By Giacomo Puccini
One of the world’s most beloved musical dramas, La Bohème is a story of love, friendship, loss, and coming of age, wrapped in Puccini’s achingly beautiful melody. Kostis Protopapas conducts. Omer Ben Seadia, last with OSB for A Streetcar Named Desire and L’italiana in Algeri, will direct. Eleni Calenos and Nathan Granner will make you melt in their Santa Barbara debuts as Mimì and Rodolfo.
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.
Omer Ben Seadia
Director Omer Ben Seadia has quickly established herself as one of the opera's fresh new voices. After working for the Israeli Opera for over a decade, Ms. Ben Seadia moved to the United States in 2012 to begin her international directing career. She made her Opera Santa Barbara debut in 2015, directing productions of L'italiana in Algeri and Streetcar Named Desire. She completed the prestigious opera directing program at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2014. While at CCM, she directed numerous productions including Don Pasquale (Donizetti), Le Docteur Miracle (Bizet) and Saint John's Passion (Bach). Other recent productions include the world premiere of Steal a Pencil for Me by Gerald Cohen and Deborah Brevoort at Opera Colorado, a revival of John Caird’s production of Tosca at Houston Grand Opera, Faust at Tulsa Opera, Considering Matthew Shepard in collaboration with Cincinnati Opera and the Vocal Arts Ensemble, The Elixir of Love at Naples Opera, a double bill of Der Kaiser von Atlantis/Brundibár with Cincinnati Chamber Opera, Così fan tutte at the University of Michigan, Roméo et Juliette at the International Vocal Arts Institute, and The Sound of Music at Crested Butte Music Festival. Ms. Ben Seadia is committed to the development and training of young artists; she has been on staff for the Houston Grand Opera Studio program, the Merola Opera Program, the International Vocal Arts Institute, and the Aspen Music Festival. Upcoming productions include Idomeneo at Wolf Trap Opera, Yardbird with Atlanta Opera, a double bill of Tom Cipullo’s Josephine and After Life at Opera Colorado, and the world premier of Home of my Ancestors by Nkeiru Okoye and Anita Gonzalez for HGOco.
Tenor Nathan Granner, a renowned solo and collaborative artist, has a “vibrant and flexible” voice (The Boston Globe) and “possesses utter control of a ravishing mixed head sound” (Opera News). Mr. Granner uses his voice in styles ranging from opera to jazz and classical cross-over performances. This season, Mr. Granner was seen at Long Beach Opera in the title role in The Invention of Morel by Stewart Copeland of The Police and Jonathan Moore. His diverse repertoire includes Curly in Oklahoma! (Charlottesville Opera) and Kanye West in Hunter Shelby Long’s Fair Looks and True Obedience (known as the “Kardashian opera”, it is set during the hour before Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding). He has also performed Nemorino in The Elixir of Love, Ferrando in Così fan tutte, and Rodolfo in La bohème with companies such as Lyric Opera Kansas City, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Tulsa Opera, Spoleto USA, Wolf Trap and Glimmerglass Opera. In the crossover realm, he is a founding member of The American Tenors, whose Sony Masterworks album reached top five in the classical crossover charts. Nathan has also toured extensively with classical guitarist Beau Bledsoe, singing new arrangements of lieder and chanson, flamenco, tango,Turkish music and new compositions. Mr. Granner has also performed at dozens of charitable fundraisers with David Foster and Friends, helping raise tens of millions of dollars to find the cures for Parkinson’s disease, cancer and to aid in Children’s Health, Wildlife Conservation and Substance Abuse.
