“What musician never makes a sound during a performance?” goes the old riddle, and the answer seems obvious — once somebody tells you. The conductor neither speaks nor plays, but what a difference his smallest gesture can make. Last Saturday, the Santa Barbara Symphony finally gave us the answer to its own riddle and announced the result of its long search for a new conductor: Nir Kabaretti. Well known on the international music scene, Maestro Kabaretti has conducted major orchestras in Tel Aviv, Madrid, Vienna, Florence, Lausanne, and many other places. According to reviews, he reached “great Beethovenian heights” in Israel and conducted a “multifaceted and precisely detailed” set of Strauss pieces in Germany. He’s already given us some wonderful Brahms, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.
What does it take to make it as a conductor these days? Apparently, you need extraordinary talent, great training, and a willingness to go everywhere and conduct everything. Maestro Kabaretti began in Israel, where he was born, studying piano and conducting at the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University, and then went to the classical music capital of the world, Vienna, where major composers from Mozart to Schönberg have gone before. After more training there at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, he became the coach and chorus master for the Vienna State Opera, an extraordinarily prestigious position for someone straight out of school. From there, he went from important assistantships to important directorships all over Europe, building his musical résumé as he went. The highlights — and there are many — include conducting Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Strauss’s Rosenkavalier at the Israel Opera in Tel Aviv, and symphonies by Mozart, Schubert, and Dvořák in lots of places. We hope he likes Santa Barbara best, and stays around for good.