By Robert Ward
The Crucible is one of the most gripping works of American opera. Based on Arthur Miller’s play centered on the Salem witch trials, Robert Ward’s eerily topical opera is sure to make your pulse race. Wayne Tigges and Audrey Babcock – both standout singing actors – debut as John and Elizabeth Proctor; Anya Matanovic portrays the malicious Abigail Williams. Kostis Protopapas leads the large cast and orchestra; Rising star Stephanie Havey directs.
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.
Winner of the Adelaide Bishop award for artistic quality and winner of the Opera America Director-Designer Showcase, Stephanie Havey has directed for Opera Philadelphia, Pittsburgh Opera, Atlanta Opera, Opera Omaha, North Carolina Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, Syracuse Opera, and Shreveport Opera. Ms. Havey's new productions have been featured at Curtis Institute of Music, Carnegie Mellon University, Tulsa Opera, Opera Columbus, Opera North, Opera NEO, Opera Fayetteville, and Opera in the Heights. Recently she joined the staging staff at San Francisco Opera and The Santa Fe Opera.
Upcoming engagements include Arizona Opera, Atlanta Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Pittsburgh Opera, North American New Opera Workshop, and Lyrique-en-mer International Festival de Bell-Ile.
During her two seasons as the first Resident Artist Stage Director for the Pittsburgh Opera, she received rave reviews for her new production of and directed numerous productions and a staged recital series in the Opera Studio. Professional credits also include engagements with Boston Lyric Opera, Central City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Sarasota Opera, Virginia Opera, Nashville Opera, Orlando Opera, and Opera New Jersey.
Ms. Havey has worked extensively with Young Artist training programs including Curtis Institute of Music, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Carnegie Mellon University, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Central City Opera, Tulsa Opera, Opera North, OperaNEO, University of Delaware, and the Florida State Opera. From 2007-2009, she was the Director of Opera Workshop at Middle Tennessee State University and Tennessee State University in Nashville.
Wayne Tigges (Bass-Baritone) is quickly establishing himself as one of the bright young stars in the opera world today. He has sung at many of the great opera houses of the world including: The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Paris Opera, Glyndebourne, Opera del Liceu, LA Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and the Teatro du Capitol Toulouse, among others. Mr. Tigges Enjoys a strong relationship with the Lyric Opera of Chicago (12 roles with the company), San Francisco Opera (10 roles with the company), and the Santa Fe Opera (7 roles with the company). In addition, he will be making his debuts at Philadelphia Opera, Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Palm Beach Opera, Edmonton Opera, and the Des Moines Metro Opera in the near future. Mr. Tigges has appeared with many of the great orchestras of the world including: the NY Philharmonic, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, LA Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestra of St. Lukes, among others. He has worked with such conductors as Sir Andrew Davis, Pierre Boulez, Nello Santi, Bruno Bartoletti, Sir Mark Elder, James Conlon, Alan Gilbert, Esa Pekka Salonen, Christoph Eschenbach, Stephan Deneve, and Harry Bicket. Mr. Tigges repertoire includes Handel's Messiah, Bach's St. John's Passion, Bach's St. Matthew's Passion, Haydn's Creation, Mozart's Requiem and Mass in C minor, Mendelsohnn's Elijah, Stravinsky's Les Noces and Rossignol, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Neilson's Symphony #3, and Zemlinsky's Psalm #3. Lauded by the Chicago Sun Times for his "rich, dark, and beautiful legato, Mr. Tigges is equally at home doing roles that require vocal acrobats, (roles in Handel, Rossini Opera), and roles that require significantly more heft (Wagner, Strauss, Verdi). He has been involved in 7 world premieres, and has over 60 roles in his repertoire.
He created the role of Joe St. George in the world premiere of Picker’s Dolores Claiborne with San Francisco Opera; sang Escamillo in Carmen at the Glyndebourne Festival and with San Diego Opera; Kolenaty in The Makropolous Case with the Opéra National de Paris; and Ariodate in Xerxes, Sam and Wesley in the world premiere of Theofanidis’ Heart of a Soldier, Ariodate in Xerxes and Zuniga in Carmen with San Francisco Opera. He sang Achilla in Giulio Cesare in his Metropolitan Opera debut and returned to the Lyric Opera of Chicago the following season for further performances of the role as well as Basilio in The Barber of Seville. Mr. Tigges enjoys a strong relationship with the Lyric Opera of Chicago where he sang the title role in The Marriage of Figaro to great critical acclaim while still a member of the prestigious Ryan Opera Center (formerly Lyric Opera Center for American Artists). Also with the company, he sang Snook in Bolcom’s A Wedding, Capulet in Roméo et Juliette, Angelotti in Tosca, Sam in Un Ballo in Maschera, and Bonze in Madama Butterfly.
