Opera Goes Grander, ‘Carmen’ and Past

Opera Santa Barbara Inventive & Common Director Kostis Protopapas | Credit score: Zach Mendez

Following the accepted knowledge that grand opera is a spot for prime drama, irrational twists, and harmful liaisons, Opera Santa Barbara’s (OSB) previous few years have been on, nicely, an operatic trajectory. Adapting resourcefully to the challenges of the COVID lockdown and the slowly therapeutic but persevering with viewers lull in excessive tradition circles, OSB’s intrepid chief, Kostis Protopapas, downshifted into adaptation mode to outlive.

Opera has remained on the general public’s radar in Santa Barbara for the reason that lockdown, however within the scaled-back and different type of drive-in operas and lean seasons stocked with intriguing, south-of-standard grand opera fare. Final season, for instance, noticed an abridged Wagner — Die Walküre in a half-portion — and the intriguing up to date fare of An American Dream.

Nonetheless, Protopapas explains that “the 2022-23 season was certainly one of our most profitable but.” Amongst different components, he says, “providing one efficiency per opera produced precisely the consequence we anticipated: fuller theaters and extra motivated ticket consumers.”

A scent of accelerating normality is again with OSB’s new season, which kicks off with the trusty crowd-pleaser of George Bizet’s Carmen on the Granada, on September 29 and October 1 (in final season’s Friday-night and Sunday-afternoon mode once more). This season additionally consists of Verdi’s Il trovatore (April 9 and 11, 2024) and the corporate premiere of Héctor Armienta’s 2022 opera Zorro (April 19 and 21, 2024) as foremost attraction showcases. On the periphery, however demanding consideration, are a Maria Callas tribute (on the Lobero on November 10, and in Thousand Oaks’ Kavli Theatre on November 12).

A particular Christmas-timed household presentation of Xavier Montsalvatge’s charming chamber opera El Gato con Botas is at Middle Stage Theatre December 1-3.

We related with the energetic and articulate Protopapas, the corporate’s basic director since 2017, for a discipline report and progress report on the corporate. Based in 1994 by Marilyn Gilbert and Nathan Rundlett, OSB is poised getting ready to its thirtieth birthday, wanting hale and wholesome. Once more.

Do you’re feeling that this new season represents extra of a cautiously back-to-normal kind of opera season program? Or is there nonetheless the “new regular” query of the air?

Each season is completely different — identical to each opera is completely different — and there’s no such factor as “regular” in our world. Our seasons are sometimes a mixture of warhorses, lesser-known classics, and up to date works. The 2023-24 season has all three. We program every opera with particular goal audiences in thoughts. The final word purpose is to construct a model that individuals belief and assist no matter repertoire selections.

The truth that this season’s titles sound acquainted belies a vital truth: The 2023-24 [season] is definitely much more “adventurous” and “dangerous” than the 2022-23, as a result of it’s much more costly. 

Each season is an experiment, and this season’s experiment is to learn the way a lot “grand opera” Santa Barbara wants and is prepared to assist financially. We have to promote much more tickets and usher in quite a lot of new and elevated donations to pay for this season than final. Whether or not we succeed or not will inform repertoire, venue selections, and variety of performances in 2024-25 and past.

We’ll change as typically as we want with a purpose to meet the challenges and alternatives of the occasions. What’s going to stay fixed is excessive inventive values.

This season boasts a robust Spanish theme, with Carmen — albeit it’s Spanish by way of a French composer — the corporate premiere of Zorro, and in addition the Chrisman manufacturing of El Gato con Botas in December. Is the Spanish theme a culturally site-specific concept you’ve been nurturing for some time?

The Spanish theme emerged in the course of the repertoire choice course of. Carmen is a beloved work that we solely do each occasionally due to how costly it’s.

In reality, due to its price, it was the final of the three operas that we dedicated to, and we did so solely after receiving a big sponsorship from The Granada Theatre.

Il trovatore — along with being a private favourite of mine — was chosen as a result of many long-time patrons have been asking for extra Verdi, whose works, unjustly for my part, are being eclipsed by the recognition of Puccini. Zorro was chosen for our “up to date slot” as a result of I actually cherished the music and the story after I noticed the world premiere in Albuquerque in 2022, and due to the plain native connection.

