The Barber of Seville

Gioachino Rossini


“Rossini’s comic masterpiece has earned its 202-year-old laugh-out-loud rep as a masterpiece. Opera Santa Barbara’s production last weekend was a brilliant and breezy reminder that great art is timeless – in the right hands. Accolades to Josh Shaw (Director), Ken MacDonald (Sets), Dana Osborne (Costumes) and Helena Kuukka (Lighting) for creating a kaleidoscopically colorful, playfully avant-garde, and downright hilarious production. Josh Shaw’s directing, never over the top, yet ever so close, brought life and laughter to the action – all carefully scripted for laughs without slumming in tawdry shtick. There was superb acting and singing by Andrew Bidlack, a powerful Almaviva; Alexander Elliott. whose Figaro was both savvy and likable; and mezzo-soprano Cassandra Zoé Velasco, an empathetic and sylvan-voiced Rosina. Special thanks to the superb orchestra and nuanced continuo from Kyle Naig. Opera Santa Barbara’s production once again unleashed the brilliance of Rossini.”
– Daniel Kepl /Santa Barbara Voice Magazine


“Opera Santa Barbara’s production of The Barber of Seville was definitely on the cutting edge. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the world’s most enduring operas with a talented cast, great sets, and a capable orchestra under Kostis Protopapas. Alexander Elliott was perfect for the role of conniving crimper Figaro, as were Cassandra Zoé Velasco and Andrew Bidlack as Rosina and Almaviva. Josh Shaw’s direction was spot on; the production design and colorful costumes worked perfectly. It was a glorious night at the opera that was clearly appreciated by the delighted audience.”
– Richard Mineards / Montecito Journal


“Opera Santa Barbara’s Barber of Seville was thoroughly amusing from overture to final bow. Stage director Josh Shaw added a great deal of physical comedy. The singing was simply gorgeous. Andrew Bidlack made Almaviva’s  “Ecco ridente in cielo” a triumphant vocal showpiece. His substitute music teacher performed in drag as “Donna Alonsa” had the audience shrieking with laughter. Baritone Alexander Elliott sang Figaro with whirlwind patter and the kind of instinctive timing that assures laughs throughout the hall. Cassandra Zoé Velasco was a charming Rosina with a wide, beautifully colored vocal range. Kostis Protopapas led the orchestra with the ever increasing tempi and dynamics Rossini designed to keep audiences on the edges of their seats for most of the evening. No wonder at the end of this performance the applause sounded like a second storm.”
– Maria Nockin / Broadway World


“Opera Santa Barbara’s sparkling production of The Barber of Seville emphasized outrageous behavior and disguises. Alexander Elliott cut an enviable Figaro, Cassandra Zoé Velasco’s Rosina glowed from within, and Andrew Bidlack positively threw out the book as a hell-raising, cross-dressing Count Almaviva. Under the baton of maestro Kostis Protopapas, the orchestra released the playful joy of an irrepressible score.”
– Charles Donelan / Santa Barbara Independent




Photos by David Bazemore


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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. As General Director Kostis assembled a team of enthusiastic overachievers with a passion for innovation and the desire to strengthen the company’s bond with the community, who consistently deliver programs and communications far greater than what can be expected from the size of the company.

Performance highlights from Kostis’ tenure include grand opera classics like Madama Butterfly, Manon, and Eugene Onegin as well as contemporary works like Daniel Catan’s Il Postino, the mariachi opera Cruzar la cara de la luna,  and Robert Ward’s The Crucible, which the Santa Barbara Independent called “one of the season’s most exciting performances of any kind in Santa Barbara”.

Between March 2020 and June 2021, under Kostis’ leadership Opera Santa Barbara remained active and fully staffed.  It was the first performing arts organization in Santa Barbara to offer streaming programming, and one of only two opera companies in California to present three live operas in the 2020-21 season.  Additionally, Opera Santa Barbara became an advocacy leader for the reopening of the performing arts, and funded live performances by local musicians through “Operation Eurydice”.   

Before coming to Santa Barbara Kostis was the Artistic Director of Tulsa Opera since 2008.  He previously  was an Assistant Conductor with 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.


