By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Set in the grand ballrooms and country estates of Imperial Russia, Eugene Onegin tells the tale of a young aristocrat who allows his arrogance to cost him everything. Tchaikovsky’s lush music propels Alexander Pushkin’s compelling story. Maestro Valéry Ryvkin returns to conduct and Ensemble Theatre’s Jonathan Fox directs. Karin Wolverton (Magda/La Rondine, ’17) and Lee Poulis (Ford / Falstaff ’14) return as Tatiana and Onegin. Legendary bass-baritone Samuel Ramey sings Prince Gremin.
Conductor / Carmen
Conductor / The Barber of Seville
Conductor / La traviata
Conductor / La Cenerentola
Conductor / Le nozze di Figaro
Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci
Conductor / Madama Butterfly
Conductor / Il trovatore
Conductor / The Merry Widow
Conductor / Don Pasquale
Conductor / Così fan tutte
Conductor / Tosca
Conductor / Don Giovanni
Conductor / La bohème
Conductor / Carmen
Conductor / La traviata
July 1995 (debut)
Jonathan Fox is the Executive Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara. Since he assumed the post in 2006, he has directed many productions for the company, including Ghosts, Creditors, Buried Child, Take Me Out, Visiting Mr. Green, and most recently, The Liar and Crime and Punishment. He has worked abroad in Germany and Austria, directing A Streetcar Named Desire, Old Wicked Songs, Crimes of the Heart, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Prior to joining Ensemble, Jonathan helped establish New Jersey's Two River Theater Company, serving as Managing Director from 1994-'99 and Artistic Director from 1996-2006. During his tenure, he directed over a dozen acclaimed productions, including Peter Brook's adaptation of the opera Carmen. His production of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was profiled in American Theatre Magazine, as was his festival of work by Samuel Beckett. His productions have been seen in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Cologne, Frankfurt and Vienna, and have received critical acclaim from publications including The New York Times, Variety, and The LA Times. He received his MFA from Columbia University and is a recipient of the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship for German studies. He has served as adjunct faculty at UCSB, Monmouth University in New Jersey, University of Utah, and Columbia University.
Soprano Karin Wolverton has been described by Opera News as “a young soprano to watch” having “a lovely warm tone, easy agility and winning musicality.” Ms. Wolverton took on the challenging role of Anna Sørensen in the 2011 world premiere of Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer Prize winning opera Silent Night with the Minnesota Opera for which WQXR acclaimed “. . . soprano Karin Wolverton, whose diamond-edged soprano shone in a sublime Act I “Dona Nobis Pacem” during mass, and sliced through the top notes of a second-act aria full of emotional turbulence as she realizes the beauty of her art is no match for the horrors of war.” Continuing her passionate involvement in new works, Ms. Wolverton returned to Arizona Opera in the 2016-2017 season for the world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage by Craig Bohmler. Additionally, she returned to Minnesota Opera as Freia in Das Rheingold, the Jacksonville Symphony as the Mother in Hansel and Gretel, debuted with Opera Santa Barbara as Magda in La rondine, and returned to Angels & Demons Entertainment as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and the Minnesota Orchestra to cover the title role in Salome. The 2015-2016 season saw her return to Tulsa Opera as Mimì in La bohème and debuts with Arizona Opera as Micäela in Carmen, the South Dakota Symphony for another La bohème, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and Angels & Demons Entertainment as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro. Her 2014-2015 season included Fiordiligi in Utah Opera’s Così fan tutte, her debut with Austin Lyric Opera as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors with the Minnesota Orchestra, and singing Shepherd on the Rock and Brad Mehldau’s The Book of Hours with the Joya! Concerts Series and Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the Hill House Players.