As soon as we appeared on the lineup, the Spanish connection was instantly apparent. Then we added El Gato con Botas, which is a pleasant piece that I’ve needed to supply since I noticed it in New York in 2014.

‘Carmen’ star Sarah Saturnino | Credit score: Courtesy

What are you able to inform me concerning the upcoming manufacturing of Carmen, and the place do you see its place within the basic opera canon?

There may be completely little question that Carmen is among the best operas ever written. I imagine that no matter route the artwork type and the enterprise take sooner or later, Carmen will at all times be there. I do know of only a few operas which are as tune-after-tune beautiful as Carmen.

‘Carmen’ co-star Nathan Granner | Credit score: Courtesy

The duty of manufacturing Carmen is big, and we’re placing quite a lot of effort and monetary funding into it. We’ve an incredible solid headlined by Sarah Saturnino, a younger artist who I imagine will quickly be a global star. [Her co-star] Nathan Granner is an artist in whom I’ve believed for a very long time. He has given us some nice performances in latest seasons and goes to be heartbreaking in his first Don José. Anya Matanovic is solid as Micaëla, and Colin Ramsey goes to deliver the gang to its toes as Escamillo, as evidenced by his efficiency at Fiesta Pequeña.

The Opera Santa Barbara Refrain will lastly be entrance and heart on this tour-de-force choral piece after restricted involvement within the final couple of years. Final however not least, we’re unveiling a brand-new manufacturing, which we’re creating collectively with Opera Southwest, which can mix a standard set with projections by Daniel Chapman, who created the projections for Madama Butterfly in 2019.

Two fascinating tidbits: Carmen was the primary opera I performed at OSB, in 2016. Carmen can be the primary opera that OSB is repeating in my eight-year tenure.

Do you discover that, regardless of the continued strains and stresses for arts organizations, that there’s an keen viewers — in addition to newcomers to the fold — protecting opera alive and shifting ahead?

There isn’t a doubt in my thoughts that opera as an artwork type is alive and nicely, and extra thrilling than ever. The issue is with the “supply mechanism.” Financial and cultural realities have modified during the last a number of a long time, however the best way arts organizations do enterprise has remained kind of the identical.

There are nonetheless quite a lot of patrons and donors who love and assist opera, and each manufacturing brings in new and enthusiastic audiences. Nonetheless, the prices are rising sooner than the assist. I feel it’s vital for opera corporations to know their communities and the position they will play.

Opera is just not everybody’s cup of tea, and that’s wonderful. We are able to’t and we shouldn’t attempt to be all issues to all individuals. We must be cautious when in search of development, not put out an excessive amount of product, and take into account all of our constituents when making selections.

Throughout your time on the helm of OSB, there have been quite a lot of constructive developments and neighborhood interactions, however then, in fact, you needed to steer the ship by way of the pandemic storms, not a simple process. However how do you look again in your time up to now with the corporate?

I’m happy with what we have now completed on the inventive entrance, and grateful for the assist we have now acquired from donors and patrons for the reason that firm was based 30 years in the past. Since 2016, we have now achieved some actually memorable productions, together with 14 firm premieres and a few essential up to date works. The variety of our repertoire rivals that of a lot larger corporations.

Kostis Protopapas of Opera Santa Barbara | Credit score: Courtesy

One of many accomplishments of which I’m proudest is bringing again free scholar matinee performances. We’re additionally, to my information, the primary opera firm within the U.S. to supply pay-what-you-want tickets. I imagine that our firm has monumental unrealized potential. On the similar time, the very fact stays that Santa Barbara is a really small metropolis and there are by much more cultural occasions per capita right here than wherever else, competing for ticket gross sales and donations. My time right here has taught me to be very cautious in my expectations of what’s sustainable.

Do you could have any grand schemes, or little schemes, you wish to obtain with OSB?

It is a time to be sensible fairly than grand. Our firm is already punching method above its weight. The problem is the right way to hold it going sustainably for years to return. My ambition for OSB is easy: Produce nice artwork, fill the seats with paying patrons, pay our payments, and be an awesome place to work. I don’t know if this qualifies as “grand,” nevertheless it certain retains me excited to go to work day-after-day. 


For extra details about Opera Santa Barbara, see operasb.org.


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