Opera at Lotusland
Sue De Lapa

No Grand Opera: Oshkosh has it, Lubbock has it, even Ventura has it. But oh so proud Santa Barbara doesn’t.

At the height of her limitless indignation, Hillary Hauser in hair-tearing rage was talking about big-screen performances of the N.Y. Met’s Saturday matinee opera performances, live-streamed in high definition to movie theaters all over the nation. But not here.

“What’s the matter with us?” Hillary demanded. The closest theater where S.B. opera lovers could go for live-at-the-Met was Ventura’s Cinemark, on Elba Street.

Hillary found me at Saturday afternoon’s Opera Santa Barbara performance, outdoors at Santa Barbara’s glorious Lotusland. It’s hard to believe how many locals aren’t acquainted with the late Ganna Walska’s Lotusland botanical wonderland, full of trippy trees, flowers, cacti and much, much more. (County residents can get free tours. Get info at www.lotusland.org.) And there, under the trees, Opera Santa Barbara invited four young singers to perform in the Theatre Garden last Saturday. Afterwards the audience strolled around the grounds. Up next: A Night at La Scala, June 8, at the Biltmore. (Sounds like a Marx Brothers movie, eh?)

As for the Metropolitan Opera, Hillary asked–in that good-humored way she has of urging-motherhenning-demanding civic improvements, like sewer hookups along the coast–how about somebody getting something lined up for next season, maybe at the wonderfully restored Granada Theater? Saturday’s Met show was this season’s last. Next year there’ll be 11 theater-streamings.

Hillary also recalled conductor Zubin Mehta’s remark, “What’s wrong with Santa Barbara?” He said, “You have all these music lovers here, you have big moneyed people, and you’re putting your symphonies in a theater built like a pueblo?” Of course that was before the reopening of the Granada, where the L.A. Philharmonic will strike up the band for the Community Arts Music Association’s first event at the Granada, next Saturday night, May 3.

Hey, We’re Already at $4: The L.A. Times claimed on Monday that San Francisco was the first city in the nation to cross the $4 per gallon threshold. But wait, highly irked Santa Barbara drivers have been paying that for at least a week or more.

Canary’s Song: The Times’s Valli Herman took a rail trip to Santa Barbara (a great way to get here) to pay a visit to the Canary hotel, where she puzzled over the name and awarded the thoroughly renovated former Andalucia only a two-star “good” rating. (The weather wasn’t warm enough to lure her into the rooftop pool?) In her Sunday travel section piece she liked the place well enough and praised the happy hour, but found the service in general wanting. Not long ago the Times ventured north and even gave the grand dame Four Seasons Biltmore some critical slaps in the chops. (Is it something we said?) Sue and I found the service top-notch in a recent visit to the newly renovated Canary’s Coast bar and restaurant, though the dinner itself was a mixed bag, a disappointing comedown from previous five-star meals there. One notable exception was the chef’s salad, still among the best in town along with those at Harry’s and the Paradise.

Hell’s Kitchen: Terrible-tempered chef Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen TV fame will air his visit to Santa Barbara’s Square One restaurant, 14 E. Cota St., tonight, April 29, at 9. Square One’s owner/chef is Jason Tuley and Caitlin Scholle is co-owner. I heard that Ramsay was on his best behavior when he taped the segment.

Ventura’s Sound of Music: Something else Ventura has that Santa Barbara doesn’t is an annual music festival. It begins Friday afternoon, May 2, with an event called Tea & Trumpets, featuring a concert by the Festival Brass Quintet. Plus snacks. The music goes on for over a week, including the famed Pink Martini group, the Turtle Island Quartet, and the amazing young soprano Nicole Cabell, performing May 10 with the Festival Orchestra and tenor David Lomeli, who sang at the Opera Santa Barbara event at Lotusland. (We do boast the wonderful Music Academy of the West, with its many public performances.)

Record-a-Thon: There are few services to mankind greater than helping the blind and dyslexic into the wonderful world of books, right? This week marks the 13th annual Record-a-Thon of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, where locals drop in to read books onto CDs that will help students all over the nation. The event is a tribute to John Romo, retiring City College president, and his wife Mary Romo, who uses the RFB&D services. Barnaby Conrad will be reading from his landmark novel Matador and Sander Vanocur and Lou Cannon will be reading Cannon’s new Reagan’s Disciple: George W. Bush’s Troubled Quest for a Presidential Legacy. RFB&D is hoping to attract more volunteers as regular readers.

Taking the First: The Indy’s own Matt Kettmann, Superior Court Judge George Eskin, First Amendment specialist attorney Mike Cooney and former News-Press editor Jerry Roberts will be panelists Thursday, May 1, to discuss the First Amendment and the Internet Age. Blogger Craig Smith, a lawyer, will moderate the panel at the Santa Barbara College of Law at 7:30 p.m. The Santa Barbara County Bar Assn. is sponsoring the event as part of Law Week.

Telemarketing Scam: There’s a bogus telemarketing scam going on, purportedly raising money for “Santa Barbara Firefighters,” but it has no connection with Santa Barbara city, Montecito, county or other local firefighters. Don’t throw your money down the drain by giving it to these hucksters, warns Pat McElroy, president of the Santa Barbara City Firefighters Assn. “We don’t do telemarketing,” he told me. Callers appear to be targeting seniors and become vague about where the money is going and hostile when questioned, he said. The callers use the old scheme of offering to come right over to pick up the “donation.” The real firefighters are affiliated with a worthy local group that raises money for them, the Santa Barbara Firefighters Alliance, but it does not do telemarketing, Pat said.


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