Kyle Albertson as Wotan with the Rhinemaidens, Flosshilde (Max Potter), Woglinde (Brooklyn Snow), and Wellgunde (Christina Pezzarossi).” | Credit: Zach Mendez

Opera Santa Barbara’s Das Rheingold at the Lobero Theatre on Sunday was a perfectly enchanting reentry performance for live music indoors in Santa Barbara. Challenging, beautifully designed and executed, and, most of all, lots of fun, this production will live on in the memory of all who saw it for many years. Thanks to Kostis Protopapas, Crystal Manich, and an outstanding creative team, these wonderful singer/actors had everything they needed to tell Wagner’s amazing story with maximum impact. If anything, the shorter version by Jonathan Dove served to intensify the experience, harnessing Wagner’s motifs to drive home the opera’s grand themes without a wasted moment. 

From the outset, the cast made the most of the Lobero stage. Timothy Mix was a delightfully trollish Alberich, and the opening scene featured not only Wagner’s exquisite music, but also a chance to revel in the physicality and presence of live performers. The Rhinemaidens — Flosshilde (Max Potter), Woglinde (Brooklyn Snow), and Wellgunde (Christina Pezzarossi) — used the simple set and props to create an entire watery kingdom, and their voices filled the room deliciously. The initial conflict between sexual attraction and the allure of gold came through in everything that transpired.

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Kyle Albertson was a commanding Wotan, dressed to the nines (or should that be ’80s?) in a long leather coat and a Fabio wig. (Is “hair metal” from “hair opera”?) The members of Wotan’s court each made a strong claim on the audience’s attention. As Fricka, Nina Yoshida Nelsen held Wotan accountable, while Robert Norman, as Loge, attempted to realize his various schemes. The giant villains, Fasolt (Nathan Stark) and Fafner (Colin Ramsey) were a great team — vocally splendid and morally reprehensible. As Freia, Anya Matanovic sang beautifully and was a thoroughly convincing object of giant lust. 

The highlight of this, and presumably all good productions of Das Rheingold, came with the famous Entry of the Gods into Valhalla sequence. LaMarcus Miller did the honors with the stormhammer as Donner, shaking loose a bout of thunder in the music and lightning courtesy of the strobe effects in Francois-Pierre Couture’s brilliant lighting and production design. The imaginative use of lighting didn’t stop there either, as filtered house lights came up to include the audience in the sense of having entered Valhalla. After 18 months of no live theater or music, it really did feel like going to heaven.   

This edition of ON Culture was originally emailed to subscribers on February 16, 2024. To receive Leslie Dinaberg’s arts newsletter in your inbox on Fridays, sign up at


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