Much more than love is in the air as Opera Santa Barbara prepares for its Italian Passions Festival, which opens Saturday and runs through March 9 at the Lobero Theatre. To help mark the event, Opera Santa Barbara flags were flying proudly from light posts along State Street downtown.

Cavalleria Rusticana, performed with Pagliacci, makes its debut at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and will be staged again at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 29 and March 8 and at 2 p.m. March 2. Maestro Valéry Ryvkin will be conducting the opera, with the assistance of stage director Linda Brovsky. The cast includes Allan Glassman as Turiddu, Layna Chianakas as Santuzza, Malcolm MacKenzie as Alfio, Victoria Hart as Mamma Lucia, and Tihana Herceg as Lola.

During the festival, Ryvkin will lead Opera Santa Barbara in performances of L’Elisir d’Amore at 7:30 p.m. March 1 and 7, and at 2:30 p.m. March 9. Vernon Hartman is the stage director and the cast includes Susan Hosonbake as Adina, Robert McPherson as Nemorino, Nicolai Janitzky as Belcore, Michael Wanko as Dulcamara, and Erika Bucholz as Gianetta.

Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci are sponsored by the Mosher Foundation and L’Elisir d’Amore is sponsored by the Central Coast Wine Classic.

For more information, click here for Opera Santa Barbara or call 805.898.3890.