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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:
Octavio Cardenas

Octavio Cardenas

Stage director Octavio Cardenas captivates audiences with his visionary, visceral, and physical style of directing. Born in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, Opera News has praised him for “an immersive theater experience” while the Dallas Morning News hailed him for bringing “every character and situation to life.” Recent projects include Puccini’s La bohème for Minnesota Opera, Philip Glass’s Galileo Galilei for Des Moines Metro Opera, Die Fledermaus for Baylor Opera, and Florencia en el Amazonas for the Tulsa Opera YAP program. Upcoming projects see him direct the world premiere of Bless Me, Ultima for Opera Southwest, Turandot for Mississippi Opera, Falstaff for Intermountain Opera, The Tender Land for Des Moines Metro Opera, and La rondine for Minnesota Opera.

Mr. Cardenas’s recent productions of Silent Night for Fort Worth Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City were described as “a breathtaking realization” with “many brilliant touches.” The Kansas City Star called the Lyric Opera’s production “one of its finest performances in recent memory.” Other recent productions include Rappaccini’s Daughter for Des Moines Metro Opera, The Magic Flute for Opera Neo in San Diego, The Giver for Minnesota Opera, and As One for UrbanArias for which MD Theater Guide acclaimed “Under the direction of Octavio Cardenas, the two stars playfully make great use of both stage and energetic space—it seemed the theatre condensed and expanded with Hannah’s journey.”

As the former Director of Opera for Baylor University, Mr. Cardenas directed productions of L’elisir d’amoreThe Turn of the ScrewDialogues of the Carmelites, and Rita. He currently serves as the Head of the Directing Staff at Des Moines Metro Opera and in addition to having been on the directing staff at Chautauqua Opera. He joined the Minnesota Opera Resident Artists Program for four consecutive seasons, working on all main stage productions and directing Andrew Sinclair’s production of Les pêcheurs de perles. Other directing credits include Susannah at Loyola Opera Theatre, which won the award for “Best College Production 2012” by the Gambit Magazine in New Orleans.

Mr. Cardenas received his Master of Fine Arts in Theatre from UCLA, a Master of Music from the University of South Carolina, and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Centenary College in Louisiana.

Stage Director / Carmen

November 2016 (debut)


Wendy Castellanos-Wolf


Choreographer /
The Cunning Little Vixen

March 2017


Choreographer / Carmen

November 2016 (debut)

Scenic Design:

Giulio Perrone


Scenic Designer / Carmen

November 2016 (debut)

Lighting Design:

Jeff Bruckerhoff


Lighting Designer / La rondine

April 2017 (debut)

Costume Design:

John Lehmeyer


Costume Designer / Carmen

November 2016 (debut)

Hair & Makeup Design:

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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Leann Sandel-Pantaleo


Carmen / Carmen

November 2016 (debut)

Don Jose:

Harold Meers


Le Chevalier des Grieux /

November 2017


Don José / Carmen

November 2016


The Duke of Mantua / Rigoletto

Feb/March 2007


Rinuccio / Gianni Schicchi

Feb/March 2006 (debut)


Jeanine De Bique


Micaëla / Carmen

November 2016 (debut)


Keith Phares


Escamillo / Carmen

November 2016 (debut)


Luvi Avendano


Zuniga / Carmen

November 2016


Betto di Signa / Gianni Schicchi

April 2016 (debut)

El Dancaïro/Moralès:

Evan Bravos


Harasta /
The Cunning Little Vixen

March 2017


Dancairo / Carmen

November 2016 (debut)


Mosher Studio Artist


El Remendado:

Elliott Deasy

Elliott Deasy grew up in Tulsa, and holds a degree in music from University of Tulsa. He is an alumnus of Opera SB's Studio Artist Program, where he performed Pasek in The Cunning Little Vixen and Rememdado in Carmen and covered Don Jose and Prunier in La Rondine. He was also a Tulsa Opera Young Artist, covering Rodolfo in La bohème and singing The Messenger in Samson et Dalila. Other highlights in the tenor's young career include Brighella in the Costa Rican premiere of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos for the Jovanes Cantantes in San Jose,  Schubert's Mass in G Major with the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra, and Basilio in The Bronx Opera’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro. His teachers include Peter Strummer and Frank Lopardo.


Elizabeth Kelsay


Lisette / La rondine

April 2017


Rooster, Bluejay /
The Cunning
Little Vixen

March 2017


Frasquita / Carmen

November 2016 (debut)



Mosher Studio Artist



Molly Clementz


Rosette / Manon

November 2017


Bianca / La rondine

April 2017


Lapak; Dog; Woodpecker /
The Cunning Little Vixen

March 2017


Mercédès / Carmen

November 2016


La Ciesca / Gianni Schicchi

April 2016 (debut)


Mosher Studio Artist

2015–2016, 2016–2017

Opera Santa Barbara - Bizet's "Carmen" 111/2/16/16 Granada Theatre