Opera Santa Barbara will open its 23rd season with Georges Bizet’s timeless drama Carmen on November 4 and 6, followed by compelling productions of Leoš Janáček’s imaginative The Cunning Little Vixen on March 3 and 5, and Giacomo Puccini’s richly melodic La Rondine on April 28 and 30. Performances will take place at the historic Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara. Subscription sales are underway.
Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas will make his company conducting debut for Opera Santa Barbara’s production of Carmen. One of the world’s most popular operas, Bizet’s wonderfully vibrant and riveting tale of love and jealousy overflows with delightful music. Mexican director Octavio Cardenas will stage this production, which will feature Leann Sandel-Pantaleo in the title role, Harold Meers as Don Jose, and Jeanine De Bique as Micaela.
Crystal Manich will direct a new production of The Cunning Little Vixen, Janáček’s humorous and tender allegory about the connections between people and animals, and the cyclical nature of life and death. The production, to be designed by Jean-Pierre Couture, will appeal to both children and adults, and will be performed in English with English subtitles. Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian will perform the role of the vixen, David Kravitz will portray the Forester, and Lauren McNeese will make her company debut as the fox.
And the season will conclude with Opera Santa Barbara’s premiere production of La Rondine, Puccini’s elegant and poignant operetta about a worldly woman who falls in love with a naïve younger man, who in turn causes her to question the cost of her glittering existence. Tara Faircloth will direct and Kostis Protopapas will conduct. Karin Wolverton will make her company debut as Magda, Adam Diegel will play the role of Ruggiero, and Zeffin Quinn Hollis will perform as Rambaldo.
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.
In 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.
Mr. 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 end its Masterclass series with a free masterclass with celebrated pianist Warren Jones.
The class will be held on Saturday, May 14, 10-12 pm, Lotte Lehmann Hall, UCSB
Attendance to watch the class is being offered FREE to the general public.
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