Kostis Protopapas

Kostis Protopapas was named General Director of Opera Santa Barbara in December 2017, after two-and-a-half seasons as Artistic Director. 

During his time as Artistic Director and principal conductor, Kostis brought a unified vision to OSB’s musical and production values, strengthening the orchestra and chorus, engaging some of the country’s most promising young directors and singers, building a high-performing production team, and increasing focus on contemporary American opera. The result was productions of both familiar and new repertoire that are counted among the finest in the company’s history.  

As General Director, Kostis grew the company’s staff from three to seven, assembling an enthusiastic group of overachievers sharing an appetite for innovation and the desire to strengthen the company’s bond with the community. 

During 2018-19, the company’s 25th anniversary season, Kostis oversaw the sold-out Santa Barbara premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and a production of The Crucible that the Santa Barbara Independent hailed as “one of the season’s most exciting performances of any kind in Santa Barbara”; a 25th anniversary gala concert; and the company’s first-ever student matinee performance as well as its first ever Youth camp.

Under Kostis’ leadership Opera Santa Barbara saw the creation of the Santa Barbara Youth Opera, a program providing educational and performance opportunities for school-age children; the expansion of the company’s Chrisman Studio program to a season-long residency for emerging artists; an impressive growth in the company’s community engagement and educational activities throughout the Central Coast; and the runaway success of Operacurious, a new program that brings Young Professionals in Santa Barbara in contact with opera and its artists.

2016 saw the end of Kostis’ 15-year association with Tulsa Opera, during which he conducted 30 productions of a diverse repertoire extending from popular classics to contemporary American works.  About his 2011 Barber of Seville performances, Alex Ross of The New Yorker wrote, “Most impressive was the fluid idiomatic playing of the orchestra… In any city, it’s rare to find a conductor that sets the right tempo so consistently that you stop noticing he’s there.”

Kostis has been an Assistant Conductor for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, LA Opera and Santa Fe Opera. At the Lyric Opera of Chicago, he also served as Assistant Chorus Master under Donald Palumbo for two seasons..

Born in Athens, Greece, Kostis Protopapas studied Archaeology and History of Art at the University of Athens before coming to the United States in 1993, on an Onassis Foundation scholarship, to study piano at The Boston Conservatory and conducting at Boston University. He became an American citizen in 2011.  He loves living in Santa Barbara, and enjoys downtown restaurants, the Funk Zone’s tasting rooms, and sailing on the Santa Barbara Channel.



L'Elisir d'Amore, March 2016, Photo by David Bazemore