Welcome to the Past Events

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.

Joann Younger, a successful entrepreneur whose ventures have included popular women’s clothing stores in Santa Barbara and Sacramento, has been elected to the Board of Directors for Opera Santa Barbara. Her three-year term began in January.

Joann YoungerA native of Dallas, Ms. Younger founded a development firm in Sacramento in the 1960s before turning her attention to women’s fashion, opening the juniors store Sacks Howe Avenue in 1975 and later the boutique Chantilly Lace, both in Sacramento. She currently owns Renaissance Fine Consignment, which has locations in Santa Barbara and Sacramento.

“Joann is a self-made businesswoman whose keen instincts and moxie are certain to prove invaluable as we embark on an exciting new era at Opera Santa Barbara,” said Joan Rutkowski, immediate past chair of the company’s Board of Directors and current chair of its Governance Committee. “Given her impressive record of accomplishment and her infectious enthusiasm, we expect her contributions to our organization to be both substantial and of lasting significance.”

Opera Santa Barbara’s 2015-16 season will resume with a sprightly production of Gaetano Donizetti’s delightful bel canto work The Elixir of Love at the historic Granada Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara on March 4 and 6. Performances will take place at 7:30 pm on Friday, March 4, and at 2:30 pm on Sunday, March 6. Ranging in price from $29 to $204, tickets can be purchased at www.granadasb.org or by calling 805-899-2222.

“As far as romantic comedies go, you can’t do any better than The Elixir of Love,” said Opera Santa Barbara Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas. “It’s Donizetti’s most fun score, and this style of opera is called ‘bel canto’ (beautiful song) for a reason! Everyone who comes to this show is guaranteed to laugh, fall in love with our dashing cast, and leave humming the tunes!”

Donizetti’s endearing confection about the vagaries of romantic love, which met with enthusiasm at its Milan premiere in 1832, brims with charm and some of opera’s most affecting arias. The standout young cast includes soprano Angela Mannino as the alluring landowner Adina, tenor Marco Cammarota as her peasant suitor Nemorino, baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco as Sergeant Belcore, and bass-baritone Zachary Owen as the itinerant charlatan Doctor Dulcamara. Leonardo Vordoni will conduct, with stage direction by Alan E. Hicks.

Soprano Angela Mannino made her Metropolitan Opera debut in May 2010 as the 15-Year-Old Girl in Berg’s Lulu upon completing two seasons at Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center. Most recently she sang the Fairy Godmother in Cendrillon at Kentucky Opera, Papagena in The Magic Flute at Dallas Opera, and Valencienne in The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago on short notice. Ms. Mannino also has been seen in a wide variety of performances with the New Orleans Opera and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

Currently a resident artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, tenor Marco Cammarota recently sang the roles of Rodolfo in La Bohème and Alfredo in La Traviata with the Lafayette and Owensboro symphony orchestras, Nick in La fanciulla del West, and Tybalt in Romeo et Juliette, all as a member of Kentucky Opera’s studio artist program. This season he appeared as Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire with Kentucky Opera, reprised the role of Alfredo with the Rochester Philharmonic, and sang the role of Malcolm in Macbeth at the Glimmerglass Festival.

Baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco has performed with Opera Saratoga, Opera Santa Barbara, Des Moines Metro Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Syracuse Opera, Opera Theatre of St Louis, and Washington National Opera, among others. His many roles have included Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Escamillo in La tragédie de Carmen, Don Giovanni, Giulio Cesare, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Tarquinius in The Rape of Lucretia, and Marcello in La Bohème. Mr. Orozco recently appeared as Papageno at the Seoul International Opera Festival in South Korea.

Making his leading role debut at Opera Santa Barbara, bass-baritone Zachary Owen has performed with Cincinnati Opera, Kentucky Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Central City Opera, Opera North, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. He has performed the roles of Ashby in La fanciulla del West, Don Fernando in Fidelio, and Matouš in Smetana’s The Kiss, among many others. At a recent Cincinnati Opera composer’s workshop Mr. Owen worked alongside Jake Heggie, Jack O’Brien, and Terrence McNally to develop two characters for Heggie’s new opera, Great Scott.

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

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, Opera Santa Barbara’s production of The Elixir of Love is generously supported by the Towbes Fund for the Performing Arts, Michael and Anne Towbes.

Opera Santa Barbara’s 2015-16 season will continue with Puccini’s great one-act operas Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi on April 22 and 24.

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. Following select performances, the stage director and other production members will be available at the front of the house for an informal question-and-answer session.

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.