Audrey Babcock is an award-winning mezzo-soprano who is quickly gaining notoriety for her commanding, powerful performances as Carmen and her dark, hypnotic portrayals of Maddalena in Rigoletto. As Carmen, Ms. Babcock made her French debut with the Festival Lyrique-en-Mer and has performed the role with Florentine Opera, Nashville Opera, Florida Grand Opera, New York City Opera, San Antonio Opera, Knoxville Opera, Opera Delaware, Toledo Opera, Anchorage Opera, Dayton Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Mill City Summer Opera, and Utah Festival Opera where The Salt Lake Tribune wrote “Audrey Babcock's performance as Carmen was a spellbinding tour de force...from the moment she took the stage her self-assured characterization was mesmerizing ...Babcock's caramel-hued mezzo was a pleasure…her supple tones caressed the notes, radiating earthy allure.”
Widely recognized as a choice singer for new works, Ms. Babcock has premiered several new operas including Tobias Picker’s Thérèse Raquin (NY Premiere - Dicapo Opera), With Blood, With Ink (World Premiere - Fort Worth Opera), La Reina (American Lyric Theater, NY and Prototype Festival), The Poe Project (American Lyric Theater), and appeared as Mother in Winter’s Tale with Beth Morrison’s Prototype Festival in NYC in 2015. Last season’s engagements included the title role in The Tragedy of Carmen with Opera Santa Barbara as well as a cancelled concert with the Santa Barbara Symphony. Ms. Babcock’s engagements for the 2021-2022 season include Lily; her life, his music with Marble City Opera, Mama in Why I Live at the P.O. with UrbanArias, and Verdi’s Requiem with the Reading Symphony Orchestra.
Praised for her “thrilling vocal color” and “sweetly winning” presence, American soprano Anya Matanovic made her international opera debut as Musetta in Franco Zeffirelli’s captivating production of Puccini’s La bohème with the New Israeli Opera’s. In her debut with the Glimmerglass Festival as Micaëla, she was praised for her “sinuous soprano with its golden timbre and silky-smooth legato, [which] charmed the ears immediately…” and “first-class performance” (David Abrams, Musical Criticism).
This season sees the soprano make her company and role debut as Mimi in La bohème with Opera Colorado, and debut with the Eugene Concert Choir for Mozart’s Mass in C Minor. Next season, she will return to Utah Opera, make her debut with the North Carolina Symphony, and join the roster of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, covering the role of Ginevra in Handel's Ariodante.
Praised for her “thrilling vocal color” and “sweetly winning” presence, American soprano Anya Matanovic (ma ta’ no vich) made her international opera debut as Musetta in Franco Zeffirelli’s captivating production of Puccini’s La bohème with the New Israeli Opera. In her debut with the Glimmerglass Festival as Micaëla, she was praised for her “sinuous soprano with its golden timbre and silky-smooth legato, [which] charmed the ears immediately…” and “first-class performance” (David Abrams, Musical Criticism).
This season sees the soprano make her company and role debut as Mimi in La bohème with Opera Colorado, and debut with the Eugene Concert Choir for Mozart’s Mass in C Minor. Next season, she will return to Utah Opera, and make her debut with the North Carolina Symphony. The 2016-2017 season began with an anticipated return to Seattle Opera, as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel. The season also included notable role debuts, including Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progresswith Boston Lyric Opera, and Mabel in Pirates of Penzance with Lyric Opera of Kansas City. She also appeared in concert with the Cleveland Orchestra and Cincinnati Symphony for Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ms. Matanovic’s 2015-2016 season featured a debut with New Orleans Opera as Adele in Die Fledermaus.
The 2014-2015 season brought anticipated role debuts for Ms. Matanovic, as Violetta in La traviata with Boston Lyric Opera, as well as Stella in Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire in a return to Kentucky Opera. In the 2013-2014 season the soprano debuted with Opera Memphis, as Gilda in Rigoletto, Arizona Opera, for Musetta in La bohème, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, for Carmina Burana under Alastair Willis, and made a return to the Boston Youth Symphony, as Pamina in The Magic Flute.
