A Passion for Opera!

Class Archive



The Metropolitan Opera in HD
and San Francisco Opera

Fall, 2012 — 13th Year!
2012-2013 Season

With so many opportunities to see live opera on Stage, in HD at the cinema or in your living room, streamed live from around the world, this class will enhance your appreciation of the 2012-13 Season’s exciting operas and prepare you to see them live! Whether you are new to opera or an aficionado, this class is for you.

With DVD, CD and You Tube clips, we’ll explore what operas are not to be missed, which singers to hear and we’ll delve into the history, style, libretto (story) of these operas and recommend the best recordings. We’ll listen to and compare today’s stars with legendary singers of the past, who have made these great works come to life. And we’ll explore how productions, traditional or “updated”, enhance or diminish the enjoyment of opera.

There are approximately 20 live opera performances available in the Bay Area this season. They include a number of newly commissioned operas, rarely performed works by both well know and obscure composers, and, of course, many classics with exciting casts.

These include: Bellini’s I Capuleti ed I Montecchi (SFO), Berlioz’s Les Troyens (MET) Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda (MET), Wagner’s Lohengrin (SFO) and Parisfal (MET), Puccini’s Tosca (SFO), Heggie’s Moby Dick (SFO), Handel’s Giulio Cesare (MET), Verdi’s Otello / Ballo in Maschera, Aida (MET) and Rigoletto (SFO & MET), Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito (Met) and many others.

As always, registered students can attend (optional) a performance at San Francisco Opera. This season’s offering is Wagner’s Lohengrin ( Saturday, 11/3) with a great cast. Tickets are $45 for an orchestra seat, very limited in number and are not included in the registration fee. A deluxe bus to the opera will be available (about $40/pp) and seating is limited.

Class registration for SRJC starts around 8/1/12.

To register call (707) 527-4372 or go online to: www.santarosa.edu/communityed/

Opera and Bus Tickets are on a first come first served basis.

TICKETS ARE LIMITED!! Reserve your tickets NOW for Lohengrin and a seat on the Bus before class registration begins by emailing Will Kent at: wkent@sonic.net or calling 707-824-4531.

Bringing Down the House!

Fall, 2010 12th Year! Santa Rosa Junior College

A Passion for Opera!

Instructor: Will Kent
6 Thursdays: September 30 – November 4, 2010

7-9 p.m. Newman Auditorium

A Passion for Opera often begins with a single beautiful aria, a mystical blend of voices in a sublime duet, trio, quartet or sextet or a rapturous operatic scene that becomes indelible in one’s psyche. In this class we’ll focus on those singular moments in Opera that “bring down the house” and ensure that audiences return again and again.

Whether you are a newcomer to opera or an aficionado, this class is a great introduction to Opera and a fascinating study into the genius of the great opera composers who knew how to grab an audience. From Baroque to Modern using multimedia examples from both popular and obscure Italian, French, Russian, German, English, American and Czech Operas, we’ll experience the magic of opera, interpreted by the world’s greatest singers, conductors, directors, set designers and productions both past and present.

We’ll delve into the history of the Aria as it evolved over the centuries and consider how different singers in different eras interpret them. And we’ll consider vocal collaboration in duets, sextets etc. and determine what it takes to meld voices so that the outcome is seamless and sublime. We’ll explore operas as the composers intended (from the autograph score) and learn how performance practice has altered them over the years for better or worse. And to enhance your opera going season, we’ll be sure to focus on many of the Operas being offered by the Met in HD Series and at San Francisco Opera in 2010-11. Bravo!

Our exciting annual class trip to glittering San Francisco Opera (optional) will be to Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece, Madama Butterfly starring the legendary European diva, Daniela Dessi as Cio-Cio-San and an international cast on Friday, November 5 at 8:00 p.m. As always, a deluxe bus will be for hire. Register early to ensure an orchestra seat as tickets are $45 & limited.

Puccini & Turandot The Demise and Renaissance of Italian Opera

Fall, 2009 A Passion for Opera

11th Year! Santa Rosa Junior College

6 Thursdays: October 1 – November 12
No class meeting October 29th
7-9 p.m.
Newman Auditorium, SRJC

When Giacomo Puccini died in 1924, he left his final opera, Turandot, unfinished, with only a sketch of its final scene. More importantly, with Turandot, the curtain fell on the glorious Italian musical tradition that invented opera and dominated the opera world for three centuries.

