohesion throughout the work’s multiple shifts in mood. The search for Donati’s will was particularly entertaining, with every character but one engaged in turning the set upside down and inside out in an avaricious frenzy. Stefano de Peppo was a marvelous Gianni Schicchi, and Monica Yunus and Jason Slayden brought out the secondary theme of young love effectively as Lauretta and Rinuccio. With Brooks Firestone in the role of Buoso Donati, this was sophisticated fun for the funders of Santa Barbara’s trust funds.

Suor Angelica was a quite different, though complementary, story. Opera’s deepest well of feeling resides in the heart (and throat) of the diva and those who adore her, and Angelica delivers that feeling unalloyed. It’s Puccini’s ultimate statement on the complex relationship between the sacrificial soprano and the Madonna, and as such it is essential listening for any serious opera fan. Maria Kanyova gave a fabulous, multilayered performance as Angelica that was lit from within by incandescent vocal prowess and emotional commitment to the role. In the final sequence Kanyova broke through the conventions of polite discourse and took the audience with her on a wild ride to the outer reaches of tragic emotion. Alissa Anderson, as the Principessa, achieved an equal dignity even in an unsympathetic role, lending significant gravitas to the proceedings. The meeting of these two unstoppable forces—social censure and spiritual yearning—issued in transcendent music.


Richard Banks, a retired CPA and longtime supporter of local nonprofit organizations, has been elected to the Board of Directors for Opera Santa Barbara. His three-year term began this month.

Richard BanksMr. Banks earned a degree in business administration at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, before beginning his career as a tax accountant and auditor for Arthur Andersen & Co. He went on to serve as a controller and chief financial officer for a number of companies involved in manufacturing, agriculture, government contracting, and oil and gas development. Mr. Banks also worked in family wealth planning, specializing in high-net-worth individuals and family businesses. His professional affiliations include membership in the American Institute of CPAs, the California Society of CPAs, Tech Coast Angels, and the Family Firm Institute.

His extensive involvement with local nonprofit boards has included Crane Country Day School, Transition House, Ensemble Theatre Company, the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Zoo, Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Foundation, the Community Environmental Council, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and the Lobero Theatre, among others.

“Richard has a background rich in cultural discernment and community engagement, and as such is an ideal fit for our organization,” said Joan Rutkowski, immediate past chair of Opera Santa Barbara’s Board of Directors and current chair of its Governance Committee. “We are immensely fortunate to have an individual of his caliber contribute to the company’s leadership discussions.”


Opera Santa Barbara’s Mosher Studio Artist program will be offering a series of free masterclasses. From coaching on acting skills to performing Italian repertoire, these classes are a wonderful opportunity to watch professional coaches work one-on-one with our artists.

Following is a list of classes:

Stage Director Alan Hicks: Monday, February 22, 6-8 pm, Weinman Hall, Music Academy of the West

LA Opera Vocal Coach Nino Sanikidze: Saturday, March 12, 1-3 pm, Weinman Hall, Music Academy of the West

Italian bass Stefano de Peppo: Saturday, April 9, 1-3 pm, Weinman Hall, Music Academy of the West

UCSB Faculty Member Linda di Fiore, Saturday, April 23, 1-3 pm, First Congregational Church, 2101 State Street

Celebrated pianist Warren Jones: Saturday, May 14, 1-3 pm, Lotte Lehmann Hall, UCSB

Attendance to these classes is being offered FREE to the general public.


PrintOpera Santa Barbara’s popular outreach program for elementary schools, The Opera Lab will be touring schools in February, March, April and May, 2016!

The program will tour South Santa Barbara County schools on February 1-12 and again on March 21-25. The program will tour Ventura County schools on March 7-11. The program will tour North Santa Barbara County schools on March 14-18. Additional sessions will be added in late March and early May as needed.

The Opera Lab is an innovative highly interactive program designed to teach your students the A-B-and high Cs of opera! Guided by four professional singers specially trained in improvisation, your students will learn the building blocks of this fascinating art form and use them to construct their very own opera, performed for them on the spot.

With its music, theatrics, spectacle and humor, opera has everything people love. That is why year after year, community members and educators who experience Opera Santa Barbara’s programs beg for more. Opera Santa Barbara’s program, The Opera Lab brings an interactive build-an-opera adventure to your students – at no charge to your school!

To schedule an Opera Lab for your school, CLICK HERE.


Opera Santa Barbara’s popular Noontime Concert series is expanding, reaching public libraries throughout the region. Following is the list of free concerts being offered:

February 17: Santa Barbara Public Library
February 19: Ventura Public Library
February 24: Santa Barbara Public Library
March 2: Santa Barbara Public Library
March 8: Thousand Oaks Public Library
March 10: Ojai Public Library
March 18: Ventura Public Library
April 6: Santa Barbara Public Library
April 12: Thousand Oaks Public Library
April 13: Santa Barbara Public Library
April 14: Ojai Public Library
April 15: Ventura Public Library
April 20: Santa Barbara Public Library
May 10: Thousand Oaks Public Library
May 11: Santa Barbara Public Library
May 12: Ojai Public Library
May 13: Ventura Public Library

All concerts begin at 12:00 noon and feature popular and lesser-known operatic arias and duets.

If you work with a public library in Santa Barbara or Ventura Counties and are not currently scheduled, please contact our office and we will add your library to the schedule of concerts!

For more information, call 805-898-3890