During the 2012-2013 season, Anya Matanovic returned to Seattle Opera for Marzelline in Fidelio, and was praised for her “crystalline” and “substantial” tone (Seen and Heard International). She made her role debut as Gilda in Rigoletto with Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra and sang Pamina with both the Crested Butte Music Festival and Utah Opera. She closed the season as Wanda in a new production of Offenbach’s The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein with Santa Fe Opera.
In the 2010-2011 season, Anya Matanovic essayed her first Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Madison Opera, returned to Seattle Opera for Erste Dame in Die Zauberflöte, reprised the role of Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel with Utah Opera, and made her anticipated role and company debut with the Glimmerglass Festival as Micaëla in Carmen, conducted by Music Director David Angus.
The 2009 – 2010 season saw Ms. Matanovic‘s company debut as Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel with Kentucky Opera, her official stage debut with Seattle Opera, as Nannetta in Falstaff, an appearance at Madison Opera’s “Opera in the Park”, and her debut with the Richmond Symphony as the soprano soloist in Orff’s Carmina Burana.
In the fall of 2008, Ms. Matanovic made her Opera Cleveland debut as Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, conducted by Artistic Director Dean Williamson, and returned for their spring production of Verdi’s Falstaff as Nannetta. In summer of 2009, she joined the Seattle Opera artist roster for their internationally revered production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, directed by Stephen Wadsworth.
Other notable engagements include New York City Opera, as Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen, as well as productions of Massenet’s Cendrillon, La bohème, and Purcell’s King Arthur, and Santa Fe Opera, as a “pert, appealing” Papagena in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.
Ms. Matanovic is a graduate of the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program, where she appeared in their productions of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, as Flora, Mozart’s La Serva Padrona, as Serpina, and Falstaff, as Nannetta.
Anya Matanovic made her professional opera debut, directly from her undergraduate studies, as Mimì in the Los Angeles commercial engagement of Baz Luhrmann’s Tony Award-winning production of La bohème. She appeared in University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music productions of The Crucible, Gianni Schicchi, and Hänsel und Gretel.
Ms. Matanovic is equally comfortable on the concert stage, having appeared with the Portland (OR) Chamber Orchestra, Hoku Concert Series in Hawaii, the Palm Springs Orchestra and the Music of Remembrance Concert Series in Seattle. Ms. Matanovic was also a Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and has been a prizewinner in competitions sponsored by such institutions as the Gerda Lissner Foundation, Opera Buffs, Leni Fe Bland, and the Sun Valley Opera.She is a co-founder of NachtMusik, an operatic outreach group dedicated to bringing opera to the many different communities of Los Angeles.
Anya was born in Madison, Wisconsin and raised in Issaquah, Washington to a Slovenian-born father and an American mother. The soprano, her husband, television writer John P. Roche, and their daughter, Zara, spend their time between Vermont, Los Angeles and New York.
Opera News praises Corey Bix for his “clear sense of drama and self-possession, exhibiting sturdy, unwavering control, flinty resonance and confident high notes.” In the 2017-18 season, he makes his Canadian Opera Company debut as Elemer in Arabella. Last season, he returned to Virginia Opera for his first performances of Max in Der Freischütz, the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Énée and Helenus in Les Troyens, and joined the Metropolitan Opera roster for its production of Der fliegende Holländer. He recently returned to San Francisco Opera as Augustin Moser in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and also for its production of Jen?fa, joined Virginia Opera as Erik in Der fliegende Holländer, Austin Lyric Opera to reprise his acclaimed portrayal of Lennie in Of Mice and Men, and sang Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde at the Centro Nacional de las Artes in Mexico City.
