Opera Santa Barbara will present a series of free noontime concerts at Santa Barbara and Ventura County libraries through mid-April. Featuring the company’s Studio Artists singing a variety of operatic repertoire and musical theatre selections, the intimate concerts will take place at Ojai Public Library (111 East Ojai Avenue) on October 5, February 1, and March 15; Ventura Public Library (651 East Main Street) on October 6, February 2, and March 16; Santa Maria Public Library (421 S. McClelland Street) on October 9, February 5, and March 19; Thousand Oaks Public Library (1401 E. Janss Road) on October 10 and March 20; Solvang’s Wilding Museum (1511 Mission Drive) on October 11, January 31, and March 14; and Santa Barbara Central Library (40 East Anapamu Street) on October 25, November 1, February 6 and 28, and April 4 and 11. Performances also will be presented at the Music Academy of the West (1070 Fairway Road in Santa Barbara) on February 8, and at Birnam Wood Golf Club (1941 East Valley Road in Santa Barbara) on February 14. All performances will begin at noon; admission is free.
Currently serving as Opera Santa Barbara Studio Artists are soprano Elle Valera, mezzo-soprano Chelsea Melamed, tenor Jonathan Walker-VanKuren, and baritone Byron Mayes. Biographies appear below.
2017-18 Opera Santa Barbara Studio Artists
A recent L.A. District winner and Western Region finalist in the Metropolitan Council Auditions, soprano Elle Valera was a 2017 fellowship student at the Aspen Music Festival. She is a former OSB Studio Artist, having covered the roles of Donna Anna and Donna Elvira for the company’s 2015 production of Don Giovanni. Ms. Valera holds a master’s degree from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and performs regularly throughout Southern California. Beyond opera, she is a plus-size model represented by Bicoastal Management.
Recognized for her dramatic commitment and commanding stage presence, mezzo-soprano Chelsea Melamed appeared in numerous productions while completing her doctorate in voice performance at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She has performed a variety of comic and dramatic roles, including the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Paquette in Candide at the Lawrence University Conservatory. Ms. Melamed was named a semifinalist in the Mildred Miller competition, and a finalist in the East Bay Opera League Competition.
A native of Rome, Pennsylvania, tenor Jonathan Walker-VanKuren holds a master’s degree from Michigan State University and a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, both in vocal performance. While at MSU, Mr. Walker-VanKuren received the 2016-17 Mackey Scholar of Vocal Music Endowment, which is awarded to one exceptional vocal graduate student each school year. His operatic performances include appearances as Martin in The Tender Land, Leon in Signor Deluso, Reverend Eager in A Room with a View and, most recently, Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro.
A graduate student at UC Santa Barbara, baritone Byron Mayes received his bachelor’s degree in vocal performance at Columbus State University, where he performed the roles of Belcore in L’elisir d’amore, Bill Bobstay in H.M.S. Pinafore, and Melchior in Amahl and the Night Visitors. Following graduation, Mr. Mayes performed with the Houston Grand Opera chorus, participating in productions of Otello, Die Zauberflöte, Eugene Onegin, and Carousel. He has since been part of Opera Santa Barbara’s chorus, performing in the company’s recent productions of Carmen and The Cunning Little Vixen.