In a sense, last weekend’s multisensory, multi-organizational spectacular version of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, at The Granada Theatre, had a certain déjà vu ripple effect. Back in 2015, the Santa Barbara Symphony (SBS) joined forces with the State Street Ballet and the Santa Barbara Choral Society to take on this ambitious package of sight-sound-symphonic-choral dimensions.
Seven years later — a time period turned rubbery by the pandemic — the local production of Bavarian composer Orff’s strange modernist-medieval masterwork came across with even greater impact. With the orchestral and choral forces perched on risers at the rear of the set, surrendering most of the stage real estate to dancers, the sum effect felt bigger, bolder, and more generally bodacious than the last time around. Of course, we have to allow for the possibility that our pent-up hunger for live culture makes discernment receptors more generous than usual.
Overall, the cast of 170 performers, skillfully guided by SBS maestro Nir Kabaretti and inspired choreographer William Soleau, rose mightily to the occasion. Special notice goes to the vocal soloist finery of soprano Jana McIntyre (soon to appear in Opera Santa Barbara’s La scala di seta), baritone Valdis Jansons, and countertenor Randall Scotting.
Collaboration was the touchpoint and also the marketing strategy enforced here, culling a larger and more diverse audience than would otherwise be expected. (Given that wide variety of audience-goers, it would have been wise to offer program notes for those new to the Carmina Burana mythos.)
The weekend’s big show was a triple whammy of local cultural efforts, as the official season-opener for not only SBS, in its 70th year; the Choral Society, in its 75th; and State Street Ballet, a relative upstart at 28. Also joining the abundant ensemble mix were Nathan Kreitzer’s prized acapella group Quire of Voyces, and a charming youthful presence thanks to the Music Academy’s Sing! Children’s Chorus.
For appetizers, the program included Fauré’s ever-popular Pavane — with new choreography by Soleau — and Saint-Saëns’s Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah. But clearly, the primary focus was another Orff-ean feast in the Granada. It’s safe to say that no one left hungry.