Opera Santa Barbara at 25: Returns to its first home, the Lobero Theatre
In 1993 Marilyn Gilbert and the late Nathan Rundlett founded the Santa Barbara Grand Opera and the company’s first production was Die Fledermaus at the Lobero Theatre. Subsequent early productions included a company premiere of La Traviata – its first grand opera (1995), four performances of Carmen during Old Spanish Days, and then the “little company that could” launched its first full season with La bohème, Don Giovanni and Rigoletto in 1996. The company officially changed its name to Opera Santa Barbara before their 2003 tenth anniversary season with productions of Don Giovanni and Madama Butterfly. Subsequent years saw performances of Rigoletto, Ballo in Maschera, Italiana in Algeri, Faust, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci and Elixir of Love.
“This anniversary season not only celebrates the last 25 years but also documents our commitment to the next 25 and beyond. – Kostis Protopapas
Artistic & General Director Kostis Protopapas has pledged to nurture the future of opera by presenting contemporary works alongside the classics, to embrace change and to continuously seek new ways to share our vision and enrich lives.
Opera Santa Barbara closes its 25th Anniversary season at the Lobero Theatre with what is sure to be a memorable conclusion this season with Robert Ward’s “The Crucible” based on Arthur Miller’s classic American drama.
Over the last six months, I’ve had the honor to meet many of our donors, patrons, and performers. Without fail, each expresses a tremendous love for the Lobero Theatre, and “The Lobero Experience.”
If you’re a frequent visitor, you know how it feels to be in the house when performers share personal stories about how long they’ve been playing here, and somehow it feels like you’re just chatting with an old friend.
An experience at the Lobero is about more than seeing a performance, it’s also about connecting and creating memories with others.
Our staff and crew work to create an atmosphere of intimacy, adding personal touches whenever we can. We view every performer, renter, patron, and donor as part of the Lobero family. This palpable quality of home, inclusion, and connection inspires artists and patrons alike to return time and again.
Born in the dark days following World War I, flourishing during the roaring twenties, and eluding demise during the great depression, CAMA has endured through a story of struggle, survival, and triumph as compelling as the world-renowned music and performers it presents.
CAMA’s roots date to the 1919 Civic Music Committee and the 1921 Orchestra Committee (Music Branch) of the Community Arts Association (CAA). Though they differed in approach, the two organizations were in accord in wanting to promote and provide the very best in classical music for Santa Barbara. It was the CAA that, in 1922, took on the monumental task of re-building Jose Lobero’s declining Opera House into the Lobero Theatre that we know today. Both organizations continued their work side-by-side until 1926 when the CAA Music Branch took on the work of the Civic Music Committee. In 1941, the Music Branch incorporated as a separate entity, CAMA, and continued the work begun in 1919.
CAMA’s presentation of live classical music performances featuring world-renowned artists and orchestras over the past 100 years is a testament to its founders and successors who have upheld their commitment to enriching Santa Barbara’s cultural life, and those who have supported this legacy. Today, CAMA continues to enrich the lives of the Santa Barbara region and its visitors to experience and enjoy classical music through live performances and educational outreach for future generations.
Known for his artistic vision and his deep understanding and love of music, Alan follows his passion for visual arts.
He began developing his skill as a photographer in 1973, which had led to the world of cinematography. Alan showcased his talent in several visually stunning films and critically-acclaimed films including, For Us The Living: The Medgar Evers Story and the majestic award-winning film Travellers and Magicians. Alan has produced and directed many music documentaries featuring such diverse artists as Ravi Shankar, Jackson Browne, Kenny Loggins, and Lionel Richie.
As a life-long seeker of knowledge, Alan began studying music with Pandit Ravi Shankar in 1978. He has performed with Ravi worldwide at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and London’s Royal Opera House. Since 1978, Alan has actively documented the major milestones of Ravi’s life and has managed his visual archives.
Alan has been at the forefront of innovation in filmmaking for which he has received extensive recognition. In 1981 Alan developed a new technology where he filmed and directed a 360-degree, 70mm film for Envirovision Theaters. In 1993 he innovated, filmed and edited a simultaneous 10-screen feature presentation of Chinese culture for “Hawpaw Village”, a major theme park in Singapore. In 1984 Alan co-founded Pacific Ocean Post, a leading film and television post-production studio in Santa Monica, California, breaking new ground in the integration of digital technology and visual expression.
