The Andrée Expedition

City Opera


"City Opera, a company launched in San Diego last summer, has turned Argento’s songs into a fully staged opera for three singers with costumes, scenery and evocative direction by City Opera’s co-founder Cynthia Stokes. With just four chairs, a few ropes, a cloudy backdrop and a blanket of paper confetti “snow,” Stokes’ creative flashback staging begins with Yeager’s Frænkel alone on the ice, giving silent testimony that he will uncover and preserve the mystery of the failed expedition. Yeager’s booming voice, charismatic stage presence and solid acting skills ground the story theatrically. Stokes ends the engrossing piece with a surprising and moving theatrical flourish that features a soulful and stylish reunion of the dead and dying.

Opera is at its best when it’s visceral, and City Opera’s imaginative conception of the tragic, true story of the Andrée Expedition has proven to be a natural."

Pam Kragen, San Diego Union Tribune

Queen of Carthage

City Opera

Gets To The Heart of the Matter

"Sometimes you wonder how they do it. Case in point: the San Diego City Opera’s inaugural production of “Queen of Carthage” at the La Jolla Playhouse’s WoW Festival. The first production of this new opera company founded by director Cynthia Stokes and conductor Cory Hibbs was produced with minimal resources… It was done outdoors in a Eucalyptus grove near Scripps Institution of Oceanography, presenting a myriad of challenges.

And yet, somehow, some way, they got to the beating, beautiful, timeless heart of Purcell’s 1688 masterpiece. Their 45-minute reduction of Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas,” renamed “Queen of Carthage” was an inspiration. You left thinking this was music you could hear for an eternity, and that’s probably how long it will continue to be played.

Stokes made the most of what resources she had, always stressing the most human aspects of the story and having her characters interact in a natural, unaffected manner. Somehow it worked. Somehow it connected in a very elemental way. Don’t ask me how. "

James Chute, San Diego Union Tribune

Orpheus and Euridice

Opera Piccola

A Searing Journey

"…compelling… full of strength and beauty… a searing journey through death and grief."

David Hendricks, San Antonio Express News

South Pacific

Piedmont Opera

Moving and Hilarious Entertainment

"From top to bottom the Piedmont Opera’s South Pacific is entertaining and intellectually satisfying. (Stokes) ask the big questions about ethics, morality, and national identity in the face of the violent reality of war and at the same time allows the show to breathe, laugh, and percolate with the joy of performance. This first 2014 production is a moving and hilarious entertainment that works hard to give audiences what they come in out of the cold for. The Piedmont Opera is alive and open for business… and business is booming."

Chad Nance, Camel City Dispatch

"From the opening notes of the overture to the finale, this “South Pacific” was a joy to behold and hear… wholehearted and full-out…a cast that sounds good, looks good and can act. This is a show that you can get lost in, can absolutely go live in for three hours and not regret one second of it."

Lynn Felder, Winston-Salem Journal

Bastien und Bastienne & La Curandera

Opera Piccola

The Best Success Yet

"The singing and acting establishes the best success yet for San Antonio’s chamber opera company… The blend of music, story and characters was pitch-perfect for a quality evening of entertainment"

David Hendricks, San Antonio Express News

The Medium

Opera Piccola

The Right Touches

"…director Cynthia Stokes, added the right touches to make the mysterious story more human."

David Hendricks, San Antonio Express News

Don Pasquale

Opera Piccola

Opera Piccola Does Donizetti Proud

"…well sung…well acted. Stage director Cynthia Stokes crafted a scaled-down, modern version of the opera, setting it in contemporary New Jersey instead of 1840s Italy."
David Hendricks, San Antonio Express News

"Director Cynthia Stokes’ take on Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is unique and shows the fledging company’s affinity for breaking the mold…the innovative take on this classic comedy is fun and refreshing."
Isis Madrid, San Antonio Current

Hound of the Baskervilles

North Coast Rep

World Premiere

"I saw a preview of Phil Johnson and Cynthia Stokes' work-in-progress. Johnson plays all 21 characters in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's dark and stormy — and precisely literate — tale of mayhem on the foggy moors of Devonshire… hilarious homage to every performer eager for their close-up, Mr. DeMille — and yet sincere as well…. director Stokes, who conceived the project, keeps the suspense alive…Call it a gentle madness…bulls-eye."
Jeff Smith, San Diego Reader

La Périchole

Amarillo Opera

"Stage director Cynthia Stokes took a middle-of-the-road approach, not leaning to slapstick nor playing it overly serious … nothing went for the easy laughs…she was dead on. …a delightful and engaging production of a rarely produced comic opera."
Gregory Sullivan Issacs

The Crucible

Piedmont Opera

Masterpiece Triumphs Again

"The big question now is whether the opening-night performance on Friday would live up to all the excitement. I am happy to report that it did — and then some…sterling direction… all the right stuff … gripping portrayals…"
Ken Keuffel, Winston-Salem Journal


Opera San Jose

Supreme Vocalism, Direction

"Pagliacci, directed by Cynthia Stokes, was both funny and moving…The depiction of love and infidelity amid a troupe of traveling players was nimbly done, as was the fatal confluence of illusion and reality."
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle Music Critic