Puccini was under tremendous pressure in the early 20th century to abandon his “old fashioned” musical heritage and yield to “Modernism”. In this class, we’ll consider what Puccini’s competitors (Strauss, Debussy, Zandonai, Franchetti, Mascagni, Giordano, et al.) offered and how they influenced the Maestro in two of his later operas, Il Trittico and La fanciulla del West. With Turandot, however, Puccini renounced the “new music” and returned to his Italian voice, recapitulating the best innovations from Rossini to Verdi as well as his own.

As an operatic innovator, Puccini was masterful at creating theater. Turandot is an operatic thriller that melds the sadistic cruelty of Salome with the romantic awakening of Violetta in La Traviata. Until its final thunderous chord, Turandot holds audiences as spellbound as a Hitchcock movie. In this course, we’ll not only plunge into the depths of Turandot, as both music and theater and learn how the opera has evolved over its 83 year history, but also consider what it takes to mount a great production. And finally, we’ll consider Opera’s current renaissance as it moves from its gilded Opera Houses into the multiplex, satellite radio, television, and the internet world wide.

Whether you are a newcomer to opera or an aficionado, this course is a great introduction to Puccini and Italian Opera, and a fascinating study of Opera in its waning years as the movies subsequently sidelined it. This year our class trip to San Francisco Opera (optional), will be to Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece, Otello. And to complement the subject matter of the class we’ll all have the very rare opportunity to see four great Puccini Operas both live and at the Cinema. Bravo!!

Opera Information

Verdi: Otello. Optional class trip to San Francisco Opera.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009.
Tickets are $45, orchestra seats and tickets are limited. Register early for the class to reserve your seat. You must be registered in the class to purchase tickets. If there is enough interest, a deluxe bus will be hired for the trip to San Francisco.

Puccini: Tosca, Met in HD (Rialto Cinemas)
October 10 live broadcast, repeats 10/14.
With Karita Mattila as Tosca and Marcelo Alvarez as Cavaradossi.
Buy your own ticket from the Rialto.

Puccini: Il Trittico, San Francisco Opera: Puccini’s three one act operas: Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi.
Patricia Racette assumes all three soprano roles and Ewa Podles is the Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica. September 15 to October 3, 2009. Purchase your own ticket from San Francisco Opera.

Puccini: Turandot Met in HD (Rialto Cinemas) Live broadcast 11/7 Repeat Broadcasts 11/11 matinee and evening.
Franco Zeffirelli Production with Maria Guleghina as Turandot and Marcelo Giordano as Calaf; Marina Poplavskaya as Liu & Samuel Ramey as Timur. Buy your tickets early from the Rialto. If there is enough demand an extra performace will be added to accommodate students from the class.
Highly recommended for all class participants!!!

Puccini: La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West)
San Francisco Opera. June 9-July 12, 2010.
Salvatore Licitra as Jack Rance, and Deborah Voigt as Minnie.
Buy your ticket direct from San Francisco Opera.


The World’s Greatest Singers!

Fall 2008 Course Information

A Passion for Opera:

6 Thursdays from 7-9p.m
October 16 to November 20, 2008

Newman Auditorium, Santa Rosa Junior College
Instructor: Will Kent

Fleming, Netrebko, Villazon, Kaufmann. While not exactly household names outside the Opera world, they are among the dozen or so singers who are the Gold Standard for Opera today. Announce any one of them, and the house sells out. In the past decade, we have thrilled to a whole new generation of Divas and Divos who are stepping into the shoes of Pavarotti, Sutherland, and Domingo and bringing magic and excitement back to opera.

These new Operatic Superstars infuse youthful realism, gorgeous looks and ACTING into these classical works. Little wonder Opera is having a renaissance not only in its gilded houses but at the Cinema, on Television and Worldwide on the Internet.

Whether you are a newcomer to opera or an afficionado, join hundreds of opera lovers in this 10th year of A Passion for Opera. Through multimedia presentations, we’ll thrill to a myriad of the greatest Opera Stars today in their signature roles and discuss what makes them extraordinary. We’ll discuss what repertoire best suits each singer’s voice and why many risk it all to take on ever more demanding and challenging roles. We’ll also consider the most promising and exciting Operatic Stars of Tomorrow, (Filianoti, Calleja, Mula, Caball and many others) of whom you’ll have the chance to vote for your favorites.

And when the course is finished, we’ll attend the December 2nd performance of the most popular opera of all times, Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme, with a star studded cast at glamorous San Francisco Opera. BRAVO!

Tickets for La Boheme are for Tuesday, December 2, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. Attendance is optional and ticket price is not included in the tuition fee of $90. Tickets are $45 for Orchestra Seats, limited, and subject to date and cast changes and availability. A deluxe bus to and from the Opera will be available according to demand.

