Don Pasquale, February 1998, Photo by David Bazemore
Welcome to the Past Events

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.”


Nancy Golden, an accomplished marketing and fundraising professional with a distinguished record of involvement with area cultural and nonprofit organizations, has been named Opera Santa Barbara Board chair. Ms. Golden, who had been serving as vice-chair, will succeed Sandra Urquhart when her two-year term begins July 1. Rounding out the Board’s new complement of officers are Jon DuPrau (vice-chair), Mary Penny (secretary), Richard Banks (treasurer), and Beno Budgor (member at large). Each will serve a one-year term.

Nancy GoldenA native of Connecticut, Ms. Golden earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York, before holding a succession of marketing positions at Time Inc. over a 21-year period. For the past 26 years she has served as the principal of Golden Direct Fundraising, a direct mail consultancy whose clients have included museums and environmental, performing arts, and human services organizations in the Bay Area and locally. Ms. Golden has lectured on direct mail fundraising at the University of San Francisco and presented workshops for members of the Santa Barbara/Ventura Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and for the Santa Barbara Non-Profit Support Center. Her local volunteer efforts include Santa Barbara Meals on Wheels and the Santa Barbara Public Library Adult Literacy Program. She has been a resident of Santa Barbara since 1995, having lived in San Francisco the previous seven years.

“Growing up, I sang in church and school choirs and fell in love with opera upon seeing Carmen at the Met as a seventh-grader. I don’t have much musical talent, but have always loved music, and take great pride in doing what I can to nourish and support music-presenting organizations in our community,” said Ms. Golden, who until recently served on the Santa Barbara Symphony Board. “I care deeply about Opera Santa Barbara and look forward to contributing to its success. The company has a very bright future.”

“We will certainly miss Sandy Urquhart’s calm and insightful leadership as well as her unfailing good nature. She has been an absolute pleasure to work with. At the same time we are very excited at the prospect of having Nancy step into the role of Board chair,” said General Director Steven Sharpe. “Organizations such as ours thrive to the extent they attract committed and talented advocates. Together and individually Sandy and Nancy offer undeniable proof that our company has been exceedingly fortunate in this regard.”


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.

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.


Opera Santa Barbara’s 22nd season will conclude in grand style with a pair of Giacomo Puccini’s great one-act operas, the heart-warming Suor Angelica and the comic farce Gianni Schicchi, at the historic Granada Theatre on April 22 and 24. Performances will take place at 7:30 pm on Friday, April 22, and at 2:30 pm on Sunday, April 24. Ranging in price from $29 to $204, tickets can be purchased at www.granadasb.org or by calling 805-899-2222.

“A teenage girl gets pregnant in a world that has no place for single mothers or their children. That’s the story of Suor Angelica. Greedy relatives fight over their deceased uncle’s fortune with hilarious consequences. That’s the story of Gianni Schicchi. Puccini’s double bill of drama and comedy, containing some of his best known tunes, will make you cry and laugh in the span of less than two hours,” said Opera Santa Barbara Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas.

Often performed together, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi are part of a trio of Puccini operas (Il trittico) that premiered to great fanfare at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918. Critically acclaimed soprano Maria Kanyova will sing Sister Angelica, the tormented Florentine noblewoman compelled by her family to take the veil following a youthful indiscretion. Italian bass-baritone Stefano de Peppo will bring his considerable star power to the role of the endearing fraudster Gianni Schicchi. José Luis Moscovich will conduct, with stage direction by Fenlon Lamb.

“I love the juxtaposition of dreaming and scheming in these two operas,” said Ms. Lamb, who is making her company directorial debut. “Suor Angelica dreams of reuniting with her son and being accepted by her family. Gianni Schicchi schemes to dupe a greedy family into uniting his daughter with their favored son. Dreams of heaven and redemption shown in clear opposition to the schemes that might end in Dante’s Inferno – with all the ups and downs and beautiful music you could ever hope for in one night of opera.”

Ms. Kanyova has enjoyed success with a wide range of repertoire at Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York City Opera, Portland Opera, Utah Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Los Angeles Opera, among many others. Recent highlights of the current season include a role debut as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire with Kentucky Opera, and Ms. Kanyova’s critically acclaimed portrayal of Pat Nixon in Michael Cavanagh’s production of Nixon in China with San Diego Opera.

Mr. de Peppo has performed in opera houses throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico, and South America. Recent engagements include Leporello in Don Giovanni at Finnish National Opera, the title role of Don Giovanni at Mozart Festival Opera, and Don Pasquale at Miami Lyric Opera and Opera North Carolina. He has appeared as Leporello in Prague, Milan, Rome, Mexico City, and Jerez, Spain, among others, and as Dr. Bartolo at Teatro Colón (Colombia), Minnesota Opera, and Palm Beach Opera. He made his New York debut as Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola at Lincoln Center and his Canadian debut as Mustafa in L’italiana in Algeri with Opera Hamilton.

The cast also includes contralto Alissa Anderson (Princess and Zita), soprano Monica Yunus (Lauretta), tenor Jason Slayden (Rinuccio), and local businessman and former California State Assemblyman Brooks Firestone, who will portray the recently deceased aristocrat Buoso Donati in Gianni Schicchi.

Complete artist biographies are available at www.operasb.org.

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, Opera Santa Barbara’s production of Suor Angelica/Gianni Schicchi is generously supported by the Christopher Carroll Endowment Fund.

The Granada Theatre is located at 1214 State Street in Santa Barbara.

Open to all ticket holders, free informative talks will take place 45 minutes before each Opera Santa Barbara performance at the Granada Theatre.