"Cynthia Stokes’ stage direction for Pagliacci triumphed… acutely attentive to tiny details."
Scott MacClelland, San

Roméo et Juliette

San Diego Opera

"Director Cynthia Stokes keeps the suspense and romance sizzling throughout. Every element underscores the undeniable attraction of the title characters… from the tender minuet of their meeting to the hot-blooded, breathless beauty of the balcony scene, to their heartrending finale. The third-act romp in Juliet’s gossamer four-poster is blistering. If you’re an opera lover, a Shakespeare-lover – or just a lover-this stunning production is not to be missed."
Pat Launer, San Diego News Network

"A visual and aural feast... a wealth of vocal talent and commanding stage direction… an erotic edge in Juliette’s curtained four–poster bed. Cynthia Stokes’ brisk, eminently logical stage direction kept everyone’s pulse elevated."
Kenneth Herman, San Diego Arts

"Cynthia Stokes' thoughtful, natural direction, make this opera accessible to modern audiences… In their wedding night scene, the couple's romantic chemistry is obvious... This is an opera with truly exciting swordfights, singers who sing to each other (rather than the audience), and a haunting finale that will hang in the memory long after the final curtain. …the production is so good and so entertaining, nobody will go home early."
Pam Kragen, North County Times

"Director Cynthia Stokes, creates a production that is graceful and pleasing which resounds with power. This is a rare opportunity to have Shakespeare’s work truly come to live in tasteful beauty, both musically and visually. Obviously, Shakespeare would be in love with THIS production."
Christie Grimstad,

"An excellent performance that will remain in the memory of San Diego opera-goers for some time to come."
Maria Nockin, Music and Vision

San Antonio Opera

"American stage director Cynthia Stokes, responsible for a soundly crafted Marriage of Figaro, last February, brought uncommon poetry and insight to her staging of Roméo et Juliette. When the two lovers meet for the first time at the Capulets’ masked ball, they dance on a stage emptied of other dancers, as it must seem to two young people in love. The bedroom scene was fully erotic without inviting a leer. The tomb scene was gorgeous. I’ve ever seen two people die more beautifully on stage."
Mike Greenberg, Incident Light


Diversionary Theatre

World Premiere

"Cynthia Stokes directed. A veteran of the opera stage, her experience shows in the facility with which she marshals her nine-member cast playing twice as many roles in scenes veering from narration to confrontation, dance to mime, and even a little folk play within the play…lovingly produced and well directed."
Ann Marie Welsh, San Diego Union Tribune

"Dooley has a particularly defined tone created by Cynthia Stokes…her direction is handsomely achieved with a grace and economy."
Martin Jones Westlin, City Beat

Le nozze di Figaro

San Antonio Opera

"Stage director Cynthia Stokes found a good balance -- activity without frenzy, comedy without resort to burlesque, sensible detail without fussiness."
Mike Greenberg, Incident Light

Madama Butterfly

Opera Company of Philadelphia

"…there is ceremonial formality in Cynthia Stokes' stage direction…As in Greek tragedy, the restrained windup made the finale more devastating…Then came one of the best touches of all: As Butterfly bleeds to death by her own hand, does Lt. Pinkerton see her dying seconds? Does Butterfly get to glimpse him just before she expires? Director Stokes did neither. I won't spoil it for audiences who have yet to see it, but with the clean starkness of the sets, her choice has existential depths. Ultimately, the production made you see Butterfly's point of view: Suicide was her sole option."
David Patrick Stearn, Philadelphia Inquirer

"The production of Madama Butterfly by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, which I saw on the last day of its run October 18, was perhaps the most beautiful I’ve ever seen...The denouement was staged with an originality that maintained the opera’s essence..."
Steven Cohen Broad Street Review

"The audience buzzed with excitment as they entered the Academy of Music for the Opera Company’s 2009-2010 season opening production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, directed by Cynthia Stokes. The most spectacular scene in the entire performance was that of the bridal processsion as Madama Butterfly and her family seem to float onto the stage and toward her husband-to-be."
Alexis Siemons, Philly2Philly

"Director Cynthia Stokes evokes mythic resonances in the Opera Company’s Madame Butterfly…The costumes are part of the scene, not a separate element, and the whole ensemble displays a unity of effect that moves the drama onto the archetypal plane where director Stokes clearly wants it. The result is a production that works with the deeper resonances of the drama, while elevating its more conventional elements. Stokes’s staging ends, however, with a forceful reassertion of heritage and tradition. When Cio-Cio San faces the choice of suicide, she does so not with the thought of vengeance, but of honor. This is very Japanese. At the last, then, the cultural identity Madame Butterfly has despised and rejected returns to claim her, but also to give her a final assertion of dignity. Cio-Cio San, the geisha and would-be American housewife, dies a daughter of her native country."
Robert Zaller, Broad Street Review

Margaret Garner

Opera Carolina

"Cynthia Stokes is bringing fresh ideas. She helps the cast bring the tormented but loving characters to life."
Denyce Graves, The Charlotte Observer

"Stage director Cynthia Stokes kept things moving quickly even letting set changes overlap with action…it helped give ‘garner’ an epic scale."
Steven Brown, Charlotte Observer

"I am very happy she is a part of the Southern premiere of this important work."
Maestro James Meena, General Director, Opera Carolina