On Saturday, October 17, in a warm blast of nostalgia-toasted charm in these dire times, Santa Barbara Symphony maestro Nir Kabaretti struck up the band, in semi-old school style. A pared-down ensemble of musicians was duly distanced on the Granada Theatre stage, with masks and plexiglass barriers for wind players. Still, the orchestra was very much live and onstage, literally sharing the moment with us.
Kudos go out to the SB Symphony, as a rare example of a symphony orchestra which has opted to carry on its seven-concert season, in streaming mode to start. Janet Garufis, chairman of both the Granada and Symphony Boards, noted, during her introduction, that patrons, musicians and other support forces “enabled us to fly the plane while we’re still building it.” During an intermission interview, clarinetist Donald Foster effused “this is becoming a well-oiled machine at a time when so little is well-oiled in our world.”
And the machine delivered, with a live-streamed event blessed with fine production values, with multi-camera coverage and clean, rich stereophonic sound. Shots from the stage remind us of factors in absentia: the living audience, and a lack of applause and well-placed laughter.
Perhaps wisely, this “serious music” machine kicked off its 2020-21 season on a light, frothy note, with the cheekily-titled “Cabaret with Kabaretti.” Instrumental dollops of waltzes, Ibert and other diversions mixed with largely vocal-orchestral songbooking. Upping the cabaret ante, guest soprano Lisa Vroman was in the spotlight. The veteran music theater star–whose decade-long work in Phantom of the Opera “bought my house,” she explained–called on her house-funding song “Think of Me,” and also gave us much to admire with Cole Porter’s “So in Love” and Leonard Bernstein’s gorgeous—and jazz-tinted—“Some Other Time.”
For further cabaret-ready fare and patter, we also had on hand a vivacious and sassy emcee, actress- documentarian-author-bon vivant Leslie Zemeckis, a Montecitan. She appeared in different spots around the Granada, decked out in glimmering costumes, a Carmen Miranda-esque headdress, and, during her alter ego burlesque persona known as “Staar,” a feather boa. For that interlude, the slinking “Staar” dished up the risqué anthem “I’d Rather Be a Mistress,” with Kabaretti gamely holding forth on piano.
Next up, on November 21, the Symphony gets down to the more serious business of toasting Beethoven, at 250. Be there—virtually, that is.
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