Mr. Bix recently made a triumphant role debut as Énée in Les Troyens with San Francisco Opera. His other recent performances include his European debut and return to Greek National Opera as the Prince in Rusalka with Greek National Opera and the title role of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex; Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos with Washington National Opera, Vienna Volksoper, Fort Worth Opera, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, and The Glimmerglass Festival; Erik in Der fliegende Holländer with Los Angeles Opera, Hungarian National Opera, and Arizona Opera; Kaiser in Die Frau ohne Schatten with Oper Graz; Walther in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with Theater Kiel; the title role of Flotow’s Alessandro Stradella with the Stadttheater Giesen; Heinrich in Tannhäuser; in addition to joining the Teatro alla Scala and Savonlinna Festival for their productions of Lohengrin and the Cleveland Orchestra for its tour of Daphne. He has sung both Florestan in Fidelio and Lennie in Of Mice and Men with Utah Opera and Tulsa Opera, Sir Edgar Aubry in Der Vampyr with New Orleans Opera, Aegisth in Elektra with Des Moines Metro Opera, and Alfred in Die Fledermaus with Anchorage Opera. He sang the First Senator in Die Gezeichneten while covering the role of Albiano under the baton of James Conlon at Los Angeles Opera and joined San Francisco Opera for the Fourth Jew in Salome. With Santa Fe Opera he covered Yonas in Saariaho’s Adriana Mater, the title role of Lucio Silla, and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and sang Dr. Caius in Falstaff and the Second Jew in Salome. His other recent performances include Don Jose in Carmen with the Aspen Opera Theater with Julius Rudel conducting as well as with the Glacier Symphony in Montana, Tamino in the workshop of the family version of Die Zauberflöte with the Metropolitan Opera, and Sam in Susannah with New York Opera Projects.
Mr. Bix joined the American Symphony Orchestra for Szymanowski’s Symphony No. 3, Pharaoh in Dessau’s Hagadah shel Pessach, and Pheobus de Chateuoers in Schmidt’s Notre Dame, the Cathedral Choral Society for Janá?ek’s Glagolitic Mass at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., and Palm Beach Symphony for Mozart’s Requiem. At the Bard Music Festival, he sang excerpts of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in concert along with a recital of German and joined the Wagner Society of Washington D.C. for a concert that included excerpts of Siegmund in Die Walküre and Walther in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. He sang the Fourth Jew in concert performances of Salome with Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He presented a recital with soprano Lauren Flanigan under the auspices of the George London Foundation at the Morgan Library as well as solo programs for the Wagner Society of New York and at his alma mater of Simpson College.
Mr. Bix is the 2008 winner of the Robert Lauch Memorial Grant from the Wagner Society of New York and the 2007 winner of the George London/Kirsten Flagstad Award for a singer with potential for a Wagnerian career as well as the foundation’s prestigious Vienna Prize. Additionally, he has been a prizewinner in both the New England and Southeast regions of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He is a former member of the apprentice programs of the Santa Fe Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Des Moines Metro Opera and earned a Master of Music from New England Conservatory and his Bachelor of Music from Simpson College.
Bass-Baritone Colin Ramsey has been lauded for his “majestic, rotund, ravishing bass” (Opera Today). During the 20-21 season, Mr. Ramsey joined San Diego Opera as Colline in La bohème, as well as returning to Pacific Opera Project as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, and the Festival Lyrique en Mar as Leporello in Don Giovanni (COVID19). Other recent engagements include returns to Opera Santa Barbara as Frère Laurent in Romèo et Juliette and the Bonze in Madama Butterfly, joining the Festival Lyrique en Mar as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor and the bass soloist in Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle, and multiple productions of La bohème as Colline including Opera Idaho, Gulfshore Opera, and Opera Buffs Inc in Los Angeles. In upcoming seasons, Mr. Ramsey will return to Opera Santa Barbara as Fafner in Jonathan Dove’s arrangement of Das Rheingold, and San Diego Opera, singing The Speaker and 2nd Armored Man in Die Zauberflöte (COVID19), Capulet in Romèo et Juliette, and Betto in Gianni Schicchi.
His 2018-19 season was an exciting one including a return to the Los Angeles Philharmonic for performances of John Cage’s Europeras directed by Yuval Sharon. Mr. Ramsey also made his San Diego Opera debut as Marullo in Rigoletto and in the spring of 2019, Mr. Ramsey returned to Opera Santa Barbara for an exciting and timely production of Robert Ward’s The Crucible singing the role of Reverend Hale.
Other recent performances have seen him in role and company debuts singing Le Comte des Grieux in Manon, The Speaker in Die Zauberflöte, and his Santa Fe Opera debut singing the Registrar in Madama Butterfly and covering Edward Teller in John Adam’s Dr. Atomic in a landmark production directed by Peter Sellars. Mr. Ramsey’s unique “smoky” timbre has been well lent to additional roles such as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Figaro in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Guglielmo in Così fan Tutte, Don Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Father Palmer in Silent Night, Alidoro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Collatinus in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Seneca in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, Mr. Kofner in Menotti’s The Consul, Il Frate in Verdi’s Don Carlo, Angelotti in Tosca, and Cadmus and Somnus in Handel’s Semele.