Stage Director:

Josh Shaw

Named as one of Musical America’s Top 30 Innovators in Classical Music, Josh Shaw is the Executive and Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Project (POP), which has been described as "L.A.'s most exciting new opera company." Over the past ten seasons, Mr. Shaw has directed over 35 productions at POP, including The Rake’s Progress, Ariadne auf Naxos, La Calisto, Tosca: A Moving Production; and La Boheme: AKA “The Hipsters”.  Mr. Shaw’s reimagining of Die Entführung aus dem Serail as an episode of Star Trek has gained national attention and has been produced with record-breaking numbers.


Since turning his attention to directing in 2011, Mr. Shaw has directed over 80 productions at companies including New Orleans Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Opera Orlando, Intermountain Opera, Opera in the Heights, The Southern Illinois Music Festival, Opera Neo, Gulfshore Opera, Queen City Opera, and Salt Marsh Opera. Mr. Shaw's Barber of Seville at Opera Santa Barbara was described as "riotously funny" and "thoroughly amusing from overture to final bow." His work as a director has been described as "Brave and unflinching," "Ingenious," "Relentlessly and adorably rambunctious," "with enough good comic ideas for at least three productions." As a producer, he has been praised for his "supreme savvy" and "high level of production quality" with "the power to enthrall and captivate audiences."


Recent projects include US premieres of Gluck’s La Corona and Il Parnaso confuso, a new 2020 inspired English adaptation of Cosi fan tutte, a drive in Don Pasquale, and Bizet’s little-known Italian opera buffa, Don Procopio. In 2018 Mr. Shaw directed Tabasco: A Burlesque Opera, a newly rediscovered operetta by G. W. Chadwick, last performed in 1894, which was described as "delightful, packed with humor, and a feast for all the senses" by The New Orleans Advocate. In addition to directing the production, Mr. Shaw also wrote a new book and additional lyrics for the project that celebrated the McIlhenney Company’s 150th anniversary.


In addition to the rewrite of Tabasco and the new book and lyrics for Abduction from the Seraglio, Mr. Shaw has written several English version librettos including a Wild West setting of Die Lustige Witwe, a contemporary setting of Die Schauspieldirektor, a production of Die Zauberflöte set in the world of 1980s video games, and a groundbreaking production of Madama Butterfly sung in Japanese and English, a co-production of POP and Opera in Heights (Houston).

Scenic Designer:

Ken MacDonald


Scenic Designer / Carmen

March 2018 (debut)

Lighting Designer:

Helena Kuukka

A native of Helsinki, Finland, Helena Kuukka joins the Opera SB staff from Orlando, Florida. Helena’s Opera Santa Barbara debut was as Lighting Designer of The Barber of Seville in 2018, followed by Eugene Onegin in 2019. Other favorite opera designs include The Marriage of Figaro and Eugene Onegin (Florida Grand Opera), Aida (Vancouver Opera, Portland Opera), Samson and Delilah and La Boheme (Tulsa Opera), La Traviata and The Merry Widow (Kansas City Lyric Opera), and Rockland (Pine Mountain Music Festival). Her dance designs include CarmenGiselleVampire’s Ball and Firebird for Orlando Ballet as well as Swan Lake, The Little Mermaid, and several contemporary works for Ballet Memphis. Helena is also a frequent designer at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma where her credits include productions of TitanicOklahoma, Dreamgirls, Ragtime, Hello Dolly, Newsies, Mamma Mia and the world premiere of When We’re Gone.

Costume Designer:

Dana Osborne


Costume Designer / Carmen

March 2018 (debut)

Hair & Makeup Designer:

Heather Sterling

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 forty 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.


Hair & Makeup Designer / Tosca

February 2006 (debut)

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Count Almaviva:

Andrew Bidlack

Featured by Opera News as one of their 'top 25 brilliant young artists' (October 2015), tenor Andrew Bidlack began the 2016-17 Season at Dallas Opera where he prepares two new roles: Lensky in Eugene Onegin and Greenhorn/Ishmael in Moby. He develops the role of Christopher Morcom in The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing (by Justine Chen and David Simpatico) for American Lyric Theater, and travels to Madison Opera for the role of Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. Also in Madison he performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra Principle Organist in a program of arias from Handel's Messiah, Mendelssohn's Elijah, and other opera favorites. He reprises Rob Hall in a concert performance of Joby Talbot's Everest at Dallas Opera, and Getry's rarely heard opera Zémire et Azor makes great use of the artist's flexible coloratura when he sings the title role at Saratoga Opera.

