Puppet shows and opera, the alpha and omega of art forms, are both performed this weekend in Santa Barbara. Both are great entertainment, affordable -- and worth a try.


More than 20 events and performances comprise the ambitious inaugural PuppetPalooza puppet festival. Most are family-friendly, many are free, some are bilingual, but all look to be a whole lot of fun. 

The festival launches Friday at 6 p.m. with a free Celebracion de las Familias at Alhecama Theatre, 914 Santa Barbara St., featuring an evening of music, food and strolling puppet performers, including Snook the Eco Sloth.

The following are all paid events; check website for multi-event passes and ticket prices.

The Muppets (a bit better known than Snook) appear Friday for “muppetry madness” with storytelling, interviews and improvisation, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Marjorie Luke Theatre at Santa Barbara Junior High School.

Just a sampling of Saturday events includes Puppetopia” for kids at the former Macy's in Paseo Nuevo, 701 State St., with puppet shows and activities all day long. See Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins’ breakdancing robot and more at the Community Arts Workshop, 631 Garden St., at noon. The Emmy Award-winning Huber Marionettes present another side of puppetry at 5:30 p.m. at the Luke Theatre. An adults only (ages 18-plus) show begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Alhecama Theatre with puppet acts with mature themes, including a Puppetzilla Puppet Slam.

PuppetPalooza wraps up with a family-focused event at the former Macy’s from noon to 6 p.m. with puppetry performances, delicious food, live music including Van Goat, and lots of family fun activities. Or, head out to UCSB’s Campbell Hall to see the troupe Manual Cinema perform “The Magic City,” a live shadow puppet show set to live music, at 3 p.m.

Schedule and tickets at www.http://puppetpaloozasb.com.

'What’s Opera, Doc?'

Bugs Bunny was hilarious when he belted out “Figaro, Fig-ah-ro, Figgg-ahhh-roowww!” But this tune is one of the most famous in opera history. It’s a lament by the long-suffering servant Figaro about his demanding patrons, sung in the delightful opera “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini. It’s a great intro to opera; very funny but with real heart and soul. Opera Santa Barbara performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Granada Theatre. It’s sung in Italian with English supertitles. Tickets start at $32. (899-2222, www.granadasb.org)

A different approach is taken in the Westmont College production of Johann Strauss II’s “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”) being held at the New Vic Theater (33 W. Victoria St.). Usually relegated to New Year’s Eve, this operetta features lilting Viennese waltzes and an elaborate plot of revenge. Director John Blondell gives it a modern makeover, bringing it into the modern day with a funky-chic influence from haute couture of the Met Gala. The orchestra plays right on stage. But there’s true heartbreak beneath the frivolity and champagne, and such glorious singing. Tickets are only $17 for adults, $12 for students for Friday and Sunday shows at 7 p.m. (965-5400, www.newvictheater.com)

Julia McHugh can be reached at southon101column@yahoo.com.