Behind the Scenes of San Diego Operatalk! and San Diego Opera Spotlight

Behind the Scenes Photos
Bonus Video

Interview with Host Nick Reveles

Photo of Nicolas RevelesNick Reveles is the Geisel Director of Education & Outreach for the San Diego Opera

San Diego OperaTalk! and San Diego Opera Spotlight have brought the joy of opera to televisions across the county for over ten years. We sat down with the host of these two great programs to find out more about their history and the upcoming season.

UCSD-TV: What sparked your love of opera?

Nick Reveles: I had to teach 19th century Romanticism when I was first assigned to the music faculty at USD in 1977. Although I loved certain operas at that time (especially 20th century operas), I had no real interest in the operas of the “golden age.” So the summer before I began teaching I went into isolation and spent quality time with Verdi, Puccini and Wagner. It didn’t take long to get the bug and I’ve been infected ever since!

UCSD-TV: What is your favorite opera?

NR: Hard to say! I could better give you my top five! Wozzeck by Alban Berg (one of those 20th century operas that I’ve loved since the age of 15!!), Otello by Verdi, Don Giovanni by Mozart, Turandot by Puccini and Wagner’s Ring.

UCSD-TV: How did you become involved with San Diego OperaTalk! and San Diego Opera Spotlight?

NR: Our General Director Ian Campbell suggested OperaTalk!. Spotlight already existed, and I simply took over the interview portion of the show without ever being on screen. But when Ian asked me to write and host my own show, I met with director John Menier and fashioned with him pretty much what we have today — a half hour show about the history and culture of the operas we produce, as well as a significant amount of time about the music which I still think is something of a mystery to our audiences.

UCSD-TV: Opera Spotlight takes the audience back stage to see what goes on behind-the-scenes. What kinds of things do they get to see? What do you find they are most surprised by?

NR: Well of course John Menier and his crew get terrific B-role of rehearsals in the studio as well as onstage footage from the full-dress rehearsals. That’s always exciting for our audiences to see. But I’m still fascinated by the various “takes” on their roles that the singers present to us. You never know what they’re going to say and their responses to our questions can sometimes be provocative.

UCSD-TV: What is the most challenging aspect of bringing opera to a television audience?

NR: I’d say that from day one the most challenging aspect has been to write the script of OperaTalk! so that I’m talking not only to seasoned opera lovers but to people who are completely new to it. I’m always gratified when someone stops me on the street or at the mall or in a restaurant (and it happens with great regularity!) and tells me that they’re not particularly opera fans but they love watching the show and that it sometimes results in their buying tickets. Gotta love that!

UCSD-TV: You’ve been a member of the UCSD-TV family for quite some time. Do you have any war stories from opera shoots over the years?

NR: Oh, there are so many! Every time we tried to shoot in Balboa Park (a lovely location) we’d end up struggling with lawn mowers, leaf blowers and dump trucks that were constantly interrupting the shoot. We’ve pretty much given up on the park as an outdoor location…lovely spot, but impossible to deal with. We had to actually quit an early morning shoot there for the show on Il trovatore because it got too noisy. I also remember the shoot at the Point Loma Light House for Simon Boccanegra. It was an especially sunny day in June or July and yet our beloved director John insisted on lighting me AND using a reflector! I had to wear sun glasses, could barely read the cues, and ended up with the worst sunburn I’ve ever had in my life!!

UCSD-TV: It has been said that the audience for opera is shrinking. How should the opera world respond to this? Can opera connect to new audiences?

NR: Shows like OperaTalk! and Opera Spotlight go in the right direction. We’re responding in the Education Department here in the company by producing videos and podcasts that live on our web site. As well, they’re being hosted by YouTube (OperaTalk! and the Artists’ Roundtables) and iTunes (OperaTalk! and the new San Diego Opera Podcast). More presence in new media will help and I think our entire industry is realizing that we have to be on the cutting edge in order to compete for audience.

UCSD-TV: Opera has such a long, rich history, which can be overwhelming to someone new to the scene. What operas do you suggest for best acquainting oneself with opera?

NR: This season, probably the best operas to begin with would be the double bill of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci and Verdi’s Aida. They have all of the best and most immediately apparent glories of opera at its best: passion, spectacle, great singing and gorgeous music. You can’t miss with any of them!

UCSD-TV: What can viewers expect from the 12th season of Opera Spotlight and the 10th season of OperaTalk!?

