From The Blog

Opera 101 Returns to the Sandcastle in 2024!

Opera is returning to The Sandcastle in January! Opera 101 welcomes both the uninitiated and experienced lovers of classical western opera from its inception in Italy over 400 years ago to the present. This season’s program will be led by Saundra DeAthos, Administrative Director of the Charleston Opera Theater and Director of Opera & Associate Professor of Voice at College of Charleston. Saundra, along with a number of her colleagues, will share different perspectives from the world of opera regarding performing, directing, production, music conducting, and music composing. Opera 101 is open to all residents of Kiawah.


Contact Susan Wright Sullivan at [email protected] to be included in email communications for related reading materials and suggested videos.


View the 2024 schedule:

Monday, Jan. 8

Saundra DeAthos – Director of Opera & Associate Professor of Voice, College of Charleston Administrative Director, Charleston Opera Theater

La Bohème – Artistic interpretations of the opera

La Bohème is arguably the most famous opera in the repertoire. The story is relatable and accessible to almost everyone. Saundra will take us on a journey through the different interpretations of Puccini’s beloved opera.

Prior to teaching at the CofC, Saundra spent 10 years as Music Coordinator in the Theatre Department, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL. In addition to her teaching experience, Saundra is a lyric soprano heralded for the remarkable quality of both her vocal and dramatic presentations. She received rave reviews in her stunning role debut as Cio Cio San (Madama Butterfly, Helena Symphony Orchestra) and reprised the role with the Amarillo Opera where she was described in the North Texas Performing Arts News as “vocally…stunning. She meets the extravagant demands that Puccini makes on his hero without any strain whatsoever. She has a full-throated lyric-verging-on-verismo soprano and can still float a gorgeous pianissimo note at the top of her range. In the final scene, she ate the scenery and left the audience in tears.”

Excelling in a varied and broad repertoire, Saundra began her career as an Adler Fellow and in the Merola Opera Program with San Francisco Opera. She has since graced the stages of many outstanding opera companies across the United States, including San Francisco Opera, Western Opera Theater, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Boston Lyric Opera, Virginia Opera, Eugene Opera, Amarillo Opera, Sacramento Opera, Opera North, Opera Illinois, and West Bay Opera.

On the 8th, Saundra’s class will focus on artistic interpretations of Puccini’s La Bohème, an opera she is well versed on. Look for an email the week before the class that will include reading material and suggested videos.


Monday, Jan. 22

Wojciech Milewski – Music Director, Charleston Opera Theater Music Director, Summerville Orchestra Adjunct professor, Music Director for CofC Opera, and staff accompanist at the College of Charleston

Le Nozze di Figaro – Music interpretation of the opera

Maestro Milewski will lead our second Opera 101 class, focusing on the music from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. In this discussion he will discuss how and why the work revolutionized the operatic genre (both musically and socio-politically), and how it easily remains a key part of the repertoire today.

Conductor Milewski is an energetic and dynamic presence on and off the podium. A recent winner of the 2023 American Prize in Conducting, he is also the recipient of the 2019 HSO Harold Farberman Prize and was a finalist in the 2019 Los Angeles Conducting Competition. Wojciech is in his eighth season as Music Director of the Summerville Orchestra (S.O.) and in his third season as Music Director of Charleston Opera Theater. Under his baton, the Summerville Orchestra received the 2023 American Prize in Orchestral Performance. Since his tenure began in 2016, the S.O. has directly engaged the community by starting three separate outreach series, a youth orchestra program as well as commissioning two new works by composers Rene Orth and Chris Pilsner. The S.O. has expanded in size and scope, effectively doubling its active musician roster. Wojciech has appeared on stage with global artists such as Michael Chioldi, Cassie Pilgrim, Robert Auler, and Phillip Bush. As a conductor, he is passionate about creating lively and interactive concert experiences, fostering community development, audience engagement and inclusion.

A native of Poland, Wojciech grew up in New York City. He graduated with distinction with his Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Mexico, and graduated summa cum laude from the State University of New York at Oswego.


Monday, Jan. 29

Edward Brennan – Director of Operations & Development, Charleston Opera Theater

Lohengrin – The leit-er side of Wagner

This discussion on Wagner’s interpretation of the “swan knight” legend will explore the musical stylings of the composer and how Lohengrin fits into the canon of German masterpieces.

Edward Brennan is an American tenor based in Charleston, SC. Hailed as a “powerhouse,” he is a rising star in dramatic repertoire and has performed with companies like Utah Festival Opera, Cedar Rapids Opera, and Charleston Opera Theater. An alum of The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, he treasures his time spent at the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices with Metropolitan Opera star Dolora Zajick. He also holds the positions of Director of Development and Operations for Charleston Opera Theater and sits on their board of directors.