Greek soprano Eleni Calenos is capturing critics' and audiences' admiration for her warm, beautiful voice and her dignified characterizations. Of her performance as Tosca, Opera News said: "Eleni Calenos gave a performance for the ages, both vocally and dramatically." Recent appearances include Giorgetta in Il Tabarro (Opera Company of Middlebury), Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly (Annapolis Opera and Ash Lawn Opera), Tosca (Opera Idaho), Mimì in La bohème (Shreveport Opera and Palm Beach Opera), Micaëla in Carmen (Palm Beach Opera), and Desdemona in Otello (Phoenicia International Festival). In the 2016/2017 season, she sang Giorgetta in Il Tabarro and the title role in Suor Angelica with Opera Delaware, and covered Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly for Glyndebourne Opera. Her repertoire also includes Gilda in Rigoletto, Liù in Turandot, Nedda in Pagliacci, Antonia in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Lia in Debussy's L'Enfant Prodigue, Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, and the title role in The Merry Widow with companies including Palm Beach Opera, Shreveport Opera, Opera Idaho, Tulsa Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Sarasota Opera, Mississippi Opera, and Zomeropera (Belgium). Her concert repertoire includes Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Strauss' Four Last Songs, Verdi's Messa da Requiem, and Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Her recordings include Mascagni's Zanetto with Odyssey Opera of Boston, and George Tsontakis' Mirologhia, released on the KOCH International Classics. Ms. Calenos won the Gerda Lissner Foundation award (2010), and was a finalist of the Renata Tebaldi International Vocal Competition in San Marino (2009), and the Concurso del Canto de Bilbao (2008). She was a member of Boston University's Opera Institute and holds a Masters Degree in Vocal Performance from Queens College in New York, as well as a Diploma in Violoncello Performance form the Municipal Conservatory of Thessaloniki, Greece.
Luis Alejandro Orozco
An El Paso, Texas native, Mexican-American Baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco has been praised for his “voluminous baritone and beautiful legato.” He made his Opera Santa Barbara debut as Assan in The Consul in 2014; he returned as Taddeo in L’italiana in Algeri in 2015 and as Belcore in The Elixir of Love in 2016. Luis began the 2017-2018 season with Mill City Summer Opera as El Payador in Maria de Buenos Aires, a role he has also performed with Florida Grand Opera, Cincinnati Opera, the Aspen Music Festival, Anchorage Opera, Nashville Opera, New Orleans Opera and Fort Worth Opera. He also makes his debut with San Diego Opera as Riolobo in Florencia en el Amazonas, and returns to Anchorage Opera as Hannah Before in As One. Previous seasons have included performances of Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Florentine Opera and Syracuse Opera, Escamillo in Carmen with Michigan Opera Theater, Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette with Lyric Opera Baltimore, Opera Grand Rapids, and Austin Lyric Opera, Riolobo in Florencia en el Amazonas with Washington National Opera and Arizona Opera, Perichaud in La Rondine with Opera Theater of St. Louis, the title role in Don Giovanni with Opera Western Reserve, and Marcello in La bohème with Kentucky Opera. Overseas, Orozco has performed the role of Papageno in Mozart’s Magic Flute, with The Seoul International Opera Festival in South Korea, and the title role in Rossini’s Il Signor Bruschino with the CCM Spoleto Festival. Orozco was a part of the Kennedy Center World Stages Festival in the premiere staged reading of Fallujah by composer Tobin Stokes in 2013.
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.
