Opera Santa Barbara’s Chrisman Studio Artists to perform ‘The Light in the Piazza’
There’s no need for any tap dancing. “The Light in the Piazza” is a musical that has everything young opera singers could ever need.
Love, trouble and Italy.
And on that note, Opera Santa Barbara’s Chrisman Studio Artists are performing their first Broadway musical, “The Light in the Piazza,” this weekend at Center Stage Theater, upstairs at Paseo Nuevo in Santa Barbara. The curtain first rose Thursday night, and more performances of the drama/comedy are set for 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Chrisman Studio Artists program is Opera Santa Barbara’s effort to develop the talents of young opera singers.
And the studio’s director, Tim Accurso, said “The Light in Piazza” is well suited for them.
“The plot takes place in Italy. There’s a big portion of the dialogue and music sung in Italian,” Mr. Accurso, who’s providing the musical direction for “The Light in the Piazza,” told the News-Press this week. “You have young love at first sight and a disapproving parent. It’s definitely going to be familiar to opera audiences.”
“The Light in Piazza” has a double cast for some of the roles.
The musical stars Chrisman Studio Artists alumni who are husband and wife in real life: tenor Matthew Greenblatt and soprano Brooklyn Snow. Ms. Snow, who performed on Thursday, returns to the stage on Saturday to portray Clara Johnson, who goes on vacation in Italy with her mother, Margaret Johnson, who’s from the South. The young American woman falls in love with a young Italian man, Fabrizio Naccarelli, played by Mr. Greenblatt, who performed Thursday and will go on stage again on Saturday.
Soprano Ariana Horner Sutherland and tenor Kyle Rudolf, who are both current students at the Chrisman Studio, are playing Clara and Fabrizio in tonight’s and Sunday’s performances.
The cast also includes soprano Adrien Roberts, mezzo sopranos Christina Pezzarossi and Georgia Jacobson, baritone Matthew Peterson and bass-baritone Elijah Cineas.
The production is directed by Layna Chianakas.
“The Light of Piazza” premiered in 2005 and is based on the 1960 novella by Elizabeth Spencer and the 1963 movie starring Olivia de Haviland. The play’s music and lyrics are written by Adam Guettel, the grandson of musical composer Richard Rodgers, and the musical’s book is by Craig Lucas.
The 1963 film didn’t have musical components, but Mr. Accurso noted, “The best tenets of the novella and movie are all captured and taken to a more heightened level in the musical.
“There’s some comedy sprinkled throughout, but it’s more of a romance,” Mr. Accurso said about the story. “It’s quite funny, especially the dialogue. There’s some language barrier issues between the (American) mother and daughter and all the Italians.”
Mr. Accurso described the music as “full and lush” and noted that the score won a Tony in 2005. He praised the music for being fully lyrical and having modern harmonies.
The musical has been a popular production of opera companies across the country. And it was revived in 2019 by the Los Angeles Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
The Opera Santa Barbara’s Chrisman Studio Artists production of “The Light of Piazza” speaks to the need for today’s young opera singers to be versatile, Mr. Accurso said. “They’re making a career of doing some musical theater and some operas. We’re now at the point, after over 400 years of repertoire, that they have to do a little bit of everything.”
He said the Chrisman Studio Artists program serves singers at the beginning of their careers.
The program began originally with four singers who lived in Santa Barbara during the entire season and served as the face of Opera Santa Barbara, with performances of operatic music at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
“The last two years, we modified our program and shifted our focus onto California-based talent,” Mr. Accurso said. “Instead of artists living in Santa Barbara the whole year, we bring them to Santa Barbara for contracted work.”
This year, there are nine artists in the program, and they come to Santa Barbara for a few weeks at a time, Mr. Accurso said.
“The Light in the Piazza” provides a performance opportunity for Ms. Snow and Mr. Greenblatt, who studied with the Chrisman Studio Artists program at a time when they couldn’t get much stage experience because of the pandemic.
“They’re so well suited for these roles. It’s fun to have them back with us,” Mr. Accurso said. “On a personal note, they welcomed a baby recently.”