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Opera Santa Barbara’s 20th Anniversary Season Continues with Verdi’s ‘Falstaff’

Opera Santa Barbara continues its 20th anniversary season with Falstaff.

Giuseppe Verdi was 90 years old when he wrote his final opera, Falstaff. By all critical analysis, this is considered Verdi’s greatest opera. This witty and fast-paced romp is built around William Shakespeare’s portly errant knight, Sir John Falstaff, as he attempts to woo two married ladies in hopes of improving both his financial situation and his love life.

Unfortunately, things don’t go as he planned; he’s thwarted by the Merry Wives of Windsor at every turn!

“This year we are celebrating Verdi’s 200th birthday,” Opera Santa Barbara General Director Steven Sharpe said. “All year long, opera houses around the world have been celebrating the bicentenary of Verdi, the greatest of all Italian composers. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to this great composer than his final, comic masterpiece.”

This season’s performances of Falstaff will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 7 and at 2:30 p.m. March 9 at the Granada Theatre.

Opera Santa Barbara’s artistic director, Jose Maria Condemi (who will also stage direct this production), can attest to Falstaff’s enduring power: “This will be our company premiere of Falstaff, and I can assure the highest quality production possible. I created this new production for Opera San Jose last year, and am very excited to bring it to Santa Barbara.”

The Cast

Baritone Todd Thomas returns to Santa Barbara to perform the title role. Thomas was last seen in Santa Barbara as Baron Scarpia in OSB’s 2006 production of Tosca.

Recognized as one of the few true Verdi baritones gracing stages today, Opera News recently noted: “It’s hard to imagine there are better Falstaffs working on North American stages today. … Thomas’ forthright vocalism and apt physique give him a leg up in this part; he captures the generous, earthy spirit of Shakespeare’s creation, giving the evening its comic and emotional fulcrum.”

Soprano Melody Moore makes her company debut as Alice Ford, having sung her first Tosca at San Francisco Opera to great acclaim earlier this year, filling in for Angela Gheorghiu on the production’s opening night.

Praised for the “beautiful timbre” of his “dark, robust voice,” American baritone Lee Poulis makes his company debut as Ford. Combining “forceful singing and sly comic charm into an irresistible package,” American mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook makes her company debut as Dame Quickly.

Young American tenor Joshua Kohl, who was recently praised by Opera News for his “glorious, relaxed performance,” makes his company debut as Fenton. An alumna of OSB’s Studio Artist Program, soprano Rebecca Nathanson returns to Santa Barbara for her mainstage company debut as Nanetta.

Maestro Francesco Milioto, co-founder/conductor of the New Millennium Orchestra, returns to Santa Barbara to conduct, having conducted last season’s Don Pasquale. As mentioned above, Condemi will stage this production, which he created last season for Opera San Jose.

The Production

The scenery for this production of Falstaff was designed by Steven Kemp for Opera San Jose. The creative production is seen through the “mouths” of several larger-than-life wine barrels, creating an inventive setting. Costumes come from Malabar Inc. in Toronto, Canada.

Christopher Maravich, whose work OSB audiences have enjoyed in our 2011 production of La Traviata, returns to illuminate this production. Maravich is currently the lighting director for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Opera Santa Barbara offers pre-opera talks 45 minutes prior to each performance in the theater at no cost to ticket holders. As part of Opera Santa Barbara’s continued efforts to make opera accessible to all members of the community, single tickets for Falstaff are available for as low as $28. Click here to order online, or call 805.899.2222.

— Steven Sharpe is the general director of Opera Santa Barbara.

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