[Noozhawk] Santa Barbara Symphony Satisfies in Season Opener With State Street Ballet
Program includes Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony and his final, “unfinished” work, the 'Requiem Mass'
By Judith Smith-Meyer, Noozhawk
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Photo by Baron Spafford
The Santa Barbara Symphony is making a habit of joining forces with local arts organizations, and we’re all better off for it. The orchestra opened its new season last weekend at the Granada Theatre with Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony and his final, “unfinished” work, the Requiem Mass.
And the State Street Ballet gave its first 2016-17 performance with world premiere choreography by William Soleau.
The blended program brought together a multigenerational audience ranging — from seasoned symphony patrons to bunheads in patent leather Mary Janes at the Sunday matinee. Complimentary champagne and gentle AC on a hot afternoon cultivated a receptive mood.
Conductor Nir Kabaretti entered to applause from an audience that obviously loves him, and gracefully and with levity recovered from a stumble over the foot of his concertmaster.
Baritone DeAndre Simmons lead us in the national anthem, and delicately took a knee during the last lines, reminding us we can be both proud of the liberty we enjoy and acknowledge the work ahead to achieve justice for all.
Once the expansive “Jupiter” started, ambivalence and clumsiness disappeared. Suffice it to say, “the band was tight.”
Kabaretti foreshadowed the second-act dancing with his own energetic physicality: leaning invitingly toward each section, bouncing in time, using hand motions you’d frost a cake with for someone you love.
He looks on the podium like a person you’d want to lead any endeavor, warmly soliciting input from all constituents and exuding “oh yes we did” at peak moments.
For the Requiem, the orchestra moved to a 6-foot ledge at the back of the stage shared with the chorus nearly 50 strong. The soloists were seated on benches at the base of the riser.
Enter 19 dancers, dressed in flowing white. Cupped hands turning at the wrist made the opening notes visible.
As a group, they were strong and masterful, the movement was fluid and fresh, and virtuosity was absent. Where you’d expect a male solo, six men moved in unison and were equals in strength and fluidity.
And though a lead female had moments to herself, she never dominated. The ensemble was the star.
Trios moved seamlessly in and out of various duet configurations, or 16 dancers in a square moved in linear patterns. Eight couples partnered simultaneously.
Soleau’s choreography is rooted in classical ballet, but incorporates breath and Graham modernism into turns and floor movement, athletic teenage running, and movements of the upper limbs that surprised but were never discordant.
Staging integrated soloists into the choreography. Dancers and singers moved benches like stage crew, performed atop them as a group, alone, in pairs. Dancers encircled the vocalists, advanced toward them, moved away, fell, arose.
The choreography spoke metaphorically of human life.
Ballet often tells stories of people and their foibles, but the main character in Soleau’s Mozart in Dance seems to be the ubiquitous experience of loss exalted in the music. A narrative came through, but with no protagonists nor plot; it was about what life doles out to all of us.
But when our eyes and ears get to feast on art like this, we believe the only thing worse than the pain of loss would be not going through it at all.
At times the sound seemed a little thin; I wanted more boom from my timpani, more roar from the chorus. But when mezzo-soprano Nina Yoshido Nelson unleashed her first warm, deep notes directly toward the back of the house, I realized architectural acoustics were the cause.
Awash in quite the opposite of loss, we were back on State Street in the warm early evening after a tidy two hours, satisfied and well nourished for the week ahead.