Through his continual travel, deep exploration, extensive relationships, vivid imagination, and unending curiosity Alan Kozlowski remains to this day on the path of discovery.
In this highlight from BACKSTAGE, Board president Amy MacLeod highlights stats from last year and gives a shoutout to some star performers.
Welcome to a new season at the Lobero!
photo: Jackson Augustus
As I begin my second year as Lobero Board President, I am pleased to reflect on a wonderfully successful 2016-17 season. Theatre activity was up by nearly 14% from the prior year, the community enjoyed a number of (sold out!) performances by incredible artists, and we provided a professional performing arts experience to more than 2,000 local youth through our Youth and Community Outreach programs.
I am also happy to report that the Board and staff are making clear strides toward building an endowment for the Lobero, a critical tool for ensuring the long-term stability and vibrancy of this important venue. We are committed to making sure that we leave this theatre stronger and more financially secure for the generations of artists, audiences, and volunteers who will follow in our footsteps.
As I look forward to the coming season, I’m excited for the opportunities and experiences awaiting us. Santa Barbara Revels will be premiering a brand new performance based on California and Santa Barbara history. We will also see the return of the AHA! Sing it Out program, which had their Lobero debut in April. Watching these teens overcome their challenges and perform fearlessly on stage is a touching and inspiring experience, and we are happy to be the new hosts for their annual show.
I hope you will join me often at the theatre and share another great season.
This story is currently featured in the Spring 2017 BACKSTAGE at the Lobero, but we were forced to edit it down for space. We hope you’ll read on to learn more about this powerful work of theater, and the talented team that’s putting it all together. This project is a part of the Lobero Theatre Foundation’s Youth and Community Outreach Programs.
How did you begin working with Opera for youth?
I am a Lyric Mezzo Soprano with a Masters Degree in Vocal Performance/Opera from the Manhattan School of Music. I have sung as a soloist throughout the US and Europe, and while most of the audiences I have sung for have been adults, I have always loved sharing the art form with younger audiences as well. While in New York City, I sang for the Metropolitan Opera Guild, performing outreach education to over 15,000 public school children in underserved areas, which is how I started sharing the operatic art form with youth. I started an Opera Camp at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in the summer, where I brought colleagues from New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera to do workshops and masterclasses with the children. When I moved to Ojai five years ago with my budding family, I carried on this work as an Artist-in-Residence with the Ojai Music Festival, going into the schools in Ventura County and starting a program called “Ojai Creates Opera.” I then started my own company in Ojai, “Ojai Youth Opera,” where we have been holding masterclasses, workshops and opera scenes for youth ages 7-18 every summer for the past five years. We are bringing a level of excellence in classical music education to the youth of this area and exposing them to a new art form, and the results have been truly rewarding.
There is a reason why this opera survived the war. It makes me feel there is still more insight, more hope, more tolerance, more love that can be spread and shared through this work of art. The children of Theresienstadt will forever be remembered through the voices of our children.
Tell me a little bit about this collaboration with Ojai Youth Opera and the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony for Brunidbár. How did that come together?
Maestro Protopapas had heard about what was happening in Ojai through a mutual colleague at the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony, Director Andy Radford. Maestro had been considering doing a youth production of Brundibár in Santa Barbara as an addition to the regularly scheduled OSB performances for the 2016/2017 season; what he didn’t know initially was that Ojai Youth Opera had also been planning on staging Brundibár in the Spring of 2017 as our first featured Opera! Kostis reached out to me, and we marveled at the serendipity of it all–Brundibár is not a common opera and the chances of us both being drawn to the same material at the same time are quite rare. We decided to co-collaborate and align our vision to make one production that could be performed both at Ojai’s Libbey Bowl and at the Lobero in Santa Barbara in May of 2017. We decided to share our staff, resources, and talent as a truly collaborative effort because all three organizations, Ojai Youth Opera, Opera Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony, believe strongly in the message of hope and tolerance that has inspired this opera and we believe it is timely and important to share it.
