- ‘Madame Butterfly’ made a grand appearance over the weekend courtesy of Opera Santa Barbara. At its compelling center was the altogether impressive soprano Mihoko Kinoshita. The production was sharply directed by Keturah Stickann, and had an especially subtle lighting scheme by Lucas Benjaminh Krech. Once again, Opera Santa Barbara – in the still-fledgling era of Jose Maria Condemi as artistic director – has delivered, offering up a gleaming impression of why this opera is classic.
– Josef Woodard / Santa Barbara News-Press
- ‘Madame Butterfly’ received a fine production from Opera Santa Barbara that created a potent brew of extreme pathos. The arias were sung with startling clarity and grace by this outstanding cast; Kinoshita and Sayapin were transcendent. Conductor Sara Jobin brilliantly balanced Puccini’s vocal pyrotechnics with his instrumental interludes. In the final scene, Butterfly’s self-sacrifice was greeted first with gasps, and then with cheers of ‘brava.’
– Charles Donelan / Santa Barbara Independent
- Opera Santa Barbara’s season-opening ‘Madame Butterfly’ brought a burst of passion and color on Sunday. Central to the impact of the production was Mihoko Kinoshita in the leading role of Cio-Cio-San; her singing is dramatic but never loses its lyrical quality as her character gradually comes to realize that her dreams have turned to dust.
– Rita Moran / Ventura County Star
- Opera Santa Barbara’s 2012-2013 season arrived with a graceful note with Madame Butterfly. The alluring performance revolved around a single set, atmospherically lit by Lucas Benjamin Krech. Director Keturah Stickann engaging staging was inventive throughout the evening. Kinoshita’s “Un bel dì” was sung with caressing depth; the chorus was simply superb as led by chorus master Brent Wilson. Performed to sold-out audiences, the season is off to an inspired start.
– Robert F. Adams / CASA Magazine
- In the pit, Sara Jobin’s conducting was clarity itself, charting a seductive and restrained musical course that revealed a score of telling humanity. All the principals were energized and engaging. His young voice in superb form, Sayapin finessed Pinkerton’s music with earnest expressivity. In the title role, Kinoshita shaped her character’s evolution carefully; as Butterfly gained self-awareness, Ms. Kinoshita’s dulcet voice expanded in beauty and power. Special kudos to chorus master Brent Wilson for his attention to detail, which was rewarded handsomely. The OSB orchestra turned in a beautifully suave performance of the score as well. Bravi tutti!
– Daniel Kepl / CASA Magazine
- Perhaps the most opportune time to see the biggest and brightest that Santa Barbara has to offer is at the opening night of an Opera Santa Barbara production. “Butterfly” rang with a cosmopolitan beauty that is Opera Santa Barbara’s forte. The aching melodies, glittering oriental cherry trees and dancing lights made even the most elegant of Santa Barbara socialite’s jewels look dim in comparison. With the beautiful display, the talented performers and the tragic story, this evening will likely linger with the audience for quite some time.
– Emily Hunt / Daily Nexus
Conductor / The Consul
April 2014 (debut)
Assistant Conductor & Chorus Master
Lucas Benjaminh Krech
Lucas Benjaminh Krech
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)
Nina Yoshida Nelsen
Nina Yoshida Nelsen
Hailed as a “rich voiced, expressive mezzo-soprano” by San Francisco Classical Voice, Nina Yoshida Nelsen made her New York City Opera debut with great success as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, conducted by George Manahan.
In the 2021-2022 season Nina Yoshida Nelsen makes her Boston Lyric Opera debut as Mama Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana. She also makes her Bard Opera debut singing Mother Chen in Huang Ruo’s An American Soldier, with performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center. She then returns to Opera Santa Barbara for a double bill of El Amor Brujo and Frugola in Il Tabarro. Nina makes her Chicago Opera Theater debut singing Queen Sophine in Mark Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus. In the spring, she sings mezzo solos in Boston Lyric Opera’s “Uplifting Asian Voices” concert and records Madama Butterfly with the company. She also will sing Mama in Jack Perla’s An American Dream at Kentucky Opera and the Alto Solo in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Rhode Island Philharmonic.
In the 2019-2020 season Nina Yoshida Nelsen made her Portland Opera debut as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly. She also performed the world premiere of Blood Moon at Prototype Festival in New York City. Nina returned to Chicago Lyric Opera to cover Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and gigs canceled due to Covid were the Santa Barbara Symphony performances Beethoven's Mass in C ?and the role of Khanh in Huang Ruo's Bound at The Juilliard School.
In the 2018-2019 season, Nina made her Lyric Opera Chicago debut as Mama in Jack Perla's An American Dream. She also reprised the same role at Anchorage Opera. Nina returned to Opera Santa Barbara as Tituba in The Crucible and also sang in their 25th Anniversary Gala concert.
Nina made an important debut at Utah Opera in March of 2009, singing Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro. The mezzo-soprano is the recipient of a 2008 Encouragement Award from the Gerda Lissner Vocal Competition. In 2006, Ms. Nelsen was a National Semi-Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She is a 2009 graduate of the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia, where she studied with Bill Schuman. At AVA, her roles included: Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor, Smeton in Anna Bolena, Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Kabanicha in Katya Kabanova, Annina in La traviata, Larina in Eugene Onegin, and Erika in Vanessa.
Other noteworthy recent engagements include: Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette with Opera New Jersey, Rebecca Nurse in The Crucible with Utah Festival Opera, the title role in Carmen and the role of Antonia’s Mother in Les contes d’Hoffmann with Komische Kammeroper of Munich, and Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Opera Santa Barbara.
Nina Yoshida Nelsen spent the 2004-2005 season as an Artist-In-Residence with Orange County Opera, where she performed the role of the Marquise de Berkenfeld in La fille du régiment in their educational outreach program. Ms. Nelsen made her debut with Opera Providence in 2002 as Tisbe in La cenerentola, and subsequently appeared with the company as Dorabella in their English version of Così fan tutte.
Other notable roles include Idamante in Idomeneo, Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Lulu in Lukas Foss’The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, all of which she performed with the Opera Institute at Boston University.
In 2005, Ms. Nelsen was a National Finalist in the prestigious Loren L. Zachary Society Vocal Competition, and she was also a National Finalist in the 2006 and 2008 Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition. In 2004, Ms. Nelsen won first prize in the Performing Arts Foundation Vocal Competition, the Profant Foundation Vocal Competition and the Santa Barbara Foundation Vocal Competition.