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Speaking of Stories Presents ‘A Night at the Opera: In Stories & Song’

Artistic Director Maggie Mixsell joins forces with Music Director Anne Bell for the Sept. 9-10 performances

Speaking of Stories departs from its usual format to present A Night at the Opera: In Stories & Song at 8 p.m. Friday Sept. 9 and 6 p.m. Saturday Sept. 10 at Center Stage Theater.

Expanding on its traditional spoken word format, for this performance a collection of beautiful arias from Carmen, La Boheme, The Marriage of Figaro, La Traviata and more will be intermingled with stories and anecdotes that take you backstage to learn more about the music, the artists and the composers who make opera such a unique and passionate art form.

Speaking of Stories Artistic Director Maggie Mixsell is joining forces for this production with Music Director Anne Bell. The ladies have collaborated to create a unique evening that will move seamlessly from stories to music, making each offering richer in the process.

“I believe opera is a beautiful expression of raw emotion,” Bell said. “It’s interesting that so many people don’t ‘get’ opera. Many composers, among them Mozart, saw opera as the most expressive form of music. When you read these amazing stories, it brings the music to life. I would also compare opera to red wine — it takes awhile for most people to develop a taste for it, but the result is a lifetime of hedonistic delight. For me, there’s no better evening than a soiree with friends, playing music and singing opera.”

Stories will be performed by Santa Barbara’s Dan Gunther and Katie Thatcher, with musical performances by Los Angeles-based performers Christina Ball, Anne Bell and Matthew Kessell.

This will be Thatcher’s seventh appearance with Speaking of Stories. She has been performing in Santa Barbara for the past 20 years and most recently appeared in SBCCTG’s production of Time of My Life at the Interim Theatre.

Thatcher has performed in more than 30 productions in the Santa Barbara area with SBCCTG, Ensemble Theatre, Contemporary Music Theatre, Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera and, of course, Speaking of Stories. She has been honored with four Independent Theatre Awards over the years and considers herself “very fortunate to not only live in paradise, but a paradise that also celebrates and supports the arts! How empty our lives would be without them!”

Gunther is also a regular with Speaking of Stories His regional theater appearances include Fools, You Can’t Take It With You, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the world premiere of In All Honesty at Rubicon Theatre Co. Appearances at Santa Barbara’s Ensemble Theatre Company under the direction of the late Robert Grande Weiss include Albert Einstein in Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Garland Award), Side Man, As Bees in Honey Drown, Sight Unseen, Moon Over Buffalo and the title role in the West Coast premiere of Terrence McNally’s A Perfect Ganesh (Independent Theatre Award).

Gunther performed in 15 productions at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, including world and regional premieres and many William Shakespeare productions. He also has had supporting roles and guests spots on several television shows.

Bell has been actively involved as a professional singer, conductor and voice teacher for more than 20 years. As a singer, she has performed in the former Soviet Union, Europe and Asia. As music director of Children’s Choral Programs for the Braille Institute from 1996 to 2007, she was recruited for and implemented the organization’s first visually impaired children’s choir program. She is credited with developing new techniques for directing visually impaired choirs and under her leadership the choirs performed extensively.

She is also music director at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Granada Hills, where she directs the adult and bell choirs and organizes community concerts. She served as assistant director/nusic director for the Fountain Theatre’s production of The Master Class in Los Angeles. The production received critical acclaim and was extended twice.

Christina Ball has studied opera and vocal performance, and has appeared in numerous operas, including The Magic Flute, Susannah, Soir Angelica and The Coronation of Poppea. She performs regularly at St. Stephen’s Church, and she and Bell can be heard on many Friday nights wowing the customers at Hollywood landmark restaurant Miceli’s, performing arias and classic jazz and musical theater selections.

Kessell is a versatile tenor who enjoys singing both opera and operetta. He has appeared in a variety of roles, including: Alredo in La Traviata, Don Jose in Carmen, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Edgardo in Lucia Di Lammermoor, Rodolfo in La Boheme, B.F. Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto, Ferrando in Cosi fan Tutte, Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Camille in The Merry Widow, Alfred in Die Fledermaus and Paul Fontaine in The Desert Song.

He has performed with various opera companies and is a reoccurring featured soloist with the Bellflower Symphony Orchestra. He is currently the tenor soloist for Sherman Oaks Presbyterian Church.

Tickets for A Night at the Opera are $15 for students and $25 general admission, and $50 Parton ticket for Saturday only, which includes a special post-performance reception with the artists. Box office hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and one hour before all performances. Click here or call 805.963.0408.

The Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo, is wheelchair accessible and has the Assistive Listening System in place for patrons who are hard of hearing.

— Teri Ball is the executive director of Speaking of Stories.

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