Review | Opera Santa Barbara, ‘As One’

Two Singers and a String Quartet Portray One Person

Credit: Zach Mendez

It’s rare to see an opera with both as much new about it and as much to recommend it as As One, which had its Santa Barbara debut last weekend at the Lobero Theatre.

Credit: Zach Mendez 

With a minimal set, two singers, and a string quartet, the show plumbed emotional depths seldom reached by even the most famous grand operas. Evan Bravos, as Hannah Before, and Ashley Kay Armstrong, as Hannah After, delivered riveting performances that kept the audience fully engaged throughout the evening. Alexandra Enyart conducted the singers and the string quartet with deliberate intensity, keeping the musical level high even when called upon to participate in the action. 

The story explores the heartaches and fears of a young person who discovers her gender identity through struggle and against the grain of societal expectations, yet it does so without sacrificing either humor or joy. There’s plenty to relate to for anyone who has ever felt isolated or wished they could have things two seemingly incompatible ways. In fact, if As One has a moral, it might be that, contrary to popular belief, you can do, or be, both. Congratulations to composer Laura Kaminsky, librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, director Amy Hutchison, and the entire Opera Santa Barbara team for bringing this vital and engaging piece to our city.

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