Having been praised for comedic skills with "impeccable timing to match an equally admirable tenor," Robert Norman is a character tenor on the rise. He has performed nationally with L.A. Opera, Opera San José, Opera San Luis Obispo, Union Avenue Opera, and Opera Las Vegas. Mr. Norman is an L.A. District winner for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and is an alumnus of the Opera Santa Barbara Young Artist Program. He is a frequent performer with L.A. Opera's outreach programs, and has thrilled audiences as a monster hot dog, a game show host, and Mr. Mozart himself. In 2015, Robert made company debuts with Townsend Opera and Fresno Grand Opera as Steve Hubbell in A Streetcar Named Desire, and at Long Beach Opera as one of the two Tritones in the U.S. Premiere of Gavin Bryars' Marilyn Forever. His performance of Pedrillo / Spock in Pacific Opera Project's Star Trek adapted Abduction from the Seraglio received rave reviews describing his perfomance as "one of the highlights of the evening."
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.
The curtain rises on the Reverend Samuel Parris kneeling distraught at the bed of his daughter Betty. She lies immobile and scarcely breathing, as she has lain since Parris came upon her and her cousin Abigail dancing in the woods the night before. Tituba comes to ask about Betty but is angrily sent away.
Abigail enters to say that the town is whispering of witchcraft and that Parris should go out to make a denial. He bitterly turns on her to question her about the dancing and about her mysterious dismissal from the service of the Proctors. As she vehemently denies any wrongdoing, attributing her dismissal to Goodwife Proctor’s arrogant desire for a slave, the Putnams enter to tell that their Ruth was stricken at the same time as Betty Parris and that they have sent to Beverly for the Reverend Hale, known for his skill in discovering witches.
While Parris, fearful of any suspicion of witchcraft in his own household, is anxiously doubting the need for Hale, Rebecca and Francis Nurse enter with Giles Corey. Rebecca is comforting, old Giles is flippant about the illness of the girls. When Putnam insists that witches are at work in Salem, Giles accuses him of using a witch scare to defraud his neighbors of their land. John Proctor’s entrance only brings this quarrel to a higher peak. (Abigail, though silent in the upper room, visibly reacts with excitement to John’s entrance.) Rebecca reprimands the men for this untimely squabble in a house of illness, and calls them back to their senses. Giles departs with John.
The sing a psalm to beseech God’s help. As the psalm proceeds, Betty begins to writhe on the bed an then with an unearthly shriek tries to fly out of the window. They rush to her side. In the midst of the commotion the Reverend Hale enters. He calms them with his air of authority and then methodically sets an inquiry under way. He soon learns that Tituba has played an important role in what has been happening, having also been present at the dancing. Ann Putnam asserts that Tituba knows conjuring. Tituba is sent for; at her entrance, Abigail, who has been under severe inquisition by Hale, lashes out to accuse Tituba of compacting with the Devil. Tituba, overwhelmed by the sternness of Hale and the malevolent intensity of Parris and the Putnams, finally confesses that she has been visited by the Devil, but denies that he has persuaded her into any wrongdoing-for a few moments she frightens Parris and the Putnams with a heartfelt fantasy of the hellish power to bring them harm that the Devil had offered her.
With Tituba’s confession the spell over Betty is broken. All return to the psalm in great thanksgiving, while Abby envies the attention now being given to Tituba, hysterically repents her own compact with the Devil, and visibly receives an answer to her prayer for forgiveness and for a call to mark out others of the Devil’s crew.
John Proctor returns from a day’s planting to find Elizabeth listless and moody. In her mind the witch trials have become an aggravation of her domestic troubles, with Abby at the center of both. She insists that John expose Abby’s fraud to Judge Danforth; his reluctance to do this convinces her that he still has a warm spot in his heart for Abby. John’s self-defense is double: that he has no witness to what Abby told him, and that she will avenge herself by revealing John’s adultery with her. And he is fed up with Elizabeth’s sitting in condemnatory judgment upon him. She gently denies this but regrets the vanished sweetness of their love. Abby, she says, will not confess the lechery lest she damn herself. And what of those who suffer in jail because of John’s silence? No, John must tear the last feeling for Abby out of his heart, or she will never give up hope of some day having him for her own.
