Die Fledermaus, December 1998, Photo by David Bazemore
Welcome to the OSBlog

September is finally here! Don’t get me wrong, I love the summer and have had a great one this year, visiting my family in Greece and traveling to Italy for the first time (can you believe it?). Nevertheless, I’ve been anxious for the new season to start and I’m excited it’s almost here!

Although this is technically my second season with Opera Santa Barbara, it feels like my first, as it’s the first I’ve planned from beginning to end. Though my colleagues and I have worked on it for almost a year now, it feels as though the big picture is only now coming into focus, and it’s just that: BIG.


We wanted to open the season with something big and popular that would delight both opera lovers and those who don’t go to the opera very often but still love big shows with great tunes. Going to the opera is the definition of a big night out, and who doesn’t love dancing gypsies and singing matadors, right? Voila: “Carmen”! It’s going to be a classic production and one of the biggest OSB has done in a while. Leann Sandel-Pantaleo is a GREAT Carmen and I can’t wait for you to see and hear her.

Janacek’s “The Cunning Little Vixen” is one of my top-five favorite operas. I invariably tear up at the final scene (when I’m not conducting, that is). Think of it as the “Lion King” with better music. Janacek is a superb composer and the music of “Vixen” overflows with humanity and love of nature. Can’t wait to do this show with Isabel Bayrakdarian, who has been a good friend since we worked together at LA Opera in 2004. Also, I’m beyond excited to create a new production with the amazingly talented Crystal Manich and our formidable design team.

KarinOK, I’m going to let the fox out of the bag now: Thanks to a brilliant idea from General Director Steven Sharpe, the design will incorporate elements inspired by the landscape and animals of our very own Channel Island National Park!

Our spring show is “La Rondine,” the only Puccini opera in which no-one dies… I’m doing it for the first time, and love learning new pieces! What an elegant score this is – full of Belle Epoque nostalgia and joie de vivre, but underneath it all is a mature Puccini looking back at his life and work, and his characters give voice to his musings about love, relationships, and art. I can’t wait to work with our director, Tara Faircloth, who learned the work from the great Lotfi Mansouri, and with two of my favorite Puccini singers, Karin Wolverton and Adam Diegel.


This is the second season of the expanded Mosher Studio Artist Program, and I’m excited for you all to meet our four young artists. I’m convinced they’ll be local celebrities by the end of the season. Although they don’t arrive until the first week of October, their schedule is practically already full: mainstage roles in all three productions; school performances in January, February, and March; noontime concerts in Santa Barbara, Ojai, Ventura, Solvang, and Santa Maria (these were crazy popular last year); and a series of public masterclasses in the spring. I’m also looking forward to performing Janacek’s “The Diary of One Who Disappeared” with them around the time of “Vixen.” It looks like the Moshers are going to average two or three performances per week when you add it all up, so do subscribe to our email list so you know where and when it’s all happening (www.operasb.org/subscribe.php).


The inaugural season of the Santa Barbara Youth Opera is already underway, with auditions in Santa Barbara and Ojai. Under the direction of the fearless Rebecca Comerford, a group of about 30 kids ages 8-18 are embarking on the musical adventure of a lifetime: In weekly rehearsals throughout the school year they’ll learn to sing, act, and work alongside professional artists and technicians in the awe-inspiring endeavor that is opera production. This year they will perform in “Carmen” and “The Cunning Little Vixen,” and in May they’ll present their very own production of “Brundibar” – an opera originally performed by children at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943 – in collaboration with Ojai Youth Opera and the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony.


You don’t have to wait for our shows to see and hear what we’re up to any more. We’ll be putting all kinds of fun content on our blog and social media for you to enjoy. A new series of podcasts will give you background and fun tidbits about each opera so you’ll be an expert by the time the curtain goes up. You’ll be able to follow our artists around through rehearsal videos and interviews. I’m also hoping that we can start streaming some of our Noontime Concerts and other outreach performances, for those who can’t make it to the venue. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss a thing.


SW2The one and only Simon Williams will present a noncredit enrichment course on the history and nuances of opera through Santa Barbara City College’s Center for Lifelong Learning beginning October 17. If you’ve heard him before, you know not to miss it. If you haven’t heard him, you haven’t lived.

I’ll be giving a little talk before each opera, an hour before the show in the Granada Theatre. Please come and say hello!

I can’t wait to start rehearsals for “Carmen” with the OSB chorus. Working with choruses is a big passion of mine, and I’m so thrilled that I will also be the chorus master this season!

Expect to hear from me in more detail about all this soon, and as always, don’t hesitate to contact me anytime at Kostis@operasb.org, on Twitter @toimo and on Facebook at Kostis Protopapas, Conductor and Opera Santa Barbara.

