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Gerald Carpenter: Santa Barbara Symphony Says ‘Viva Verdi!’

Those who can't wait for March — when Opera Santa Barbara will offer Giuseppe Verdi's Falstaff — for their Verdi fix, will rejoice to learn, if they don't already know it, that the Santa Barbara Symphony will present two performances of a program loaded with "Verdi’s Greatest Opera Hits" at 8 p.m. this Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday n the Granada Theatre.

Nir Kabaretti will conduct the orchestra, with guest artists soprano Angel Joy Blue, tenor John Pickle and the Santa Barbara Choral Society.

The program is a treasure trove of selections from Verdi's operas, including the Sinfonia and "Va pensiero" from Nabucco; the Preludio and "Patria Oppressa" from Macbeth; the Sinfonia, "È strano, è strano," "Zingarelle" and "Mattadori" from La Traviata; "Caro Nome" and "La donna è mobile" from Rigoletto; the Aria with Chorus "Di Quella Pira" from Il Trovatore; the Overture to The Sicilian Vespers; the duet "Già nella notte densa" from Othello; the Overture and “Pace, pace, mio Dio” from La Forza del Destino; and "Forse la soglia attinse … Ma se m’è forza perderti" from Un Ballo in Maschera.

It used to irritate Verdi to no end when he was said to be copying Richard Wagner. He had a point — only a tin ear could discern the influence of the posturing Teuton in the noble strains of the Italian.

To be sure, at a certain point in their respective careers, both Wagner and Verdi became dissatisfied with the old format of operas, sectioned off into discrete numbers, clearly labeled, and both introduced a new organic seamlessness to their works that came to be known as "music drama." But they always — always, always — sound like completely different composers. And, truly, except for the hardcore fanatics who have already book their seats for the next Bayreuth marathon, who would want to sit through this much Wagner in an evening?

This much Verdi, on the other hand, is likely to seem too little, as the concert sweeps toward the close.

Ticket prices range from $29 to $133, with special rates for seniors, students and groups. Discounted student tickets are available for $10 with valid student ID.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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