Small but Mighty

By Steven Libowitz   |   August 29, 2019
Opera Santa Barbara has been chosen as the organization being recognized at this year’s Legends Gala

Opera Santa Barbara, which is also being honored as a Granada Legend, was founded by Montecito couple Marilyn Gilbert and Nathan Rundlett as Santa Barbara Grand Opera in 1994, with a vision of creating a professional opera company based in town to serve audiences on the Central Coast. From its humble beginnings when the sets were built in driveways, Opera Santa Barbara has progressed over the quarter century to become a leading performing arts organization in the area.

A production of La Traviata in 1995 led to the launching of its first full season of grand opera a year later with La Bohème, Don Giovanni, and Rigoletto at the Lobero Theatre, and 13 years later, the company opened at the Granada Theatre with Carmen in 2009, subsequently moving its major productions to the beautifully renovated venue. Among the highlights of its Granada offerings is its production of Stephen Schwartz’s Seance on a Wet Afternoon that same year 2009, as OSB became one of the smallest American companies to have presented a world premiere by a major composer.

Current Artistic and General Director Kostis Protopapas began his tenure with Opera Santa Barbara in 2015, and this past season the company marked its 25th Anniversary by revisiting Puccini’s La Bohéme and offering two OSB premieres in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Robert Ward’s The Crucible, plus a gala concert featuring some of the most celebrated artists of the company’s history.

The company’s community and educational efforts include The Opera Lab, the Santa Barbara Youth Opera, a season-long Noontime Concert Series, and the recent launch of its young professionals social club, Operacurious. Opera Santa Barbara’s Chrisman Studio Artist Program, which began in 2007, provides emerging American opera singers with high-level performance opportunities and valuable training. The program’s 100-plus alumni have appeared in the most respected opera houses in the country, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, and many more.


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