La Traviata
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Jeff Thomas

Opera in Sonoma? That’s right! There’s a lot more than mooing going on in historic Petaluma and a big part of its history is the Cinnabar Theater at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N. In addition to plays and musicals, Cinnabar does opera and has been doing it professionally for decades. In 1970, Marvin and Jan Klebe bought a vintage 1908 two-room schoolhouse in Petaluma. A successful baritone who had sung with the San Francisco Opera, Marvin had become disenchanted with the grand opera scene: there was too little rehearsal and innovation, and no regard for the needs of a family. “It was empty for me,” Klebe said. “Too traditional, very regimented. You had five days to rehearse and then perform.” So the international opera singer turned to carpentry and, with the help of his four sons, transformed the old building into a theater.

Cinnabar Theater has been entertaining Sonoma County, Marin, Lake and other Bay Area County residents for years. Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata is their current production with Jillian Khuner as Violetta and Michael P. Mendelsohn as Alfredo. Both have performed with San Francisco Opera. Khuner has also performed with West Bay Opera, Pacific Repertory Opera, North Bay Opera and Berkeley Opera and Mendelsohn with San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Pocket Opera, West Bay Opera and Livermore Opera.

This English version by Donald Pippin is a great way for younger audiences to develop a love for a type of drama that conveys powerful emotions through music and words. The entire cast is excellent. Nina Shuman conducts the orchestra. A graduate of Dominican College, Shuman served as assistant conductor for Marin Civic Light Opera before joining Cinnabar.

The English version illuminates this drama of love verses tradition and shows how true feelings and generosity defies social class and norms, making the music a bonus to the great love story.

For tickets or more information call (707) 763-8920 or visit

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