To Register early for the course (Sold Out last 6 years!) and be on A Passion for Opera’s Mailing List, Email wkent@sonic.net or call Will Kent at 707-484-1993.

Hearing Voices

Spring 2008

A Passion for Opera:

Wednesdays, February 6-March 26, 2008. 7 p.m.

Instructor: James Sokol

Santa Rosa Junior College

Back by popular demand!! Which singers do you prefer? Tebaldi or Callas? Sutherland or Sills? Domingo or Pavarotti? In fact, these are like comparing “apples and oranges”. Whether familiar or not with these singers, you can embark on a musical journey through the voice types to learn the differences among these and other singers, voices, and related repertoire.

Each session will focus on a different vocal range (soprano, mezzo, contralto, tenor, baritone, bass) and the variations within that range. Video performance clips will help compare and contrast voice types and will bring the sheer beauty and excitement of opera into the discussion. This is a terrific series for the opera newcomer and the long-time fan.

For more information on the SRJC Web site, please click here.

Intensive Traviata

Thursdays: April 3 – May 6, 2008 7 p.m.

Instructor: James Sokol

Santa Rosa Junior College

Journey deeply into the richness of Verdi’s masterpiece–La Traviata! Six weeks on one opera may seem like a lot, but this series has left past participants wanting more “intensive” classes! Explore rich characters through libretto (re: script) discussion, then, hear how Verdi illuminates characters through glorious music. Finally, compare performance interpretations with video clips of three different productions and casts. Perfect for the opera newcomer and longtime fan.

Beckoning Treasures!

FALL 2007

A Passion for Opera

Instructor: Will Kent

6 Thursdays, 7-9 p.m.
October 18 – November 29 (No class November 22)
Newman Auditorium, Santa Rosa Junior College.

Curious about Opera? Looking for more passion in your life? Join hundreds of opera lovers and opera converts in this wildly popular class, now in its 9th season at SRJC as we explore Opera’s Beckoning Treasures. Everyone familiar with opera knows Puccini’s La Boheme & Verdi’s Aida. In this class, we’ll explore a number of less familiar but equally magnificent operas by composers, both famous & obscure. Many of these works require such astounding voices & star power, that they are produced only when a great cast can be assembled. When announced, these are operatic treasures not to be missed and they frequently sell out.

This season, San Francisco Opera is presenting three such Beckoning Treasures: Verdi’s Macbeth, Puccini’s La Rondine and Handel’s Ariodante. For 6 weeks, from Baroque to Modern and through multimedia presentations, we’ll study these three, as well as other thrilling and beautiful German, English, French & Italian operas including, Paisiello’s psychotic Nina, Strauss’s serene Capriccio, Floyd’s bible thumping Susannah, Korngold’s haunting Die tote Stadt, Giordano’s revolutionary Andrea Chenier, Donizetti’s regal Roberto Devereux & comedic La Fille du Regiment and Gounod’s ever tragic Romeo et Juliette, sung by the world’s greatest voices, past and present.

And when the class is over, we’ll make our annual trek to glamorous San Francisco Opera on Friday, November 30 for Giuseppe Verdi’s early masterpiece, Macbeth with acclaimed baritone, Thomas Hampson as Macbeth, soprano Doina Dimitriu in the tortuous role of Lady Macbeth, and tenor, Carlo Ventre as MacDuff.

Tickets are $45 for Orchestra Seats and availability is limited. Attendance is optional and the ticket price is not included in the $90 tuition fee. Register early to ensure a seat. If there is enough interest, a deluxe bus will be available to ferry you to and from the opera at a very reasonable price. Ticket order form will be mailed with registration confirmation. If not received, please call Community Education at (707) 527-472.

Artists and Arias

Spring, 2007

A Passion for Opera:

Lecturer: James Sokol

6 Thursdays, March 1 – April 12, 2007

7-9 p.m. (no class 3/22/07)

1564 Emeritus Hall, Santa Rosa Campus

Fee $90 ( includes $5 of materials)

An opera can vary extensively from production to production. Different singers, conductors, directors and designers bring unique vision and interpretation to their craft. Look closely at details of specific arias and scenes from operas by Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini and many more.

Then, journey through three video performance clips of each aria (or scene) to compare and contrast different singers, to see different productions, to experience different interpretations. This opera series offers a wonderful variety of popular arias as well gorgeous lesser-known gems. Artists and Arias is a terrific course for both the opera newcomer and the long-time fan.

