The Santa Barbara Symphony extended an exceptionally interesting season of programming last weekend with what has now become a very welcome annual event — their collaboration with State Street Ballet. This year, the two organizations took advantage of the very considerable talents of choreographer William Soleau, whose work has, over the past several years, contributed to the distinction that State Street has achieved as one of the country’s most productive and original contemporary ballet companies. Soleau created a new setting of Igor Stravinsky’s Suite from “The Firebird” in its 1945 version, and the results, both onstage and in the orchestra pit, were splendid.
Harpist Michelle Temple joined the orchestra for the concert’s opening piece, Claude Debussy’s Danse sacrée et danse profane, and she rendered the challenging parts with such grace that it seemed effortless. Next up was the Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90, of Johannes Brahms. This intricate, lyrically effusive work remains a high point of the entire symphonic literature, and the S.B. Symphony rendered it with feeling and precision.
The ballet that followed intermission flew by with a combination of soaring music and exciting imagery. Young Kate Kadow danced the role of Firebird en pointe, and, as Prince Ivan, Ryan Camou partnered both Kadow and Leila Drake as the love interest, Princess Tsarevna. Soleau’s choreography has wit and style but never strays far enough from convention to be jarring or disruptive. The excellent costume and set design by A. Christina Giannini made the whole thing that much more delicious. Let’s hope that this Firebird, or at least the team that made it, returns to the Granada soon.