UC Santa Barbara Opera Theatre presents Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Don Giovanni

Event Date: 

Friday, February 26, 2021 - 6:00pm

Event Date Details: 

Direct link to YouTube Premiere
6-7:30 pm PST: 
Direct link to Zoom Q&A
7:30-8 pm PST: 

Event Location: 

  • Virtual Event

Event Price: 

Free and open to the public

Event Contact: 

Adriane Cleary
Marketing and Communications Manager
UC Santa Barbara Department of Music
Don Giovanni Artwork
UC Santa Barbara Opera Theatre and the Department of Music will present a virtual performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s two-act opera Don Giovanni on Friday, February 26, 2021 at 6 pm PST as a YouTube Premiere. Directed by UC Santa Barbara Associate Professor Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian, the abridged version of the opera will be sung in the original Italian with English subtitles. The video will be free and available to the public via the Department of Music’s YouTube channel. Dr. Bayrakdarian will host a LIVE Q&A with the cast of Don Giovanni directly after the premiere from 7:30-8 pm PST via Zoom. 
Direct link to YouTube Premiere (6-7:30 pm PST):
Direct link to Zoom Q&A (7:30-8 pm PST):
This production was generously supported by the Carl Zytowski Fund for Opera.

Press Coverage

UC Santa Barbara Current
By Jim Logan
By Josef Woodard
Montecito Journal
By Steven Libowitz

Creative Team

Director | Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian
Pianists | Dr. John Ballerino and Erik Lawrence


Don Giovanni | Valdis Jansons
Donna Anna | April Amante
Donna Elvira | Naomi Merer
Don Ottavio | Gianni Becker
Leporello | Valdis Jansons
Zerlina | Marta Hovhannisyan
Masetto | Steven Browning Thomson
Choir | Megan Ashley, Tyler Fulgham, Violet Joy Hansen, Keith Romero, Soohyun Ryu, Kartik Sundaram, Matthew Thayer


Audio Engineer | Connor Long
Video Editors | Dr. Anthony Garcia and Adriane Cleary

About the Opera

Don Giovanni features music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and an Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, whom Mozart also collaborated with for Le Nozze di Figaro (1786) and Così fan tutte (1790). Classified by Mozart as an opera buffa, Don Giovanni received its premiere on October 29, 1787 by the Prague Italian Opera at the National Theater, now called the Estates Theatre, in Prague, Czech Republic. Based on the legend of the notorious libertine Don Juan originally brought to life by the Spanish writer Tirso de Molina, the opera is set in Seville, Spain in the mid-18th century, and follows the demise of the shameless seducer Don Giovanni over the course of a mere 24 hours.

UC Santa Barbara Opera Theatre

The award-winning UC Santa Barbara Opera Theatre Program offers promising young artists the opportunity to work with world-renowned faculty who have sung with many of the world’s major opera companies and orchestras. Undergraduate and graduate students participate in fully-staged operas, as well as productions of semi-staged opera scenes. Recent fully-staged productions include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (2018) and the North American premiere of Franz Lehár’s The Mock Marriage (2019) at the historic Lobero Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara. Graduates of the UC Santa Barbara Voice Program have performed at festivals such as the Tanglewood Music Center, Music Academy of the West, Merola Opera Program, and the Chautauqua Music Festival, and have been admitted to graduate programs at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Peabody Conservatory, Northwestern University, and many more. 

Creative Team and Cast

Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian, Director

Isabel Bayrakdarian’s performing career was launched in 1997, the year she was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and the same year she graduated from the University of Toronto cum laude with a biomedical engineering  degree. Since then, she has performed in major opera houses across the globe and with many of the world’s finest orchestras. Her versatility is also reflected in  being the featured vocalist on the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack of the blockbuster film The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, and on the soundtrack of Atom Egoyan’s Ararat. Dr. Bayrakdarian is the winner of many prestigious awards, including  four  consecutive Juno Awards (Canada’s Grammy equivalent), the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee and the Diamond Jubilee Medals, and the “Movses Khorenatsi” medal—the Republic of Armenia’s highest cultural award. She is Associate Professor of Voice at UC Santa Barbara.

