There was never any doubt about who-or actually what-was the real star of this show. And despite a handful of opening night glitches, the Granada was ready for its closeup. From the red carpet outside to the grand staircases that flank the lobby, the space was packed with well-heeled supporters sipping wine and greeting one another in a festive frenzy. When it came time for gala-goers to take their seats, they moved slowly. Maestro Nir Kabaretti gamely led the Santa Barbara Symphony through Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol even as the aisles remained jammed until more than halfway through the piece.
With everyone finally settled in and listening to Denyce Graves introduce the program, a huge-sounding motor began to roar and then shuddered to a stop, lifting Warren Jones and a brand-new Steinway grand piano into view from below stage level. This giant open elevator is the Granada’s new orchestra pit. Jones engaged Graves in dialogue and then sat down to play a splendid piece composed by the fittingly named Enrique Granados. A consummate musician and an audience favorite, Jones brought the house together for a moment of exquisite, focused silence in the long pause that followed his final note.
The piano stayed in the picture for the next number, which was a duet for violin and piano featuring Nina Bodnar on violin. The Symphony then returned for more Spanish-themed music, this time by De Falla. This second appearance by the orchestra gave everyone a better opportunity to relish the hall’s excellent acoustics. To finish off the first act of the program, the Symphony was joined by the Santa Barbara Choral Society, and Jo Anne Wasserman took the podium to conduct a thrilling selection of scenes from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Intermission followed the pattern set by the pre-concert festivities, sending the event committee’s well-laid post-concert dinner plans spiraling an hour later into the night. But the dazzling second act of the evening was well worth postponing one’s supper for. The State Street Ballet and Opera Santa Barbara combined forces to render several sides of Carmen. Voice tones were clear and warm, and large ensembles of dancers moved freely across the generous expanse of the stage. When it was all over, and the big red “G” lights came back on above the boxes, the result was clear. With the opening of this Granada, a star theater has been born.