- Opera Santa Barbara presented a striking and moving Aida in Francesca Zambello’s stark, reinvigorating production; modern and post-Modernist elements slip into the contextual mix of this roughed-up, scaled-down aesthetic, which respected the integrity of the original while zooming forward to a present-tense tension and relevance. The chance-taking inventiveness pays off – this Aida was an opera experience among the stronger ever staged in town.
– Josef Woodard / Santa Barbara News-Press
- Opera Santa Barbara premiered Aida in a performance that will beautifully color memories for years to come. This fresh take on Giuseppe Verdi’s masterwork offered new insights; Zambello’s production dispenses with the elephants and plays decidedly against the ‘grand opera’ tradition. The modern concept made for a production that was enthralling and unrelenting throughout, offering insights into the relevancy of opera as a dramatic art form today. The singing and acting was engaging, with a standout portrayal of Aida from Michelle Johnson. During the curtain call, the company received unbridled enthusiasm from patrons who appreciated this updated Aida.
– Robert F. Adams / CASA Magazine
- Opera Santa Barbara’s newest production Aida really did start with a bang! The huge explosion on curtain up marked the introduction of an entirely new version of Verdi’s beloved production. Gone were the ancient Egyptian backdrops, replaced with machine guns, jeeps and a setting more akin to the recent Libyan revolution, with bullet strewn walls and bombed infrastructure. Francesca Zambello’s version of Aida concentrated on the romance rather than the spectacle to excellent effect under revival director Michael Rau. The three principals in the love triangle were perfect picks. This was a most marvelous production by any standard!
– Richard Mineards | Montecito Journal
- In this musically satisfying and dramatically different production of Aida, another meaning is layered onto the tragic confluence of love and death. This fully loaded update cracked the seal separating the stage of grand opera and the streets of contemporary Egypt. Aida was wonderfully sung and acted by Michelle Johnson; Ta’u Pupu’a made an excellent Radamès and Catherine Martin was outstanding as Amneris, her urgency dissolving into devastating pathos in the final act.
– Charles Donelan / Santa Barbara Independent
- Opera Santa Barbara didn’t have to stretch operatic truth terribly far to pluck images of Arab Spring in its apt new production of Aida. Opera Santa Barbara has put a lot on the line by selecting Francesca Zambello’s controversial new production; Michelle Johnson repeated her intensely dramatic Aida; Catherine Martin’s Amneris took on enough depth of feeling to ultimately, and unexpectedly, make her the standout of the performance.
– Mark Swed / Los Angeles Times
Originally directed by Francesca Zambello
Scenery designed by Lee Savage
Original lighting design by Robert Wierzel; Re-created by Eric Southern
Costumes designed by Bibhu Mohapatra
Projected translation by Kelley Rourke
The scenery, lighting, costumes, sound design and translations were originally created for Glimmerglass Festival
Eric Sean Fogel
Eric Sean Fogel
Brent Wilson is a tenor, conductor, and stage director now in his fourth season as chorus master for Opera Santa Barbara, where his work has been critically praised as "simply superb" and "deserving of special kudos." This season, he staged Così fan tutte for both the North End Music and Performing Arts Center in Boston and Viterbo Opera; conducted the family performance of Opera Santa Barbara's Don Pasquale; and sang Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen for Ventura College, where he serves as Director of Opera and Voice. He has excelled in featured character roles for Boston Lyric Opera and Opera Santa Barbara, and he performed a staged version of Janácek's The Diary of One Who Vanished for Intermezzo Opera. He has performed with top choruses including Lyric Opera Chicago, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Boston Lyric Opera, and the Grammy-nominated ensemble Boston Baroque. He holds degrees from Boston University.
Heather Sterling is an accomplished makeup artist and hair stylist with a wide range of experience that includes work in theater, film, print, and fashion. She is a licensed cosmetologist and has a degree in fine art with an emphasis in psychology. Armed with an extensive knowledge of period makeup and hairstyles, Heather first designed for Opera Santa Barbara in 2006 for the company's performances of Tosca; since then her work has been seen in nearly twenty OSB productions. She regularly designs for the Music Academy of the West's summer operas and she recently designed for the Granada Theatre's A Christmas Carol.
Young mezzo-soprano Catherine Martin has been praised for her "gorgeous warm voice" by The Washington Post as she makes an impact in repertoire ranging from Verdi and Wagner to Mozart and Donizetti. Of her Amneris with Opera Santa Barbara the LA Times said "Martin's Amneris took on enough depth of feeling to ultimately make her the standout of the performance." Catherine recently returned to Houston Grand Opera as Wellgunde in Das Rheingold and to the Glimmerglass Festival as Der Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos. She debuted with Washington National Opera as Mary in the premiere of The Lion, the Unicorn and Me, sang the roles of Amadora and Stelladora in Musto's Bastianello and Lucrezia in Bolcom's Lucrezia in a double-bill with Urban Arias, and joined the National Symphony Orchestra for Der Rosenkavalier. In concert she performed Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with New Haven Symphony, and Schubert's Mirjams Siegesgesang with the San Antonio Symphony. An alumna of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Catherine performed Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, Anna in Maria Stuarda, Flora in La traviata, Berta in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Dryad in Ariadne auf Naxos. Upcoming she will debut with Dayton Opera as Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking, return to Houston Grand Opera as Waltraute in Die Walküre, reprise her Amneris for Opera Colorado's Aïda, make her debut with the Dresden Staatskapelle, and return to Washington National Opera.
During the 2013-14 season, the young American bass Kevin Thompson made his South American and role debut as Mephistopheles in Faust with Fundación Teatro Nacional Sucre in Ecuador; his role debut as the Grand Inquisiteur in Don Carlos with CCCM Concert Series, and return engagements with Knoxville Opera in role debuts as Oroveso in Norma and Crespel, Luther, and Schlemil in Les Contes D'Hoffmann. Ramfis in Aida for the Bob Jones University Opera Series, Don Carlos in Concert in New York, in the Verdi Requiem with the Idaho State Civic Symphony, and in the Mozart Requiem with the Montgomery Philharmonic. His European concert appearances include Wexford Opera House in Ireland and in the La Folle Journee Festival in France.?He performed the role of Ramfis in Opera Santa Barbara's 2013 production of Aida; and debuted the same year with Ash Lawn Opera Festival as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte.?Mr. Thompson is an alumnus of San Francisco Opera's prestigious Merola Program, The Juilliard School in New York, Dolora Zajick's Institute for Dramatic Young Voices, AIMS Graz (American Institute of Musical Studies) and Aspen Music Festival.