Opera Santa Barbara (OSB) returned to the Ventura County Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 10, for an excellent production of Donizetti’s comic classic Don Pasquale. With the experience of December’s matinee of Carmen for Cars under his cummerbund, OSB’s intrepid managing and artistic director Kostis Protopapas took drive-in opera to new heights with this evening performance. Soprano Jana McIntyre sang an electrifying Norina, easily commanding the venue’s giant video screens and car radios with a ravishing tone and an absorbing physical presence. Don Pasquale, with its relentless focus on the gulling of the title character, has never been a paradigm of subtlety, yet from a musical point of view, it can hardly be beat. Donizetti’s melodies are rich and memorable, and the excitement generated by this cast and the orchestra during Act II in particular was really something to behold. If you have never been to an opera where the audience honks car horns in place of applause, well, that’s understandable, but you are missing out on a one-of-a-kind, only-in-Ventura experience. Protopapas and his team are to be congratulated for providing one of the most uplifting and unexpected musical expressions of our delicate and unprecedented moment.
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