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San Diego Opera announces spring drive-in opera festival

Surrealist costumes from San Diego Opera's drive-in production of "The Barber of Seville"
One of the surrealist costumes featured in San Diego Opera’s upcoming drive-in production of “The Barber of Seville” at the Pechanga Arena San Diego parking lot.
(Kelly & Massa )

The two-weekend festival in the Pechanga Arena parking lot will include a concert and ‘The Barber of Seville’

Following on the success of its outdoor productions of “La bohème” and “All is Calm” last fall, San Diego Opera has announced a two-weekend drive-in opera festival this spring in the Pechanga Arena San Diego parking lot.

Running April 24 through May 1, the festival will include an opera concert and a pared-down version of Gioachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” both accompanied by the San Diego Symphony. They will be presented on elevated outdoor stages with additional video screens featuring close-up images of the singers throughout the parking lot. The opera will be sung in its original Italian with English subtitles on the video screens, and audience members can tune in the high-definition audio broadcast on their car radio or phone.

The pandemic forced San Diego Opera to postpone or reimagine virtually all of its planned productions for 2020 and 2021. “La bohème” survived in its fall 2020 slot, but in a slightly abbreviated fashion on the outdoor stage at Pechanga Arena with microphones and costumes but without a chorus and scenery. It was a success, selling out most performances and drawing more than 4,200 attendees.

The company also had success with a drive-in show in December in the Del Mar Fairgrounds parking lot featuring a combination holiday concert and film screening of its 2018 production of the holiday a cappella opera “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.”

The upcoming drive-in festival will begin on April 24 with “One Amazing Night,” a one-night concert featuring arias and duets performed by featured soloists, members of the San Diego Opera Chorus and the San Diego Symphony. Bruce Stasyna, San Diego Opera Chorus master and music administrator, will conduct. The cast has not been announced.

The next night will mark the opening of “The Barber of Seville,” which will continue on the evenings of April 27, April 30 and May 1. The family-friendly 90-minute production will feature eight principal singers, the San Diego Opera Chorus and the San Diego Symphony. The staging will feature surrealist costumes originally designed for Opera Philadelphia and now owned by Utah Opera.

Baritone David Pershall makes his company debut as Figaro, the wily barber who helps the disguised Count Almaviva, played by tenor Carlos Enrique Santelli, win the hand of Rosina, played by mezzo-soprano Emily Fons. The production will be conducted by Staysna and directed by Keturah Stickann, who directed “La bohème” last fall.

Some of the other postponed productions will be pushed back until theaters can reopen. The Detour Series production of “Aging Magician” will play at the Balboa Theatre as part of the 2022 season. The Puccini one-act operas “Suor Angelica,” featuring mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, and “Gianni Schicchi,” have been postponed to future seasons.

All of the spring festival performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are now on sale to subscribers only. Sales for non-subscribers begin on March 1. Tickets will be sold by the carload, with attendance limited to the number of seatbelts in each vehicle. Tickets to “One Amazing Night” start at $100 with premium parking available for $150. Tickets for “Barber” start at $200 per car, with limited premium spaces at $300. For details, visit sdopera.org.

— Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


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