What can you tell us about the work, Brunidbár?
At its most basic level, Brundibár is a musical fable told from the perspective of a brave brother and sister who are confronted by a larger-than-life organ grinder who bullies and scares them. The animals and townspeople of their small village serve as symbols of resistance and encouragement to help the siblings find their voices and ultimately succeed in standing up to Brundibár, despite being children.
Although the story is simple, its message is anything but. Originally written in 1938, Krasa and librettist Adolf Hoffmeister created the opera for the Children’s Orphanage of Prague. It debuted in secret in 1941, due to the occupation by the German army. When the war escalated, Krasa was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp and re-wrote the opera, (some of which was destroyed along the way) for the children and instrumentalists in the camp. Overall, Brundibár was performed 55 times by the children of Theresienstadt. Hitler failed to realize was that the opera itself was a work of resistance. The Brundibár character symbolized Hitler himself, a bully and tyrant who would stop at nothing to get his own way, including threatening small children. In this story, the children overcome the tyrant and refuse to be intimidated. The victory chorus at the end of the opera is the ultimate triumph–a defiant plea to not give into hatred, prejudice, and bigotry, sung from the courageous hearts of the children. It is their innocence and hope that prevail, and those qualities are reflected in Krasa’s score.
What do you envision for the future of the Youth Opera program?
Maestro Protopapas has said that soloists come and go, but it is the ensemble, the people who are part of the community and committed to season after season, that are really the lifeblood of the organization. My hope is that the Youth Opera program will also become a musical cornerstone for the opera company, so that year after year, we watch these children return to OSB and mature into polished young artists who become a permanent part of the ensemble. Even if they don’t become professional opera singers or classical musicians, we will be cultivating the next generation of opera aficionados, educators, leaders and advocates in a time when they are so desperately needed. Their presence in the Opera Company can, in turn, ignite a whole new audience–younger, more diverse, and open to new art forms. And in this way, we all grow.
I am the Talent Director/coordinator. I work closely with all the families and dancers on scheduling and provide them with all the necessary information needed to perform in Teen Dance Star. I am also their main point person if they have any concerns. I am like their backstage mama!
Can you tell me a bit more about your background in dance and/or in presenting dance in Santa Barbara? I understand you’ve worn quite a few hats!
My training originally started out as a gymnast and I crossed over into dance later. I danced for several small boutique dance companies in Los Angeles and Miami. I was the former Dance Director of a cirque troupe based in Los Angeles called Zen Arts, and performed regularly with The Diamond Betties. I relocated to Santa Barbara upon taking the position as Entertainment Director of The Savoy where I created an in-house cirque show called “Gypzy Suite” that featured elements of eclectic cabaret. Over the past two years, I have been creating and working on an immersive theatrical show with elements of cabaret and acrobatics called “When The Lights Go Out” which originally debuted at The Carr Winery in 2014 and had a run at the beautiful Lobero Theatre last November. In recent years, I performed solo burlesque for local charities like Teddy Bear Foundation and even did a little gig for first Thursday at The Lobero in 2014.
I am also a board member for Arts Mentorship Program, an organization that provides creative guidance, mentorship, and financial support to young and emerging performing artists in the greater Santa Barbara Area. I am most inspired by the edgy underground burlesque scene out of Los Angeles and the new wave of immersive theatre that is taking the performance world by storm.
Can you elaborate a bit about the collaboration between the Arts Mentorship Program / Teen Dance Star / and the Lobero Theatre foundation?
Teen Dance Star has teamed up with the Arts Mentorship Program (AMP) to expand access to the performing arts in our community. The proceeds from the Showcase Final will create scholarship funds for low-income and at risk youth to train at local dance studios administered by AMP. Arts Mentorship Program has the existing infrastructure to administrate the scholarship request, while Teen Star has a successful model of producing quality events that showcase youth performing arts.
This partnership is important since the mission of Teen Star is to support youth in performing arts with the goal to nurture talent by inspiring passion, instilling drive for success and encouraging excellence and professionalism. Teen Dance Star is a year-long program where the finalists act as ambassadors in the community while leaving legacy to help educate a generation of dancers who would not otherwise have access.