Opera Santa Barbara is seeking young artists with exceptional career potential and some professional experience for its 2017-18 Mosher Studio Artist Program. Studio Artists perform and cover roles in main-stage productions, perform in educational and outreach programs, and study with Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas and guest artists and instructors. Weekly stipend, performance fees, travel stipend, and patron-hosted housing provided. Studio Artists must have their own vehicle. Live auditions are by invitation only and will be held in Santa Barbara on October 9 and Chicago on December 3. For consideration please submit a one-page resume, a website link or two video/audio clips, and your audition date preference by email to auditions@operasb.org. Submissions should not exceed 10MB. Artists selected for a live audition will be required to pay a $25 audition fee and submit additional materials.

Don Giovanni

Opera Santa Barbara is partnering with Santa Barbara City College’s Center for Lifelong Learning to offer a new course on opera during the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 quarters. Titled “Opera in Performance”, the course will be centered around the three operas being performed in OSB’s 2016-17 season – Carmen, The Cunning Little Vixen, and La rondine – and on some of the operas that will be seen in the HD-Met transmissions – Don Giovanni, Romeo et Juliette, La traviata, and Der Rosenkavalier. The classes will meet on selected Mondays and will be taught by Simon Williams, who will also be inviting guest artists and lecturers to talk about their work and about the many different challenges of creating and performing opera. In lectures and discussions, the course will examine the music, libretto, and performance history of each selected opera. It will also explore the historical background, all with the intention of taking your experience of these masterpieces to a higher level. Both beginners and seasoned veterans of opera are invited to participate.


October 17: Introduction to  Don Giovanni

October 22: Don Giovanni on Met HD

October 24: Introduction to Carmen, including a visit with some of the artists

November 4 & 6: Carmen at the Granada

November 7: Discussion of Carmen

January 23: Introduction to Romeo et Juliette

January 21: Romeo et Juliette on Met HD

February 20: The Cunning Little Vixen, including a visit with some of the artists

February 27: Introduction to The Cunning Little Vixen

March 3 & 5: The Cunning Little Vixen at the Granada

March 6: Discussion of Vixen, introduction to La traviata

March 11: La traviata on Met HD

April 17: In-depth visit with some of the artists from La rondine

April 24: Introduction to La rondine

April 28 & 30: La rondine at the Granada

May 8: Discussion of La rondine and introduction to Der Rosenkavalier

May 13: Der Rosenkavalier on Met HD

Registration for this new series is available through the Lifelong Learning Center website – www.thecll.org.

Mary Tonetti Dorra, an author and former University of California instructor who has supported numerous area cultural organizations over several decades, has been elected to the Board of Directors for Opera Santa Barbara. Her three-year term began in June.

Mary Dorra IIBorn in Macon, Georgia, Ms. Dorra grew up in Texas and earned a degree in philosophy at Vassar College.  Following teaching stints in Costa Rica and Uruguay she spent three years in Italy, first studying at the University of Florence and then working as a research reporter in Time Life’s Rome bureau, writing about art, fashion, and film. She went on to serve as an assistant accessories editor at Harper’s Bazaar and as assistant director of fashion publicity and promotion at Revlon, both in New York, and as director of special events at the May Company in Los Angeles before working as a freelance writer for Mattel. After earning a master’s degree in, and teaching Italian at UCLA, she taught at UCSB.

Ms. Dorra has lectured extensively on gardens and travel, and her articles have appeared in such publications as Gourmet Magazine, The New York Times, Elle Decor, the Los Angeles Times, and Travel + Leisure. She has authored three books, Beautiful American Gardens and Beautiful American Rose Gardens, published by Clarkson Potter, and the historical novel Demeter’s Choice: A Portrait of My Grandmother as a Young Artist.

A former Board member for the UCSB Art Affiliates, Ms. Dorra currently serves as Board secretary for the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts. Her local nonprofit efforts also have included the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Garden Club of Santa Barbara, Planned Parenthood, the Music Academy of the West, the Santa Barbara Symphony, and Ensemble Theatre Company.

“We are very pleased to welcome Mary Tonetti Dorra,” said OSB Board Governance Committee Chair Joan Rutkowski. “She boasts a unique life story and an impressive record of advocacy on behalf of cultural organizations in our community. Opera Santa Barbara is sure to benefit from her involvement.”

“I’m delighted to have Mary Dorra join the Opera Santa Barbara Board,” said Chair Nancy Golden. “She brings a wealth of fundraising experience, a great deal of energy, and a delightful personality. She’s a terrific addition to our organization.”

Opera Santa Barbara will hold additional Youth Opera auditions for its 2016-17 season on September 9 in Ojai. We are looking for singers ages 7 to 18 of exceptional talent, enthusiasm, and musical ability to be a part of our dynamic company. Productions include Bizet’s Carmen in November, Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen in March, and an original children’s opera production of Hans Krasa’s Brunidbár in May. This is a unique and rewarding opportunity to be part of a professional opera company with other young artists who love to sing, act, and celebrate, in a safe, supportive, and artistically challenging environment.

YO auditionsEvery child should come ready to move, dressed in comfortable clothes that are easy to move and work in. Each child should bring 16 measures of a song they love to sing, in any language, in the key they sing it in. Please bring a copy of the music for the pianist.

For an audition time, contact Youth Opera Director Rebecca Comerford at rebeccacomerford@yahoo.com.