Presenter James Sokol returns to A Passion for Opera at SRJC to lead another delightful opera appreciation series. James has worked in the opera world for the past two decades, having begun his career under Beverly Sills at the New York City Opera.

He is a Founding Member and is on the Artistic Advisory Board of The Singers Development Foundation, an organization which offers study grants to promising young opera singers. He has worked and lectured for several years for San Francisco Opera and is a former Executive Director of San Francisco’s Pocket Opera. He teaches opera appreciation courses throughout the Bay Area.

Gioachino Rossini & the Magic of Bel Canto

Fall, 2006

Will Kent, Instructor

6 Thursdays, October 12- November 16

7-9 p.m. Emeritus Hall

Curious about Opera? Looking for more Passion in your life? There’s never been a better time to join hundreds of newcomers and seasoned opera lovers as we explore the fascinating life of Gioachino Rossini. Rossini wrote 40 operas, both tragic and comic, and we’ll explore many of them, including: The Barber of Seville, Semiramide, La donna del lago, Otello, Tancredi, L’Italiana in Algeri, and Il viaggio a Reims.

We’ll experience what continues to make Rossini’s music so joyous and his operas among the most popular today. We’ll revel in multi media presentations of glorious bel canto (beautiful singing) and discover the “Rossini tenor”. You’ll hear incredible performances by some of the world’s greatest singers, both past and present. And before the curtain falls on 6 weeks of glorious bel canto, we’ll attend one of the most exciting and innovative productions of Barber of Seville ever at glamorous San Francisco Opera on Friday, November 17. Nathan Gunn, one of the great baritones of our time, stars as Figaro with a stunning supporting cast. Bravo!!

Attendance at Barber of Seville is optional. Tickets are $40, limited and are not included in the $90 tuition fee. Register early to insure a seat.

To Register Early before the SRJC Course Bulletin is mailed to the General Public:

1. Many of you who have taken A Passion for Opera before will automatically receive pre-registration forms from the college during the last 2 weeks of June. Fill out the forms and return them as directed. A ticket request form will be included. Make sure you send in your ticket request form ASAP to insure a seat to The Barber of Seville.

2. If you do not receive the early registration forms or have never taken my opera class before, call 707-527-4372 after June l and ask the college to register you early in the Fall class of A Passion for Opera.

Questions?? Email: wkent@sonic.net

A Passion for Opera: To Russia with Love

Spring 2006:

James Sokol, lecturer

While Italian, French and German works reign supreme in opera houses the world over, several Eastern European gems have beautiful melodies, lush orchestrations and romantic stories to rival even the most popular of operas.

Whether an avid opera fan or a newcomer, you will have the chance to explore the glorious riches of Slavic operas, including works by Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Glinka and Smetana. Whether or not these composers are familiar to you, their operas are sure to be a treat! Presentations include audio and video clips to bring the beauty and excitement of the stage into the classroom.

In addition, students will have the rare opportunity to experience two masterpieces of this neglected repertoire with class trips to enjoy the rich musical and dramatic sweep of Tchaikovsky’s “The Maid of Orleans” at San Francisco Opera and the delight, sparkle and charm of Semtana’s “The Bartered Bride” at Pocket Opera.

Note: The class may be listed as “Slavic Sensations” at SRJC.

James Sokol returns to A Passion for Opera at SRJC to lead another delightful opera appreciation series. He has worked in the opera world for the past two decades. having begun his career under Beverly Sills at New York City Opera. Sokol is a Founding Member and is on the Artistic Advisory Board of The Singers Development Foundation, an organization which offers study grants to promising young opera singers. He has worked and lectured for several years for San Francisco Opera and is a former Executive Director of San Francisco’s Pocket Opera. He teaches opera appreciation courses throughout the Bay Area.

Dates: Six Thursdays, March 2 – April 6, 2006

Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm ( March 9 class, 7:30pm-9:30pm)

Place: SRJC, Newman Auditorium

Fee: $90 (includes a $5 materials fee)

Opera tickets and are not included in the $90 tuition fee. Ticket order forms will be distributed in class. Tickets are limited.

On the Record! Opera’s Legendary Singers

Instructor: Will Kent

September 29 – November 3, 2005 from 7-9 p.m.

(5 Thursdays: 9/29, 10/13, 10/20, 10/27, 11/3 & l Friday, 10/ 7)

Newman Auditorium, Santa Rosa Junior College.

Opera is first and foremost about Singing! Whether you are already passionate about opera or a newcomer to this great art, you won’t want to miss six weeks of incredible beauty, passion and excitement as we explore and celebrate the lives and legends of the greatest Singers the world has ever known.