Dr. John Ballerino, Pianist

Dr. John Ballerino grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico and is fluent in Spanish. He is a Continuing Lecturer of Collaborative Arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and holds a DMA in Collaborative Arts from the University of Southern California, where he also studied Spanish and Latin American literature as part of his doctoral program. His principal teachers include Gwendolyn Koldofsky, Brooks Smith, Alan Smith, George Katz, and Frank Wiens. An accomplished speaker and performer of Spanish and Latin American music, Dr. Ballerino lectures and performs throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Since 1999, John has been the principal coach and Assistant Music Director for ten different Zarzuela productions at the Jarvis Conservatory in Napa, California. He has also served as a Spanish diction coach for productions by the Los Angeles Opera and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. In 2007, John was on staff at Los Angeles Opera as diction coach and pianist for the Zarzuela Luisa Fernanda, featuring Plácido Domingo in the lead role. In 2010 John was the assistant conductor and Spanish coach for Rio de Sangre, a world premiere opera by Don Davis that was produced by the Florentine Opera (Milwaukee). 

Erik Lawrence, Pianist

Pianist Erik Lawrence has experience in orchestral, chamber music, art song, operatic, and choral genres. Erik has given performances at the Canadian Opera Company’s Virtuoso Pianist Afternoon Concert Series, at the International Holland Music Sessions in Bergen, Netherlands, and performed Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with the Lake Charles Symphony. He was orchestral keyboardist with the Topeka Symphony Orchestra. He began his Doctoral studies in Collaborative Piano at UC Santa Barbara with Robert Koenig, and was a TA at UM Kansas City where he earned a Master’s Degree with Dr. Robert Weirich. Before that, he received an Artist’s Diploma from the Glenn Gould School with pianist John O’Conor, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Rice University with Dr. Robert Roux in his hometown of Houston, Texas.

Valdis Jansons, Don Giovanni/Leporello

Latvian baritone Valdis Jansons is a Doctor of Musical Arts student at UC Santa Barbara, where he studies with Associate Professor Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian. Jansons made his opera debut in 2004 under the direction of Antonello Allemandi and is the winner of many international competitions, including the Giuseppe Di Stefano (2006) and the As.Li.Co. (2009), among others. He has sung more than 60 roles in more than 70 theaters all over the world, such as Teatro alla Scala, Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater, Theater an der Wien, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Lincoln Center, and the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing. He has also covered opera "stars" such as Leo Nucci as Rigoletto, Rolando Panerai and Juan Pons as Gianni Schicchi, and Roberto Servile as Marcello in La Bohème.

April Amante, Donna Anna

Born and raised in Southern California, April Amante made her Los Angeles Opera debut as the Solo Soprano Voice/Chorus Soloist in the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin's "Eurydice". In addition to being on the roster of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, she was the Soprano Soloist for Handel's "Messiah" with the Los Angeles Master Chorale in Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2019, and in 2018 for their Messiah ‘Sing-Along’.  April played the role of Mrs. Sinclair in the world premiere of Eric Whitacre's "The Gift of the Magi" at Walt Disney Concert Hall at the Los Angeles Master Chorale's Festival of Carols concert. Favorite roles performed include Laurey (Oklahoma), Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), and Frasquita (Carmen) with Opera San Luis Obispo, and Johanna (Sweeney Todd) with Pittsburgh Festival Opera. April received a B.M. in Vocal Performance from California State University-Northridge and an M.M. from the University of Arizona.

Naomi Merer, Donna Elvira

Soprano Naomi Merer “brought a masterful sense of comedic verisimilitude…and championed a voice that grew in warmth and consonance…” (BravoCalifornia!) as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (UCSB). In 2020, she was a featured singer in the Santa Barbara Symphony’s concert of the Carnegie Hall Link-Up program. Naomi’s operatic roles include Sarah Good in The Crucible (Opera Santa Barbara—OSB), Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival), Miss Phoebe in Lehar’s operetta, The Mock Marriage, and Youth in Thomas Cipullo’s After Life (UCSB). She has also performed chorus roles with OSB, including Lolette in La rondine, a Hen in The Cunning Little Vixen, and Suor Osmina in Suor Angelica. In 2018 and 2017, she won second place in the Performing Arts Scholarship Foundation competition. Naomi’s doctoral research will culminate in a dissertation titled "Get thee to an asylum: reflecting on the evolution of mental illness and its portrayal in Thomas’ operatic mad scene," which discusses the historical implications of Ophelia's mad scene in Thomas' Hamlet. She is currently a teaching assistant for Music Appreciation.