Lee Poulis is “virile and heroic in both appearance and vocalism” (Opera News) and has been praised for his “dark baritone, rich in color.” Twice named Best Young Singer by Die Welt, Mr. Poulis has performed at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden of Berlin, Teatro Real of Madrid, the Opera of Bilbao, and the Teatro Municipal of Santiago. He performed the title role in the national premieres of Doctor Atomic in Germany and at the Finnish National Opera. In the 2017-18 season, he appeared in Handel's Messiah with the Florida Orchestra, Carmina Burana with Long Beach Camerata, Bach's Mass in B Minor with the New York Choral Society at Carnegie Hall, and Cantata #82, "Ich habe genug" with the Jacksonville Symphony. Career highlights include Zurga in Les Pêcheurs de perles with Fort Worth Opera and Sarasota Opera, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor with Dayton Opera and the Belleayre Festival Opera, Marcello in La bohème with Toledo Opera and Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Valentin in Faust with Lyric Opera Baltimore and Theater Chemnitz (Germany), the title role of Don Giovanni with Sarasota Opera, and Heathcliff in Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights with Minnesota Opera. He was a member of the ensemble at Theater Bonn, where he performed roles including Wolfram in Tannhäuser, Pantalon in Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges, Germont in La traviata, Yeletsky in Pique Dame, Renato in Un ballo in maschera, and Michonnet in Adriana Lecouvreur. His frequent appearances at Washington National Opera include Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Dandini in La Cenerentola, and Senator Raitcliffe in the world premiere of Scott Wheeler’s Democracy. He has also been on the roster of San Francisco Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago. He made his his Opera Santa Barbara debut as Ford in Falstaff in 2014. Mr. Poulis’ concert engagements include baritone soloist in Handel's Messiah, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and in the Mozart, Fauré, and Brahms Requiem settings with organizations such as the Masterworks Chorale, Kansas City Symphony, American Youth Symphony, Waltham Philharmonic, the Atlantic Union College and the Gemini Youth Orchestra. Mr. Poulis has also appeared in recital with the Marilyn Horne Foundation at Carnegie’s Weill Hall as well as in Washington D.C. with the Washington Vocal Arts Society. Lee Poulis won first prize in the 2008 Liederkranz Foundation Vocal Competition, the 2008 Francisco Viñas International Voice Competition, and the 2007 Chester Ludgin International Verdi Baritone Competition, as well as an Encouragement Award recipient in the 2008 George London Foundation Awards competition. He is an alumnus of Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, and Music Academy of the West. Mr. Poulis is a graduate of Harvard University.
For almost three decades, Samuel Ramey has reigned as one of the music world’s foremost interpreters of bass and bass-baritone operatic and concert repertoire. Over the course of his career, he has demonstrated astounding versatility, singing roles ranging from Argante in Handel’s Rinaldo, which was the vehicle of his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 1984, to the dramatic proclamations of the title role in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle, which he sang in a new production at the Metropolitan Opera televised by PBS. Mr. Ramey’s interpretations embrace the bel canto of Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti; the lyric and dramatic roles of Mozart and Verdi; and the heroic roles of the Russian and French repertoire. In recent seasons, he has been seen at the Metropolitan Opera as Timur in Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Turandot. Other recent engagements include Don Basilio (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Rambaldo (La Rondine), and Pope Leo at the Met; Claudius (Hamlet) with Washington National Opera; Scarpia (Tosca) at Deutsche Oper Berlin; Méphistophélès in Nice; and the Grand Inquisitore (Don Carlos) with Houston Grand Opera. Mr. Ramey is well-known for his portrayals of devils and villains; Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust has become his most-performed role with over 200 performances in more than twenty productions. He is equally well-known throughout the world for his performances of Boito’s Mefistofele, including over 70 performances in the Robert Carsen production of this work specifically created for Mr. Ramey. He has also sung many performances of Berlioz’ devil in La damnation de Faust and the sinister Nick Shadow in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. In 1996 Mr. Ramey presented a sold-out concert at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall titled "A Date with the Devil" in which he sang fourteen arias representing the core of this repertoire, and he continues to tour this pro gram throughout the world. Throughout his career, Samuel Ramey has appeared on all the world's greatest stages, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Vienna Staatsoper, Opéra de Paris, Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Teatro la Fenice, Teatro Colon, and the operas of Munich, Hamburg, Geneva, Florence, Zürich and Amsterdam, among others. He has worked with major conductors including Claudio Abbado, the late Leonard Bernstein, James Conlon, Sir Colin Davis, Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Muti, Kent Nagano, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Simon Rattle, Julius Rudel, the late Sir Georg Solti, and the late Herbert von Karajan. Samuel Ramey holds the distinction of being the most recorded bass in history. His more than eighty recordings include complete operas, recordings of arias, symphonic works, solo recital programs, and popular crossover albums on every major label. In 1998 the French Ministry of Culture awarded him the rank of Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters. Mr. Ramey is a native of Colby, Kansas.