What would you like to see for the future of Teen Dance Star?
Growth. I would love for all of the dancers in Santa Barbara County to realize that they can do this. I would love to see more of a variety of styles of dance come out and audition. This year we did not have many dancers representing hip-hop, ballroom, or flamenco come to audition; and I want to encourage them to participate.
Do you have any favorite moments performing at the Lobero Theatre?
Performing my show at The Lobero was a magical experience. Not only is the stage an absolute dancer’s dream–but the staff and crew are magnificent as well! They are incredibly supportive, and make you feel as though your show is equally as important to them as it is to you. When The Lights Go Out had a unique format in the fact that the audience was seated on the stage with the performers, which could have been a technical nightmare for the crew, but they handled it flawlessly. I also love the fact that it is one of California’s oldest working theaters; to me it has a David Lynch-esque vintage vibe.
A long time ago (2009), in a magical land (Santa Barbara), Lara Hollaway and Mathew Edwardsen were cast together in Opera Santa Barbara‘s performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta “The Pirates of Penzance” as Kate and Frederic.
In the musical, for those not familiar, Frederic falls for the character of Mabel — but in this performance, it was Mabel’s sister Kate, who stole this Frederic’s heart. (That’s Lara as Kate in purple, and Mathew as Frederic)
Two years later, Mathew proposed to Lara on the stage of the Lobero, and a few months later they were married in a short ceremony underneath the Lobero’s beautiful olive tree–officiated by “Pirates” director Miller James. Also attending the ceremony was Lara’s son Jordan Lemmond and the couple’s dear friend Shannon Saleh, who played Edith in “Pirates.”
“Needless to say, the Lobero means a GREAT DEAL to us. The theatre has played such a huge role in our story.” – Lara Hollaway
Since their wedding(s), the couple moved to New York City for a few years, and have now relocated to Austin, TX, where they are still performing–and we presume, making beautiful music together.
Lara was gracious enough to share a few photos from their days here at the Lobero, and their wedding reception held afterwards. We wish this talented twosome nothing but the best, and are thrilled to have played a role in their romance.
Do you have any Lobero stories you’d like to share? We’re so proud of being the community’s stage, and your stories bring it to life!
Whether painting the Matilija Poppies, Goleta Slough, or the historic Lobero Theatre, she still challenges herself to see things differently.
To meet artist Meredith Brooks Abbott at her rural Carpinteria ranch, is to step into one of her soothing and harmonic canvases. Time slows and vision softens at the view of her meandering gardens blending seamlessly into the natural vegetation of the surrounding Carpinteria Valley. A hopelessly romantic white Victorian farmhouse dating to the 1870‘s, sits in the shade of a large oak tree.
With Freddie, her sweet Labradoodle (and tennis ball) in tow, we head into her charming studio where canvases are perched in varying stages of completion and the quiet afternoon light streams in through high windows that run the length of the space. A self-portrait of Richard Meryman, family friend and noted American Impressionist and portrait painter, shares counter space with old photographs, portraits of her own children and pets, bits of nostalgia and the paintbrushes of Lockwood de Forest, California plein air painter.
Meredith, or Ky, as friends and family know her, has been painting here for over 40 years. These days she still paints almost every day, preferring to paint outdoors in the same plein air style of her predecessors. She has also just completed her second solo show at Sullivan Goss Gallery.
“How can I do something that will turn me on, whether with the composition or light and shadow…I have to have something else to say about it.” – Meredith Brooks Abbott
Aside from her daily painting practice and weekly drawing classes, her life is full with her almost 50-year marriage to Duncan, four adult children, seven grandchildren, tennis games, and gardening. She cherishes the times she is able to paint along
side her daughter Whitney and granddaughter Gwen. Most importantly, she is still celebrating, documenting, and preserving the beauty and goodness of Santa Barbara through her landscape, architecture and still life art.
As we continue to appreciate our beloved Lobero Theatre and the music that is created and shared inside its historic walls, we also give a nod of appreciation and gratitude to Meredith Brooks Abbott, another Santa Barbara treasure, who has once again highlighted the beauty and history of this lovely theater in our special town. True harmony!
*Our thanks to Mary Blair for this wonderful profile.