On Friday, November 4, opera fans enjoyed a lovely, full evening at Opera Santa Barbara’s Opening Night event. The soiree began at 5 pm with sangria, other elixirs, and passed hors-d’oeuvres in the grand second floor lobby at the Granada Theatre. Guests, some with colorful Spanish-themed outfits and others in classically elegant attire, mingled and shared their enthusiasm about the much-anticipated production of Carmen.
Guests then were seated in the stately Founders Room for dinner where they were warmly welcomed by general director Steven Sharpe and board chair Nancy Golden. Kostis Protopapas, who is in his second season as artistic director, shared his excitement for the evening’s performance, which marked his debut as conductor of the orchestra. The short program concluded and guests enjoyed dining on a trio salad bouquet and an entree featuring steamed local sea bass.
Guests then adjourned to the theater for the nearly sold-out performance of Georges Bizet’s drama about a seductive gypsy, a charming bullfighter and a hapless soldier. Known for its magnificent melodies and dances, the opera was brilliantly performed by Opera Santa Barbara (OSB). The biggest production of OSB in several years, it involved more than 120 performers and technicians. It was directed by Octavio Cardenas and featured Leann Sandel-Pantaleo, Harold Meers, and Keith Phares.
During the two intermissions, many guests ducked back into the Founders Room to indulge in dessert and beverages and chat about the performance. After the final act, guests were treated to a lively after-party there with all of the major performers.
The remaining productions of this season are Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen with Isabel Bayrakdarian, March 3 and 5, and Puccini’s operetta La Rondine, April 28 and 30. OSB’s newly-formed Santa Barbara Youth Opera presents Brundibár on May 20.
Since its founding in 1994, OSB has staged more than 50 traditional and contemporary operas. Over this time period, it has also engaged in significant community outreach.
OSB offers free noontime concerts featuring members of its Mosher Studio Artist Program at public libraries throughout Santa Barbara County and in Ventura County. For the 2016-17 season, there are five concerts remaining at the Santa Barbara Public Library. For more information, go to operasb.org/outreach/free-noontime-concerts/.
OSB exposes elementary school students to opera through the Opera Lab, an innovative, interactive program run by professional singers trained in improvisation and fully funded by individual and corporate donors. The program will tour schools throughout Santa Barbara County starting in February and in Ventura County starting in March.
OSB also brings the opera to retirement communities. Last year, it did 18 performances at retirement communities in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Thousand Oaks.
This Fall, OSB is partnering with Santa Barbara City College’s Center for Lifelong Learning to present the course “Opera in Performance” and will offer the course again in the Spring. It is centered on this season’s productions by OSB and on the productions seen in the HD-Met transmissions at the Music Academy of the West.
For more information about Opera Santa Barbara, go to operasb.org.
If you have an event that you would like to see in this column, you may contact Gail at firstname.lastname@example.org.