NR: In Spotlight you’ll probably see more of an emphasis on personal responses from singers, stage directors and conductors about the works we produce. More footage from our Artists’ Roundtables will probably be used — this is one of those great events that not everyone knows about but should definitely come to. It’s an opportunity for a live audience to spend about an hour with these folks and find out what makes the opera tick. They are informal discussions and are always great fun! In OperaTalk! I’m going to try to get deeper into the music of these great works. It’s always a challenge, especially with only about 28 minutes of content allowable, but I’m always trying to think of new ways to approach opera “education” so I think you can expect something different in every show.

Bonus Video
Zandra Rhodes: Designing The Pearl Fishers
This excerpt from San Diego Opera Spotlight features British fashion icon Zandra Rhodes describing her process in designing sets and costumes for San Diego Opera’s premiere production of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers.

San Diego Opera Roundtable: TannhauserUCSD-TV and San Diego Opera present a panel discussion about San Diego Opera’s production of Wagner’s Tannhauser featureing cast members Petra Lang, Camilla Nylund, and Robert Gambill; production designer James Mulder; conductor Gabor Otvos; and director Michael Hampe. Hosted by Dr. Nicolas Reveles.


An image from Tannhauser that faithfully depicts the famed Metropolitan Opera production by Gunther Schneider-Siemssen.Photo Copyright Marty Sohl

Director of Photography Matt Alioto, Producer/Director John Menier and Host Nick Reveles discuss the next shot of the day.

Photo Copyright Keturah Stickann

Host Nick Reveles shooting on location for San Diego OperaTalk!: Verdi’s Aida

A back stage look at the set of Wozzeck.

Photo Copyright Keturah Stickann

Richard Leech sings Turiddu and Jose Cura sings Canio in
Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci.
Photo Copyright Sasha Gusov and Cory Weaver

Prepping for an OperaTalk! interview with Zandra Rhodes.

Photo Copyright Keturah Stickann

Angela Gilbert is Mary Stuart in Mary, Queen of Scots.

Photo Copyright Turtle Julian

Nick Reveles at the piano as the UCSD-TV crew sets up the shot.Photo © Keturah Stickann

San Diego Spotlight’s Carmen Wins Bronze Telly Award

(Press Release Excerpt) Four diverse programs from University of California, San Diego Television (UCSD-TV) were each honored with a Telly Award, an international competition honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs. One program, San Diego Canyonlands, received the highest honor — the Silver Telly — while San Diego Opera Spotlight: Carmen, State […]

(Press Release Excerpt) Four diverse programs from University of California, San Diego Television (UCSD-TV) were each honored with a Telly Award, an international competition honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs. One program, San Diego Canyonlands, received the highest honor — the Silver Telly — while San Diego Opera Spotlight: Carmen, State of Minds: Fall 2006 and Health Matters: Healthful Benefits of Pets each received a Bronze Telly Award.

The first of UCSD-TV’s three Bronze awards went to San Diego Opera Spotlight: Carmen, a backstage look at the local production of Georges Bizet’s verismo masterpiece. The half-hour program is part of San Diego Opera Spotlight’s tenth anniversary season and was produced by UCSD-TV’s John Menier in partnership with San Diego Opera.

Learn more about San Diego Opera Spotlight.

TV Program Educates Youth About HIV/AIDS

(Press Release) This September UCSD-TV premieres “The Rhythm of Her Step: A Song of San Diego,” an energetic, site-specific dance video that utilizes the talents of local choreographers Jean Isaacs, grace shinhae jun (bkSOUL), and UCSD-TV director John Menier, to educate urban teens and young adults about the vital topic of HIV/AIDS awareness. The program […]

(Press Release) This September UCSD-TV premieres “The Rhythm of Her Step: A Song of San Diego,” an energetic, site-specific dance video that utilizes the talents of local choreographers Jean Isaacs, grace shinhae jun (bkSOUL), and UCSD-TV director John Menier, to educate urban teens and young adults about the vital topic of HIV/AIDS awareness. The program premieres September 15th at 8:30pm on UCSD-TV and repeats throughout the month.

The half-hour video follows the story of a teenage girl as she faces her recent HIV positive diagnosis. Told through flashback sequences that incorporate dance, poetry and rhythmic music, the girl evaluates the choices she made that lead to her HIV status and ultimately takes responsibility for her actions and their consequences.

The program was sponsored by County Television Network (CTN), Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater, and UCSD-TV. A DVD version of “The Rhythm of Her Step: A Song of San Diego” will also be distributed to schools throughout San Diego County as part of the program’s grant-funded effort to educate at-risk youth, particularly African-American and Latina women, about HIV/AIDS prevention.

