Reviving, Introducing and Closing Out

While I’m sure I would have eventually discovered the pleasures of classical music, I’m also certain that journey was made easier and more interesting by my early childhood introduction to “Peter and the Wolf.”

I have many warm memories of my father whistling the main theme from Prokofiev’s classic musical setting of the story, which assigns a separate musical instrument or section to each animal in the tale, and serves as an excellent beginner course in music.

Which is why it was so gratifying to hear Santa Barbara Symphony continuing this great tradition by presenting both “Peter and the Wolf” and the world premiere of another story with a local connection, Scott O’Dell’s “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” with music by Santa Barbara’s very own composer in residence, Peter Madlem. The show last Sunday afternoon at the Lobero was a repeat of one in March at the Museum of Natural History, and the production was a great example of what a good thing can come out of collaboration between arts organizations in town.

O’Dell’s book is based on the true tale of a Native American girl who was abandoned on San Nicolas Island off the coast of Santa Barbara, and survived for 18 years before she was brought to the Santa Barbara Mission. While Madlem’s work isn’t an instant classic, it’s a very worthy companion piece, with ample variations in coloration and tone to delineate the action and moods of the story. Here’s hoping we’ll see more such innovations and collaborations in town in the future.

Meanwhile, the full Santa Barbara Symphony closes out its first season under new maestro Nir Kabaretti this weekend with a program featuring Los Angeles Philharmonic concertmaster Martin Chalifour performing Sibelius’s Concerto for Violin Op. 47 in D minor on a rare 1716 Stradavarius. The instrument was purchased just last year by Jerry Kohl from the family of Nathan Milstein, who had played it for 40 years. Chalifour was one of two violinists who helped Pasadena resident Kohl test eight different Strads before settling on the Millstein. The instrument makes its Santa Barbara debut on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in one of the most challenging works for the violin.

A Tier-ney Above the Rest

If the people responsible for restoring the venerable Granada Theatre are even half as successful in restoring the venue as singer Tierney Sutton and her band are in recreating classic songs, we’re in for quite a revelatory new concert hall.

For the better part of a decade, Sutton has been deconstructing classics from the Great American Songbook and putting them back together in fascinating new arrangements. With Sutton out in front and her astonishingly empathetic ensemble in support – pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker – there is simply no current peer in the jazz world.

That was evident when Sutton appeared at the Lobero Theatre on Saturday night for what’s becoming her annual gig at the venue. She has the ability to elevate even the moodiest and sourest of listeners to a place of peace and eager attention with cleverly executed phrases and smart repertoire choices, which – as on her latest album – play on the word “happy.”

Sutton has had a few critics who find fault in her perfection, and vocal control that they say limit spontaneity. But even naysayers would have loved this show, as the singer bantered playfully both verbally and in song with the evening’s special guest, Los Angeles session trumpeter Jack Sheldon, who proved a worthy, bawdy rival for Sutton.

Ensemble Extra

Actors from the second and third production of Ensemble Theatre’s current season are returning to the theatre, but only for a single staged reading on the new play “Brothers-In-Law” on Monday. Aaron Serotsky, who played the young man forced to visit a senior citizen he’d hit with his car in Ensemble’s production of “Visiting Mr. Green,” will read opposite Leonard Kelly-Young, who appeared in a smaller role in “The Memory of Water.” The as-yet-un-produced “Brothers-In-Law,” a suspense-comedy written by “Visiting” author Jeff Baron, examines what happens when the two relatives-by-marriage, who have been in the same room at hundreds of family events but have never spoken, finally have a conversation following their wives’ mother’s funeral.

Baron will join the actors for a discussion with the audience following the 7 pm reading. (Tickets are free, but reservations are required and can be made by calling the Ensemble box office at 962-8606.)

Ensemble’s season closes with “This Is How It Goes,” by Neil LaBute, another punch-in-the-stomach comedy-drama from the author whose plays have become staples on local stages in recent years. Serotsky will also star in the new play from the author of “In the Company of Men” and “The Shape of Things.” Performances begin June 1.