Die Fledermaus, December 1993
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.

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.”

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 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.