Meet Director, Choreographer, Librettist: John de los Santos

South Pacific opens this Saturday at The Paramount Theater!  This fantastic piece of musical theater is directed and choreographed by multi-talented artist John de los Santos, who is returning for his second season with Ash Lawn Opera.  This will not be his first time working with lead actress Sharin Apostolou, as she was a part of his recent production of  Le Comte Ory.  We spoke with de los Santos about being a librettist, his previous work, and South Pacific.

You were the director/choreographer/principal dancer for Ash Lawn Opera’s production of Carousel in 2013.    Were you looking forward to returning to Charlottesville?

Most definitely! Carousel was an unforgettable experience, and I’m very excited to return to the Paramount for my other favorite Rodgers & Hammerstein masterpiece. While I won’t be dancing in this one (sorry everyone), I assure you that I’ll bring the same energy and heart to the show. Charlottesville is a beautiful place to spend the summer, meet new people, and get a little break from NYC.

john de los santos dance

You have added librettist to your list of job titles — tell us about that!

Since I was last here, I’ve written three opera librettos (one of which I was finishing during Carousel). They’ve been performed at Frontiers in Fort Worth, operamission in NYC, and Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center. My next piece, The Copper Queen, is based on the history of an actual ghost who haunts a real hotel in Arizona. It won the inaugural commission program SPARK at Arizona Opera, and will be given a full workshop there this fall.

You have done two productions at LoftOpera in Brooklyn which were highly praised by the New York Times.  Tell us about these less conventional productions at unconventional venues.john de los sharin cropped

LoftOpera is an amazing new company that specializes in classic works being staged in non-performance spaces, such as warehouses and a disused bus depot. My first production with them was a staged fusion of Mahler’s Songs of the Wayfayer and Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été. This involved combining the two well-known song cycles and creating an original story that supported the, until then, unrelated pieces. The most recent was Rossini’s Le Comte Ory, which was in modern dress, but very faithful to the ribald libretto. The production was a huge hit with rave reviews and sold out every night! I am so grateful for both of those experiences. [Pictured right: Sharin Apostolou in Le Comte Ory]

Does South Pacific have a special meaning for you and would you like to alert our audiences to anything in particular?

I actually grew up watching the film, so I became familiar with the glorious score very early on. I also choreographed the show several years ago at the Seagle Music Colony, but this is my first crack at directing the whole thing. I’m very excited because the piece has a lot of very intense dialogue scenes and complex characterizations. Real acting is going to be my top priority, but luckily we have an incredible cast that I have no doubt will step up to the plate. It’s going to be a riveting production!

john de los santos carousel


Photo Credits from top

Williams, C-ville Weekly

Robert Altman, Sharin Apostolou in Le Comte Ory

Ash Lawn Opera’s Carousel (2013), photo by Janet Moore-Coll