Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 4:38 pm | Fair 65º


Stars Come Out to Play at Granada

Newly restored theater shows off its versatility with variety of performances.

The opening of the newly restored Granada Theatre last Thursday was more than an occasion for civic leaders and society folk to fill the elegant new seats, it was an opportunity for the community’s starriest performers to mark the celebration, and so they did.

Beautiful mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, always a favorite here when she appears in concert, acted as master of ceremonies. She confined her mellifluous voice to introducing the artists, with an occasional whimsical aside to the full-house audience.

First up, when the rich curtain rose, was the Santa Barbara Symphony, led by an energized Nir Kabaretti in Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s "Capriccio-Espagnol." This rousing audience-pleaser was sufficiently "Spanish" to set the regional tone for the rest of the program.

As Graves began to introduce the next number, a loud mechanical growl issued from the orchestra pit. Rising from the blackness came a shiny Steinway grand piano, and with it the peerless pianist, Warren Jones.

The audience gasped and laughed, and Jones explained the piano was a brand-new purchase it and it would take at least three years for him to "get to know its personality." Jones, another favorite with Santa Barbara audiences, then sat down and played dreamy music by Enrique Granados. Although they had just met, the piano’s "personality" accommodated Jones and the music just fine.

Again the curtain opened, and the Santa Barbara Choral Society, on risers behind the symphony, sang portions of Carl Orff’s "Carmina Burana," which will be given by the Society in its entirety May 31 and June 1. Petite live-wire conductor Joanne Wasserman led singers and the full orchestra with elan.

After violinist Nina Bodnar played tango music, Flamenco star Pablo Pizano and his troupe provided a selection of rousing dance, song and guitars, all on stage together. Pizano is tall and has a formidable presence, as do the three women in ruffled dresses who dance with him.

The final number of this dramatic program was an extravaganza of itself, featuring singers from Opera Santa Barbara and dancers from State Street Ballet performing solos from the two versions of Georges Bizet’s Carmen that are hallmarks of their respective companies.

Carmen is one of the most popular operas in the Western repertoire, and the local version is powerful. Likewise, State Street Ballet’s version is perhaps even darker and more dramatic.It was a profound way in which to end the evening, and the audience responded with a roaring standing ovation.

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