In the first, class we’ll trace the evolution of operatic singing from the first Superstars, the castrati, in the early 18th century, through the rise of the Prima Donna and the emergence of the Tenor voice in the mid 19th century. We’ll listen to the voices of the great stars of the earliest recording era including: Enrico Caruso, Alessandro Bonci, Luisa Tettrazini, Nelli Melba & many others.

In the next two classes we’ll focus on recordings and video archives from what has been called the “Golden Era of Singing”, highlighting vocal artists like Claudia Muzio, Beniamino Gigli, Rosa Ponselle, & Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, and then move on to the great operatic stars, Maria Callas, Franco Corelli, Giuseppe di Stefano, Renata Tebaldi, Mario del Monico and others, who captured headlines and dominated the operatic stage in the 50’s & 60’s.

In the fourth class, we’ll revel in the wondrous voices that so many of us grew up with : Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, Leontyne Price, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Montserrat Caballe, Shirley Verrett, Jon Vickers and others. And finally, we’ll devote the last two classes to today’s great stars including: Renee Fleming, Rolando Villazon, Juan Diego Florez, Cecilia Bartoli, Deborah Voigt, Karita Mattila, Anna Netrebko and others. We’ll also preview emerging singers who may become tomorrow’s legends.

By the end of the course we will have viewed & listened to many historic performances by great operatic stars past and present, and you will choose for yourself the most expressive & definitive interpreters of great operatic roles like Tosca, Otello, Rodolfo, Mimi, Lucia, Violetta, Andrea Chenier, Lohengrin, Aida, Butterfly, Radames and others. You’ll have more insight into “What makes a voice great?” and “How is a legend created?”; and, hopefully, in the process, you’ll discover that perfect voice that speaks to your spirit and soul.

After the curtain falls on our final class, we’ll take our annual class trip to San Francisco Opera to attend a Saturday evening performance, November 5, of the greatest bel canto opera ever written, Bellini’s Norma. And, perhaps that evening, we’ll experience a legendary performance and a transcendent voice. But, without a doubt, we’ll have another exquisite evening at the Opera. Bravo!

Tuition for the 6 week course is $90. Tickets to Norma are $40 each for orchestra seats, the performance is optional and the ticket price is not included in the tuition price. Tickets are limited so register early to insure a seat. For information on the performance go to http://sfopera.com/operaspotlight.asp?operaseasonid=235 Call Santa Rosa Junior College (707-524-1547) for a pre-registration form and ticket order form.

Spring, 2005: (2/17 – 3/24)

French Treasures

Lecturer: James Sokol

During much of the 19th century, Paris was the center of the opera world with several theaters producing various genres including: Grand Opera, Lyric Opera, and Opera Comique. Most French classics come from this era, yet several melodious masterpieces have been all but forgotten – and, unjustly so! Understand the unique style of each genre by exploring both stunning classics and lesser-known gems.

Experience the electric sensuality of Bizet’s Carmen, the pathos of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, the charm and melancholy of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, the power of Saint-Saens’ Samson et Dalila, the magnificence of true Grand Opera in Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine, and the lyrical seduction of Massenet’s, Thais.
Join scores of opera lovers and opera newcomers for this multi-media musical journey filled with everything from breathtaking arias to stunning choruses, from passionate love to brutal murder. Come explore these French operatic treasures.

Puccini Marathon

Fall 2004


9/23: Introduction to Puccini/Verismo. Early Operas: Le villi & Edgar

9/30: Success & Fame: Manon Lescaut & La Boheme

10/7: Puccini’s Shabby Little Shocker: Tosca

10/14: Opera Exotica: Madama Butterfly & La fanciulla del West

10/20: Searching for a Modern Voice: La rondine & Il trittico

10/22: Optional: San Francisco Opera. Tosca with Carol Vanness, Miroslav Dvorsky, Mark Delavan. Limited Ticket Availability. Orchestra Seats.

10/28: Grand Opera At Last! Turandot


Journey Through the Ages

Spring 2004


2/19: Introduction / Baroque Opera (1600-1760) Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Handel (Kent)

2/26: The Classical Era: (1759-1800) ( Sokol)

3/04: Bel Canto: (1810-1840) (Sokol)

3/11: The Romantic Era: (1840-1880) (Sokol)

3/19: Verismo: (1880-1920) (Sokol)

3/25: Modern/Contemporary Opera (1900-2004) (Sokol)

Hearing Voices

Spring 2003

(Guest Lecturer James Sokol with Introduction by Will Kent)

An in depth look at Operatic Vocal Fachs from Soubrette to Basso Profundo.