By David Templeton
THE GREAT CLASSICAL masters of musical history would no doubt raise their terpsichorean eyebrows and shrug in wonder at the unconventional extravaganza that the Santa Rosa Symphony and conductor Jeffrey Kahane have cooked up for their big September social event.
Green Eggs and Ham--yes, you read that right--with a libretto lifted entirely from the classic picture book by Dr. Seuss, will be presented in a staged musical program next weekend as a kickoff to the symphony's upcoming season, one that will put special emphasis on young musical performers. Though hardly Handel's Messiah, the short Seuss program, preceded by an audience hopping segment with Kahane, will draw heavily on classical music motifs in an innovative score by Robert Kapilow.
"One of my great passions in life is trying to get kids involved in music," Kahane said last week, moments after performing a spirited piano concert in Santa Rosa's Courthouse Square.
"So with this season, what I wanted to do was to salute young performers. Almost all of the guest soloists we're using this season are under 20. And with Green Eggs and Ham, we know we've got a program that will draw people of all ages, some of whom will be going to the symphony for the first time."
Acknowledging that classical music still has a hard-to-shake reputation for being stuffy and serious, Kahane notes that Green Eggs' message is intentionally appropriate.
"It's about a grouchy guy who won't try this unfamiliar dish, no matter how it's served," Kahane laughs. "It's about having preconceived ideas about something. It's a metaphor for making up your mind about something you haven't yet experienced, which is certainly the case with many people as pertains to classical music."
The piece will be simply staged, with minimal props and no costumes. The orchestra will be scaled back to a small ensemble, with two singing roles: Maria Jette as the greenaphobic grouch and Gabe Kahane (the conductor's 17-year-old son) as the tenacious Sam I Am.
And how is it for Dad to work with his own progeny?
"It's great!" Kahane laughs. "He's an amazingly talented actor and musician. I thought long and hard about using him, wanting to avoid accusations of nepotism. But we've never really worked together before, and this seemed like a good opportunity. He's certainly more than qualified. And besides--he's right there in the house so we can work together whenever we want."
Green Eggs and Ham will be performed on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 3 and 4:30 p.m. at the Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Tickets are $15 and $10 for adults, $7 and $5 for children, and $40 for a family (two adults, two kids). 54-MUSIC.
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From the September 12-18, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent
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