Opera, Anyone?

Nov 11, 2014

640px-Candide_playbillOpera is coming to Pasadena.

Firstly, Caltech engineering and literature graduate, JPL summer research fellow, pianist, vocal coach, music director, and conductor Dana Sadava.

Secondly, Professor of Sciences and Humanities at San Francsico Conservatory of Music, cognitive neuroscience affiliate at USC’s Memory and Aging Center, and working soprano Dr. Indre Viskontas.

Jointly, these two women have partnered—dreaming, planning, organizing, assembling, and marshaling—to bring us Pasadena Opera.

Ms. Sadava was kind enough to answer a few questions…

HP: Why opera, why here, why now? How did you figure that opera would find an audience in Pasadena?

DS: I don’t think the people of Pasadena need much convincing to see great opera in their own backyard. I’ve wanted to run my own opera company for some time, but it wasn’t until recently that I felt prepared. I’ve worked for a variety of opera houses (as a conductor, pianist, and vocal coach) and have learned a lot about how these giant organisms function.

HP: How daunting is this endeavor? What made you take the plunge, the risk? What have you found so far has been the most trying aspect(s) and what have been wonderful surprises?

DS: It’s a huge endeavor and it can be frustrating, but honestly it doesn’t feel much like “work” to me. I’m trained as a musician, not an administrator, so that aspect of the process can be challenging at times. I was pleasantly surprised that there was so much support for Pasadena Opera from the start. Everyone seems excited and happy!

HP: What’s the mission? What are your individual roles?

Dana Sadave; photo by Louis Felix

Co-founder and conductor Dana Sadava; photo by Louis Felix

DS: Our mission is “to revolutionize the presentation and perception of opera.” Opera is inherently fascinating but it can be hard to reach; it’s often very long, expensive, and performed in a foreign language. By choosing our repertoire and settings carefully, we hope to send our audiences home happy. I’ve been to a lot of opera performances that drained my energy and bank account. We don’t do that.

Our co-founder, Indre Viskontas, is an opera singer and neuroscientist. She is very forward-thinking and extremely savvy about marketing, media, and using technology in the opera house. I’m a conductor (and former engineer), so I’m used to thinking about how to bring everything together, both musically and administratively.

HP: Where will the opera be located and what is the initial performance going to be? Why was this opera chosen to open the Pasadena Opera? Is there an opening date?

DS: Our first production is Leonard Bernstein’s Candide at the A Noise Within theater in Pasadena on January 9 and 10, 2015.

Candide is an incredibly fun and beautiful show—and written in English! We wanted to open our company with a joyful, accessible piece.


Ms. Sadava conducting; photo by Sandy Morris

Ms. Sadava conducting; photo by Sandy Morris


Sadava, a Pasadena local, also states:

“For us, it’s not about preserving a dying art form.  It’s about something that comes from the community for the community.

“Most opera companies think only about their productions and don’t put enough thought into their audience.  Care needs to be taken to bring people to the opera, to make it accessible and to tie the productions to the different characteristics of the community.”


Come get a taste of Pasadena Opera…

Free Lunchtime Concert: Music at Noon series
Wednesday, Dec. 3rd, 12:10-12:40 p.m.
Pasadena Presbyterian Church, 585 E. Colorado Blvd.


Through science, we discover general principles that define our world. Through art, we discover how individual experiences illustrate what is universal. Answering life’s big questions requires both viewpoints. What scientists and artists have in common is that they are the observers in our society. Where science ends, art begins. (Dr. Indre Viskontas)

Dr. Indre Viskontas

Pasadena Opera co-founder and soprano Dr. Indre Viskontas


Pasadena Opera is a project of the Pasadena Arts Council’s EMERGE fiscal sponsorship program. If you’d enjoy supporting Pasadena Opera, you may donate here.


Pasadena Opera will present the comic operetta Candide at the A Noise Within Theatre.
Friday, Jan. 9th at 8pm & Saturday, Jan. 10th at 8pm
A Noise Within, 33352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena 91107
reservations will soon be available at BrownPaperTickets
Music by Leonard Bernstein, book by Hugh Wheeler, lyrics by Richard Wilbur
Directed by Dr. Stacey Fraser, Conducted by Dana Sadava
Costume design by Jacqueline Saint Anne


(L to R): Director Stacey Fraser with Dana Saldava; photo courtesy of Pasadena Opera

(L to R): Director Stacey Fraser with Dana Saldava; photo courtesy of Pasadena Opera



Jonathan Smucker

Jonathan Smucker

Candide – Jonathan Smucker
Cunegonde – Shawnette Sulker
Voltaire – Terry Smith
Dr. Pangloss – Daniel Scofield
Paquette – Karin Mushegain
Maximilian – Kevin Blickfeldt
and featuring Suzanna Guzman as The Old Lady
with a lively chorus and 13-piece orchestra

This production will run approximately two hours including intermission.


Shawnette Sulker

Shawnette Sulker






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