Baritone Yazid Gray is originally from Gaithersburg, Maryland. He is a recent graduate of University of Michigan where he received his Master’s in Vocal Performance under the tutelage of Stephen Lusmann. While at Michigan, Yazid performed several roles within their main stage opera seasons. These include Mercutio (Roméo et Juliette), Demetrius (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and Oliver Jordan in the Michigan premiere of William Bolcom’s newest opera, Dinner at Eight. In the summer of 2018, Yazid joins the Studio Artist Program at Opera Maine where he will sing the role of Charlie in Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers. Other operatic roles include Silvio (Pagliacci) and Sid (Albert Herring) with Opera in the Ozarks, Undertaker and Frazier (Porgy and Bess) with the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, MI. He is an alumnus of DePauw University where he studied with Caroline Smith. During his time at DePauw, Yazid sang roles such as Frank (Die Fledermaus), Nardo (La Finta Giardiniera), Ottone (L’incoronazione di Poppea), John Brooke (Little Women), as well as a wide range of operatic and musical theater scenes. He has worked with well-known composers, which include Mark Adamo, John Corigliano, Roberto Sierra, Adam Guettel, and Gabriela Frank. Outside of opera, Yazid has performed roles in several musicals such as Jim Conley (Parade) and Hunter Bell ([title of show]), both with DePauw University, Al (The Most Happy Fella) and Ivor (Babes in Arms) with the College Light Opera Company in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
2018-19 Chrisman Studio Artist
Paris, the 1830s. In their Latin Quarter garret, the near-destitute artist Marcello and poet Rodolfo try to keep warm on Christmas Eve by feeding the stove with pages from Rodolfo’s latest drama. They are soon joined by their roommates – Colline, a philosopher, and Schaunard, a musician, who brings food, fuel, and funds he has collected from an eccentric student. While they celebrate their unexpected fortune, the landlord, Benoît, comes to collect the rent. After making the older man drunk, they urge him to tell of his flirtations. When he does, they throw him out in mock indignation at his infidelity to his wife. As his friends depart to celebrate at the Café Momus, Rodolfo remains behind to finish an article but promises to join them later. There is another knock at the door—the visitor is Mimì, a pretty neighbor, whose candle has gone out on the stairway. As she enters the room she suddenly feels faint. Rodolfo gives her a sip of wine, then helps her to the door and relights her candle. Mimì realizes she lost her key when she fainted, and as the two search for it, both candles are blown out. Rodolfo finds the key and slips it into his pocket. In the moonlight, he takes Mimì’s hand and tells her about his dreams. She recounts her life alone in a lofty garret, embroidering flowers and waiting for the spring. Rodolfo’s friends are heard outside, calling him to join them. He responds that he is not alone and will be along shortly. Happy to have found each other, Mimì and Rodolfo leave, arm in arm, for the café.
Amid the shouts of street hawkers near the Café Momus, Rodolfo buys Mimì a bonnet and introduces her to his friends. They all sit down and order supper. The toy vendor Parpignol passes by, besieged by children. Marcello’s former sweetheart, Musetta, makes a noisy entrance on the arm of the elderly but wealthy Alcindoro. The ensuing tumult reaches its peak when, trying to gain Marcello’s attention, she loudly sings the praises of her own popularity. Sending Alcindoro off on a pretext, she finally falls into Marcello’s arms. Soldiers march by the café, and as the bohemians fall in behind, the returning Alcindoro is presented with the check.
At dawn on the snowy outskirts of Paris, a customs official admits farm women to the city. Guests are heard drinking and singing within a tavern. Mimì arrives, searching for Marcello. When the painter appears, she tells him of her distress over Rodolfo’s incessant jealousy. She says she believes it is best that they part. Rodolfo, who has been asleep in the tavern, comes outside. Mimì hides nearby, though Marcello thinks she has left. Rodolfo tells his friend that he wants to separate from Mimì, blaming her flirtatiousness. Pressed for the real reason, he breaks down, saying that her coughing can only grow worse in the poverty they share. Overcome with emotion, Mimì comes forward to say goodbye to her lover. Marcello runs back into the tavern upon hearing Musetta’s laughter. While Mimì and Rodolfo recall past happiness, Marcello returns with Musetta, quarreling about her flirting with a customer. They hurl insults at each other and part, but Mimì and Rodolfo decide to remain together until spring.
Months later in the garret, Rodolfo and Marcello, now separated from their girlfriends, reflect on their loneliness. Colline and Schaunard bring a meager meal. To lighten their spirits the four stage a dance, which turns into a mock duel. At the height of the hilarity Musetta bursts in with news that Mimì is outside, too weak to come upstairs. As Rodolfo runs to her aid, Musetta relates how Mimì begged to be taken to Rodolfo to die. She is made as comfortable as possible, while Musetta asks Marcello to sell her earrings for medicine and Colline goes off to pawn his overcoat. Left alone, Mimì and Rodolfo recall their meeting and their first happy days, but she is seized with violent coughing. When the others return, Musetta gives Mimì a muff to warm her hands and prays for her life. Mimì slowly drifts into unconsciousness. Schaunard realizes that she is dead, and Rodolfo is left desperate.
(via The Metropolitan Opera)