Seeking a New Tune

By Richard Mineards   |   July 26, 2022
Patricia Westley flees operatic career in Russia (photo by Zach Mendez)

Patricia Westley, daughter of the Santa Barbara Polo Club’s John Westley, who used to manage the polo training school, had just scored the experience of a lifetime two months before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Kiwi-American opera singer had won an Atkins Foundation fellowship to work at the historic Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, finding an apartment, making new friends, and was in rehearsal for a production when the news broke.

“Within 24 hours they had shut down my bank account and all overseas bank accounts,” says Patricia. “It happened incredibly fast.

“This was going to be my dream opportunity, but I had just six hours to get back to my apartment, pack a bag and go to the airport. I only had time to pack a single suitcase!”

Patricia gained her Master of Music at the University of Oklahoma and has performed in numerous opera productions.

“I lost many of my things, but the biggest loss was of my performance gowns, which I have painstakingly collected over the years. Performance gowns are difficult to find and are an invaluable tool of the trade as we cannot perform without them.”

Patricia, now in Wellington, New Zealand, adds: “I thought I would be going back. The young Russians want to leave but can’t. It is so upsetting. I love the Russian people and the culture. Barely any of them want this war.”

She is now hoping to find operatic roles in the antipodes, having performed at Venice’s historic theater La Fenice after fleeing Russia, and numerous roles with the Palm Beach Opera in Florida last year.


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