Gianni Becker, Don Ottavio

Gianni Becker is a first-year graduate music major at UCSB, majoring in Vocal Performance and under the direction of Benjamin Brecher. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he majored in Vocal Performance and Music Education. This is his first major operatic role. Past performances include Edwin in Trial By Jury by Gilbert and Sullivan and Randall in Bring It On The Musical

Marta Hovhannisyan, Zerlina

Marta Hovhannisyan is a master’s vocal performance major at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she studies under Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian. Prior to her studies at UCSB, Marta received her bachelor’s degree from California State University Northridge. During her studies, Marta performed in many recitals, concerts, and master classes, and also received the Nancy Hooker scholarship for her talent and skills. She also works wonderfully in collaborative ensembles such as choirs, small quartets, and operas, both in and outside of school. During her undergrad, Marta was a part of four operas, having lead roles in three. In the summer of 2019, she was invited to be a part of the American Institution of Musical Studies (AIMS), where she traveled to Austria to be in an intensive learning system for most of her summer. Through all her studies, her love for music and performing has grown and continues to grow stronger as she is excited for what her future holds.

Steven Thomson, Masetto

Steven Thomson, a native of northern Colorado, is a baritone/conductor/keyboardist/scholar and first year graduate student in choral conducting at UCSB where he conducts and sings in the studio of Dr. Nicole Lamartine. Before pursuing his degree in conducting, Steven completed advanced coursework and research in ethnomusicology, including a MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago. He has previously studied voice with Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian and Professor Anna Mayilyan and pipe organ with Dr. Elizabeth Naegele. While the circumstances are certainly a little different this year, Steven is grateful to be singing his third role in an opera production at UCSB.

Megan Ashley, Chorus

Megan is a fourth-year student at UC Santa Barbara, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in Voice and a minor in Italian. This is her second time performing with UCSB Opera and she is so excited to return to their virtual stage! She thanks her teacher, Professor Ben Brecher, as well as her friends and family for all of their support.

Tyler Fulgham, Chorus

Tyler Fulgham is a first-year vocal performance student. She is thrilled to be participating in her first UCSB opera production. She has thoroughly enjoyed working with her colleagues. Tyler has sung as long as she can remember and she looks forward to honing her skills over the next four years and beyond. She hopes to be a vocal professor in the future but for now is focusing on her performance career and making connections that could last a lifetime!

Violet Joy Hansen, Chorus

Violet Joy Hansen is a Junior at UCSB, double majoring with a BFA in Theatre and Music. She has been training with Professor Ben Brecher for the past three years and is thankful for all he has taught her. This is Violet’s second opportunity to be in a UCSB opera production as well as having been in thirteen productions in the theatre department. She wants to thank her parents and friends for supporting her. She hopes that you enjoy the show!

Soohyun Ryu, Chorus

Soohyun Ryu is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is double majoring with a BM in Vocal Performance and Psychological and Brain Sciences. She has been studying under Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian for the past three years. Soohyun is delighted to participate in this production of Don Giovanni as a chorus member. She was also previously in the chorus in The Mock Marriage.

Kartik Sundaram, Chorus

Kartik Sundaram is a Tenor from San Diego, California. Kartik has been involved with UC Santa Barbara’s Music department since arriving as a Freshman in September 2019. He studies Voice with Professor Benjamin Brecher at UC Santa Barbara. In high school, Kartik was selected for District, Regional, and All-State Honor Choirs in addition to helping his high school Chamber Choir at the Anaheim Heritage Festival in May 2018, picking up the Maestro Award along the way. In addition to his choral endeavors in high school, Kartik has also enjoyed consistent success in Vocal competitions such as the San Diego Chapter of NATS with finishing among the top in the High school categories of “Men’s Classical” and “Men’s Musical Theater” in 2018. In addition to joining UCSB to further study music, Kartik has aspirations to become a doctor of Allopathic Medicine (MD).

Matthew Thayer, Chorus

Matthew Thayer is a freshman at UCSB currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in Voice! He attended Frostig high school for one year, and then spent three years at California School of the Arts - San Gabriel Valley. He was a member of their vocal arts conservatory, managed by Katherine Powers. He doesn't think he’s a good judge of these things, but he feels the culture there was something special, something the world doesn't know it should’ve been sad to see go, which, of course, it has done completely. One of his longest-standing associations was with the company Acting Up, with whom he performed in well-over 10 shows, over at least 5 years. He’s always hated being an audience member. He hopes to pursue a career in theoretical research.






Don Giovanni Artwork