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.
Ashley Kay Armstrong
Mezzo-soprano Ashley Kay Armstrong makes her Opera Santa Barbara debut as Olga in Eugene Onegin as a member of the Chrisman Studio Artist program. This past season she was a Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre Young Artist, and sang Meg Brockie in Brigadoon and Lady in Waiting in Turandot. She was also an Apprentice Artist with Sarasota Opera and sang Kylie K in the world premiere of Cosmic Ray and the Amazing Chris with Thompson Street Opera. Other highlights in her young career include the title role in Lucrezia and Isabelle Eberhardt (cover) in Song from the Uproar with Chicago Fringe Opera. She also appeared as the alto soloist in Beethoven's 9th Symphony with the Chicago Sinfonietta. She attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts, where her roles included Ottavia in Monteverdi’s L'incoronazione di Poppea, Suzette in Bluebeard's Waiting Room, The Wife in The Women, and Spectre/Alto Soloist in The Nightingale.
2018-19 Chrisman Studio Artist
Autumn in the country. On the Larin estate, Madame Larina reflects upon the days before she married, when she was courted by her husband but loved another. She is now a widow with two daughters: Tatiana and Olga. While Tatiana spends her time reading novels, with whose heroines she closely identifies, Olga is being courted by their neighbor, the poet Lenski. He arrives unexpectedly, bringing with him a new visitor, Eugene Onegin, with whom Tatiana falls in love.
In her bedroom, Tatiana asks her nurse Filipievna to tell her of her first love and marriage. Tatiana stays up all night writing a passionate letter to Onegin and persuades Filipievna to have her grandson deliver it in the morning.
Tatiana waits for Onegin’s response in the garden. He admits that he was touched by her declaration but explains that he cannot accept it and can only offer her friendship. He advises her to control her emotions, lest another man take advantage of her innocence.
January. The local community has been invited to the Larin estate to celebrate Tatiana’s name day. Onegin has reluctantly agreed to accompany Lenski to what he mistakenly believes will be an intimate family celebration. Annoyed to find himself trapped at an enormous party and bored by the occasion, Onegin takes his revenge on Lenski by flirting and dancing with Olga. Lenski’s jealousy is aroused to such a height that he challenges Onegin to a duel. The party breaks up.
Before the duel, Lenski meditates upon his poetry, upon his love for Olga, and upon death. Lenski’s second finds Onegin’s late arrival and his choice of a second insulting. Although both Lenski and Onegin are full of remorse, neither stops the duel. Lenski is killed.
St. Petersburg, several years later. Having traveled abroad since the duel, Onegin has returned to the capital. At a ball, Prince Gremin introduces his young wife. Onegin is astonished to recognize her as Tatiana and to realize that he is in love with her.
Onegin has sent a letter to Tatiana. He arrives at the Gremin palace and begs her to run away with him. Tatiana admits that she still loves him, but that she has made her decision and will not leave her husband. Onegin is left desperate.
Synopsis from the English National Opera