Mary Warren enters furtively from her day tat court as one of Abby’s crew of witch-finders. She tells, breaking into tears, that the number of those arrested has tripled – and that Goody Osburn has been condemned to hang! She is truly troubled by this, and by her own part in it, but demonstrates how the mob excitement of the courtroom procedure turns her into an hysterical accuser even against her will. When John threatens to whip her if she ever returns to that court she blurts out the Goody Proctor herself has been mentioned in court and that only Mary’s defense of her prevented an outright accusation.
Elizabeth is sure that Abby is behind this and is once more pleading with John to go to the court when Reverend Hale and John Cheever enter with a warrant for her arrest: that very evening Abby has charged Elizabeth with employing a witch’s poppet to kill her. John makes Mary acknowledge it is her poppet, but Hale, although deeply troubled by these new directions of the witch hunts, feels that he must
Arrest Elizabeth for examination.
John is about to burst out wildly to prevent their taking Elizabeth away, but instead turns with intense but controlled passion upon Mary: she will tell her story in court even though it may provoke a charge of adultery from Abby and ruin both Abby and John completely-anything rather than that Elizabeth should be in danger for his sake.
Scene 1. Abby, with a mixture of scheming but passionate love for John and a mystical belief in her mission, tries to persuade John to abandon Elizabeth and to join her in the holy work of cleansing the puritanically corrupt town. He will not listen to this, but instead pleads that she free the town from the curse of her foolish wickedness, and then threatens to expose her fraud. She defies him: now any dire fate that descends on Elizabeth will be of his doing.
Scene 2. Judge Danforth’s invocation in court reveals the strength and fervor of his conviction that God’s will is working through him to cleanse the land of a plague of witches.
As court opens, Giles Corey accuses Thomas Putnam, in his greed for his neighbors’ land, of having bragged of his role in the charges of witchcraft. Judge Danforth sends Corey to jail and torture for refusing to name his witnesses for this accusation. There is a great hubbub as Giles leaps at Putnam as the man responsible for the arrest of his wife and himself, and of Rebecca Nurse as well.
John Proctor presents Mary Warren’s deposition that the entire crying-out against witches started only as an exciting game for the girls-and is a complete pretense and fraud. But Abby, he says, has continued the game in an effort to dispose of Elizabeth. Her encouragement to this arose from the adultery that took place between Abby and himself, which he is now confessing. When Elizabeth, ordinarily incapable of a lie, is brought in and fails to confirm John’s confession; Abigail counterattacks, charging that Mary herself has turned witch. Mary, helpless and then hysterical, turns on John Proctor-accusing him of being the Devil’s man who has forced her into trying to confuse and overthrow the court. All but Reverend Hale close in on John Proctor with sadistic vindictiveness.
Tituba and Sarah Good, crazed by the rigors of imprisonment, sing of the Devil and his broken promises to them. Abby comes into the prison courtyard; she has bribed the jailer to permit Proctor to escape. John, although broken by months of prison and torture, scornfully rejects the freedom and love she offers him. Abby runs off weeping.
Hale, and the Parris, try to persuade Judge Danforth to postpone the executions of Proctor and Rebecca Nurse scheduled for that morning: Salem may break into open rebellion at the execution of such respected citizens. Danforth indignantly refuses, but agrees to ask Elizabeth to persuade her husband to confess.
John is brought in and left alone with Elizabeth. She tells him that Giles Corey has died, pressed to death rather than say aye or nay to the charge of witchcraft, but that many have confessed in order to save their lives. John reluctantly brings out his own wish to confess-if it will to make her think ill of him for lying. Passionately she answers that it was her lie that doomed him – and that she wants him alive. Exultant, he shouts that he will confess to the charge of witchcraft.
Danforth, Hale, and Prris rejoice – for their various reasons – over John’s confession, and Parris tries to persuade Rebecca, who has been brought in on the way to the gallows, also to confess. She refuses to damn herself with the lie. John is asked to sign his confession, that it may be exhibited before the town. But this is too much: he has deeply shamed himself by confessing, but he will not set his hand to the destruction of his own name – and the eternal shame of his sons. He tears up the document. In fury Danforth orders John and Rebecca to be led out to execution. Hale pleads with Elizabeth that she change John’s decision while there is yet time. She refuses: “He has found his name and his goodness now – God forbid I take it form him.”