Kostis Protopapas was named General Director of Opera Santa Barbara in December 2017, after two-and-a-half seasons as Artistic Director.
During his time as Artistic Director and principal conductor, Kostis brought a unified vision to OSB’s musical and production values, strengthening the orchestra and chorus, engaging some of the country’s most promising young directors and singers, building a high-performing production team, and increasing focus on contemporary American opera. As General Director Kostis assembled a team of enthusiastic overachievers with a passion for innovation and the desire to strengthen the company’s bond with the community, who consistently deliver programs and communications far greater than what can be expected from the size of the company.
Performance highlights from Kostis’ tenure include grand opera classics like Madama Butterfly, Manon, and Eugene Onegin as well as contemporary works like Daniel Catan’s Il Postino, the mariachi opera Cruzar la cara de la luna, and Robert Ward’s The Crucible, which the Santa Barbara Independent called “one of the season’s most exciting performances of any kind in Santa Barbara”.
During Kostis’ tenure Opera Santa Barbara saw the creation of the Santa Barbara Youth Opera, a program providing educational and performance opportunities for school-age children; the expansion of the company’s Chrisman Studio program which this season includes twelve artists from California; and an impressive growth in the company’s community engagement and educational activities throughout the Central Coast.
Between March 2020 and June 2021, under Kostis’ leadership Opera Santa Barbara remained active and fully staffed. It was the first performing arts organization in Santa Barbara to offer streaming programming, and one of only two opera companies in California to present three live operas in the 2020-21 season. Additionally, Opera Santa Barbara became an advocacy leader for the reopening of the performing arts, and funded live performances by local musicians through “Operation Eurydice”.
Before coming to Santa Barbara Kostis was the Artistic Director of Tulsa Opera since 2008. He previously was an Assistant Conductor with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, LA Opera and Santa Fe Opera. At the Lyric Opera of Chicago, he also served as Assistant Chorus Master under Donald Palumbo for two seasons..
Born in Athens, Greece, Kostis Protopapas studied Archaeology and History of Art at the University of Athens before coming to the United States in 1993, on an Onassis Foundation scholarship, to study piano at The Boston Conservatory and conducting at Boston University. He became an American citizen in 2011. He loves living in Santa Barbara, and enjoys downtown restaurants, the Funk Zone’s tasting rooms, and sailing on the Santa Barbara Channel.