The Magic Flute, October 2008, David Bazemore Photo

Opera Santa Barbara will hold Youth Opera auditions for its 2016-17 season from 12 to 5 pm on August 20 . 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.

The day’s schedule:
Noon-1:30 — Warmups, ensemble singing
1:30-1:45 — Break
1:45-5 – Individual auditions (5 mins each)

Auditions will take place in the Fellowship Room at First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara. There is a parking lot off State Street. The Fellowship Room entrance is accessible via the parking lot.

FCC of Santa Barbara
2101 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Please arrive early to sign up for an audition time.

If you have questions, contact Youth Opera Director Rebecca Comerford at

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 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

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.”