In our third Opera 101 class, Edward will present Lohengrin from the singer’s point of view as he debuted this role this past summer with the Utah Festival Opera to great critical acclaim. “In terms of looks, stage business and vocal prowess…he is the right man for the assignment – and how he took advantage of the opportunity. His phrasing of the role’s key numbers, such as “Nun sei bedankt, mein lieber Schwan, In fernem Land” and “Mein lieber Schwan!” were elegantly realized through a voice of light silver gossamer.” (Daniel Vasquez, New Outpost) During his Opera 101 class, Edward will explore the musical stylings of Wagner’s most lyric opera.


Monday, Feb. 12 

Dr. Amanda Castellone

This class will be taught by Dr. Amanda Castellone, a soprano and native of Charleston who is also Instructor of Music, Voice/Opera at the College of Charleston. Amanda’s class, “Greek Greats: Mythology and Baroque Opera,” will delve into the original partnership between Greek Mythology and baroque opera and will feature works by Monteverdi, Henry Purcell, and others.


Monday, Feb. 19

Harold Meers – Founder, Executive Artistic Director, Charleston Opera Theater

Viva Verdi!

This Opera 101 class will focus on Il trovatore and other operas composed by Giuseppe Verdi during his illustrious “middle period” of compositional output. This artistic period of Verdi’s life contains some of his best loved and iconic works.

Since his professional debut with the Opera Theater of St. Louis, Harold Meers has established himself as one of the outstanding American tenors of his generation and is known particularly for his interpretations of Puccini, Verdi and French Romantic repertoire. He has garnered both critical and popular praise for his work at the most important venues in North America, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Minnesota Opera, Madison Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Omaha, Des Moines Metro Opera, New Orleans Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, and Baltimore Opera, among others.

Internationally, Harold has performed recently as Riccardo in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera at the Hessisches Staatstheater, Wiesbaden (Germany), Boris in Katya Kabanova with Opera North (United Kingdom), Cassio in Otello with the Filharmonica de Jalisco in Mexico at the historic Teatro Degollado (Mexico), the title role of Hoffmann in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Boris in Katya Kabanova and Rodolfo in La Bohème with Theater Freiburg (Germany). He recently traveled to the Czech Republic to perform at the National Theater in Brno Czechia as the title character Verdi’s Otello and reprised the role at the Thurn und Taxis Schlossfestspiele in Regensburg, Germany. This season, he debuts the role of Manrico in

Verdi’s Il Trovatore with Opera Santa Barbara. Harold is currently the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Charleston Opera Theater, a professional performing arts organization located in Charleston, South Carolina.

With his background as a world class tenor and artistic director of an opera company, Harold will present “middle Verdi” in general and more specifically in Verdi’s Il trovatore.


Tuesday, Feb. 27 

Dr. Edward Hart – Composer in Residence, Charleston Symphony Orchestra (2019-2020) Professor of Composition and Music Theory, College of Charleston

Strauss and beyond

Richard Strauss carried on the tradition of German Romantic opera established earlier by Richard Wagner. Early landmark works, including Salome and Elektra, pushed the boundaries of musical/dramatic expression, inspiring the younger generation of Austro-Germanic composers including Alban Berg. Strauss’ later operas marked the last full flowering of musical romanticism first seen in the nineteenth century.

Edward’s music has been performed in the United States, Latin America, Africa, and Europe, including performances in New York, Los Angeles, Kiev, Vienna, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Moscow, Boston, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Reviewers have described his music as “mesmerizingly rich, clearly visual,” and “an accessible style that clearly communicates to audiences.” His works include concerti for violin, piano, string quartet, and guitar as well as various orchestral works, chamber music, solo piano compositions, choral music, and art songs. Ensembles that have performed his music include the Kiev Philharmonic, Arpeggione Chamber Orchestra (Austria), Orquesta de Baja California, Philharmonica de Montevideo, Symphony of the Americas, Charleston Symphony, Lviv Philharmonic, and the Harlem, Shanghai, and Arabella quartets. In 2023, his album Under an Indigo Sky, featuring the Charleston Symphony, spent six weeks on the Billboard Top Ten Traditional Classical Albums list. He has received many commissions and has served as Composer in Residence of the Charleston Symphony. Hart’s choral music is published by Colla Voce.

Edward is a native of Charleston, South Carolina and holds a Doctorate from the University of South Carolina where his primary composition teacher was Gordon “Dick” Goodwin. He is on the music faculty of the College of Charleston.

Monday, March 18
Reception and Recital