Shot at various locations around Encinitas, including Lou’s Records, the San Dieguito Boys and Girls Club, and San Dieguito Academy, the program features local dancers from Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater and bkSOUL, a local Hip Hop/postmodern performance company. The music featured in the video was composed and performed by local DJ Shammy Dee (Arash Haile).

Watch: The Rhythm of Her Step: A Song of San Diego

UCSD-TV Shows the Method Behind the Madness as Donizetti’s Bel Canto Masterpiece Lucia di Lammermoor Comes to San Diego Opera

Maestro Richard Bonynge rehearses with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra

Baritone Dalibor Jenis
Gaetano Donizetti’s bel canto masterpiece Lucia di Lammermoor opens as the second opera of the 2006 International Season on Saturday, February 18, 2006 for four performances. Lucia di Lammermoor features an all-star cast led by the world’s preeminent bel canto scholar, Maestro Richard Bonynge on the podium.

An interview with Angela Gilbert

Moving the scenery
Lucia di Lammermoor also marks the house debut of sensational newcomer and finalist of the “Singer of the World” competition, Angela Gilbert. She is joined on stage by San Diego Opera and Metropolitan Opera favorite Richard Leech. Also making his house debut in this production is exciting new baritone Dalibor Jenis who is joined by returning bass Reinhard Hagen. 

Reinhard Hagen laughs during his interview

Studying the cue sheets
Lucia di Lammermoor is a passionate tragedy that follows the story of the Ashton and Ravenswood families high up on Scottish moors. A blood feud between these families has gone on for generations and there is only one member of the Ravenswood family left, Edgardo (Richard Leech). Enrico Ashton (Dalibor Jenis) faces bankruptcy and demands his sister Lucia (Angela Gilbert) marry the rich bachelor and family ally Arturo (Bryan Register). Lucia is in love with Edgardo however and when Enrico finds out he vows revenge. So begins a treacherous plot of deceit and passion in one of opera’s most heartbreaking tragedies. A bel canto opera written to showcase the human voice, Lucia di Lammermoor features one of the most famous scenes in all of theatre history – the Mad Scene – as well as one of the greatest ensembles ever written for opera, the sextet of Act 2. 

Kenneth Morris waits for the cue to join the rehearsal onstage.

Director Andrew Sinclair

Soprano Angela Gilbert

Videotaping a rehearsal

UCSD-TV Cameras Capture Colorful Carmen

Mezzo-Soprano Marina Domashenko

A view from backstage

Georges Bizet’s immortal masterpiece Carmen, opens as the third opera of the 2006 International Season on Saturday, March 25, 2006 for five performances. This new production of Carmen, designed by Tony© Award Winner Michael Yeargan, features an all-star cast including the house debut of Siberian born mezzo-soprano Marina Domashenko who has sung this role at The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Arena di Verona, Berlin and Vienna as well as having been immortalized on film in Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Carmen and in a new complete CD recording opposite Andrea Bocelli for Decca Records. She is joined on stage by returning tenor César Hernández, baritone Malcolm MacKenzie and soprano Barbara Divis. San Diego Opera Resident Conductor Karen Keltner leads the orchestra for these performances and American stage director Mark Lamos makes his house debut to direct.

Setting up the tavern for Act II

Tenor César Hernández
Carmen is a tragic story of obsessive love set in the passionate backdrop of Seville, Spain. Tempted away from his girlfriend Micaëla (Barbara Divis) by the gorgeous Carmen (Marina Domashenko), handsome solider Don José (César Hernández) is used and manipulated by Carmen and her friends to assist in a smuggling operation at their mountain hideaway. Carmen has fallen for the bullfighter Escamillo (Malcolm MacKenzie) however and her passion ignites and flames. No longer amused by Don José, Carmen casually dumps him but Don José’s obsession creates an emotional bonfire that threatens to destroy them all.

Interviewing Director Mark Lamos

Dropping the cyc

Chorus Master Timothy Todd Simmons and Maestro Karen Keltner
during rehearsal and the UCSD-TV Spotlight interview

Carmen is one of the most loved and most performed operas of all time with music that is instantly recognized by young and old alike. It features two of opera’s most endearing arias “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (Love is a rebellious bird) and “Toreador en garde!” (Toreador, be careful!).

Organizing large numbers of chorus members and supernumeraries

Moving the set pieces