Recent highlights include his European and UK debut in the challenging role of Private John Ball in In Parenthesis, Welsh National Opera's world-premiere by Iain Bell, directed by David Poutney and conducted by Carlo Rizzi with performances at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden; and his Metropolitan Opera of New York debut as Beppe in I pagliacci, where he also sang the Lamplighter while covering Edmondo Manon in Lescaut for which he won critical accolades. At Arizona Opera he joined the production of Florencia en el Amazonas as Arcadio.

Bidlack is a frequent interpreter of contemporary music; he created the roles of Rob Hall in Joby Talbot's Everest at Dallas Opera and that of Irving Tashman in Ricky Ian Gordon's Morning Star at Cincinnati Opera. He workshopped Greenhorn/Ishmael in the developmental production of Moby Dick at San Francisco Opera while he was an Adler Fellow and inaugurated Tandcredi in The Inspector (John Musto) at Wolf Trap. As a Merolino, he created the role of Charles Carter in Thomas Pasatieri's The Hotel Casablanca. Making his debut with Lyric Opera of Chicago, he appeared at Carnegie Hall as The Young Collector in their production of A Streetcar Named Desire with Renée Fleming, a role he also sang in Chicago. At Dallas Opera, he sang Sandy in The Lighthouse for the inception of their Chamber Opera Series.

With a large number of Rossini/Mozart and bel canto roles also to his credit, Andrew has appeared as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Ferrando in Così fan tutte at Florida Grand Opera; Rodrigo in Rossini's Otello at Opera Southwest; Almaviva and Don Ramiro La cenerentola at Opera Omaha; Tonio in La fille du régiment at Palm Beach Opera and PORTopera; Pedrillo in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor at San Francisco Opera; Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore at Empire State Lyric Theater; and Bastien in Bastien and Bastienna at Des Moines Metro Opera.


Cassandra Zoe Velasco


Rosina / The Barber of Seville

March 2018 (debut)


Alexander Elliott


Figaro / The Barber of Seville

March 2018 (debut)

Doctor Bartolo:

Peter Strummer


Doctor Bartolo /
The Barber of Seville

March 2018 (debut)

Don Basilio:

Nathan Stark


Don Basilio /
The Barber of Seville

March 2018 (debut)


Elle Valera

Soprano Elle Valera is a recent alumna of Opera Santa Barbara's Chrisman Studio Artist Program. As part of the program, she sang Berta in The Barber of Seville and Poussette in Manon; she also covered the title role in Manon and both Donna Anna and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni for the company. She is a recent L.A. District Winner and Western Region Finalist for the Metropolitan Council Auditions. She was a 2017 fellowship student at the Aspen Music Festival, where she covered the roles of Feu, Princesse, and Le Rossignol in Ravel's L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. In previous years, she was an Apprentice Artist with Central City Opera, where she performed the roles of Madame Herz in The Impresario and Sarah in The Ballad of Baby Doe, taking home Central City’s McGlone Guild Award for outstanding performance. Elle attended UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music on a full scholarship and received her master’s degree in music in 2014. While at UCLA, she sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and the title role in Il Segreto di Susanna. Ms. Valera holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of California, Irvine, and is the recipient of several awards, including the 2016 Pasadena Opera Guild Young Artist Award and an Encouragement Award from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Council Auditions in 2014. Beyond opera, Elle is a plus-size model represented by Bicoastal Management and an Instagram influencer and blogger, promoting body positivity and diversity.

Byron Mayes Photo

Byron Mayes


Sam / Trouble in Tahiti

April 2018


Fiorello / Il barbiere di Siviglia

March 2018


Guard / Manon

November 2017


Crébillon / La rondine

November 2016


Chrisman Studio Artist


The Barber of Seville, Feb-2018. David Bazemore Photo