Archive for November, 2008

Cinderella charming

La Cenerentola will star the same cast for all performances (scroll down the linked page to read a little about the people who have made this production the wonderful experience that it is). See a show if you can: remaining performances are on Wednesday, November 12, at 7:30 pm; Friday, November 14, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, November 16, at 3 pm. All the singers are young and talented, and the staging is also a work of art. I hope that this conductor, Robert Tweten, will return for future productions. He and all the singers have a way with Rossini.

The conceit of the show keeps the music, sung in Italian and with projected supertitles in English, but changes the era and the place, to twentieth-century Hollywood. To aid in this, the translations in the supertitles take some liberties, but in truth the plot is the same as it has always been. We all know that story and this is just another variant.

Program notes place the setting in the ‘Thirties. It’s an eye-candy pastiche that doesn’t follow a fashion timeline terribly closely. We see everything from stepsisters wearing clothes that could have come straight from Mary Pickford’s wardrobe during the silent era, to flapper dresses accessorized with cloche hats, to a smart little tailored suit with a peplum jacket of the sort that many women wore as their best civvies during WWII and up to the introduction of The New Look. Some of the men are costumed in plus-fours, argyle sweaters, and other hallmarks of a gone-by era. Everyone, male and female, gets to sport entertaining headgear at one time or another.

There’s so much to praise that I’ll just report that the show was wonderful: musicianship with clear enunciation, a small but clear orchestra ably conducted, and everything about the staging itself, including sets, costumes, use of the chorus, lighting, and the wonderful choreography, which on a small but heroic scale was a tribute to Busby Berkeley

The Long Center commands one of the finest views of downtown. This photograph makes it look a bit like a set from a German Expressionist movie, but there’s more to it than that. We noticed a light sculpture meant to be walked on, and some kids were having a fine time trying to be the best predictor of the next color of the panel under foot.

EveryScape is here

Check it out. It seems to be a sort of out-sourced version of the Google something-alike, although it purports to show some building interiors. Austin joins the Big City, the Boston area, Philadelphia, D.C., some locations in California, and (oddly) a disproportionate number of locations in Colorado, as well as Beijing and Krakow, the sole off-this-continent places. Here are Google search results. Obviously, in some ways it’s similar to Google Street View, but in other ways it appears to be very different. The Wikipedia entry for EveryScape does not yet list Austin among the locations. The EveryScape list of Austin restaurants appears to be fairly extensive. Just for fun, I punched in Chez Nous and brought up a photo from a day when Neches was dug up. I did find a mysterious on-line application to be an EveryScape Ambassador. Austin is “available.” Who knows more about this? I don’t find anyone among my acqaintance who does. Tell us more.

Soundscapes

Not on any New Year’s Eve, not on any Fourth of July, not ever have I heard so many private fireworks exploding as I heard as soon as darkness fell on Election Day. We could see sparklers lit, too. All week long, the weather has been perfect for leaving windows and doors open before suppertime, and the sound of music-practice has come from all directions. These are student efforts, and I’ve been impressed to hear violin and piano improvements from some players not heard since early in the summer. Thursday evening the atmosphere carried to our ears the stirring sounds of massed drums and elaborate cadences. This was a mystery that took some time to solve, but no doubt we were enjoying an informal session connected to the big national meeting (held in Austin this year) of the Percussive Arts Society International Convention.

On Friday morning’s Wake Up Call, KAZI 88.7-fm sent out over the air waves more solo performances of Kum Ba Yah than may ever be heard again anywhere. Man, women, and children came to the telephone to sing for us all. One singer offered the lyrics in French. And for variety there were excerpts from A Change Is Gonna Come and also from Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.

Tonight will bring Rossini’s comic-opera version of Cinderella. I don’t know whether the KMFA radio simulcast will affect the live performance, but I’ll be finding out. I’ll be attending Cenerentola for certain tonight, and I hope to hear a free classical-guitar recital tomorrow evening.

And Tuesday brings us the Veterans’ Day parade up Congress to the Capitol. I don’t know what other music will accompany the procession, but the band from Del Valle seldom fails to make an appearance and is scheduled to play this year, also. Though I haven’t seen them, I believe that I’ve heard a practice run of at least one of the vintage aircraft scheduled for flyover on that day.

Changing Places on South 1st

Yep, it’s gripping, even I can’t wait for the result. But despite that I took a walk around the neighborhood earlier this evening and spotted two changes. First the much lauded Mercury Clothing on the corner of W Mary and South 1st. A purveyor of fine, aka expensive, modern mens clothes, seems to have closed it’s doors. There’s a FOR RENT sign up in the window, and it hasn’t been open for a while.

I have to admit, the minimalist stock never worked for me, and the somewhat disengaged location for the South Congress strip, didn’t bode well. While they had some quality and interesting lines, there just were not enough to make it a favorite of mine.

Second, big yellow building at 2009 S 1st St., formerly home to La Luz, is no longer yellow. The windows are covered, the building has been painted a gentle shade of beige or should that be coffee? The permit notice in the windows signals a new entry into the coffee hot-spots for the South Congress/South 1st corridor. The project name on the application says “Once Over Coffee Bar” and the application is to convert from personal services to a restaurant, putting it squarely in the same space as Green Muse on Oltorf, allegedly recently sold, Fair Bean coffee, just up the street, who’ve recently been offering an increasing amount of food. The building could be an interesting space, it has a decent number of its own parking spaces. It will be interesting to see what they do with it.

Meanwhile down at 1708 South 1st, it looks like the Calavera Skate Shop will be open shortly, the web site is there already.

And thats a wrap. The BBC has just declared Obama for President, I guess as the next few days play out, we’ll see what that really means. G’nite all.

Farewell Studs Terkell

Ok, so this has nothing to do with Austin. It’s worth marking his passing, age 96. I suspect in the coming days there will be many tributes, and probably, in the way only American TV can, they will glamorise his life. He wouldn’t have wanted that. Certainly back in the 1970’s in the public library in Hemel Hempstead in the UK, outside of movies featuring Steve McQueen, or John Wayne, Terkell was my true source of insight into the true American persona.

Fairwell Studs, from all the ordinary people.

Jeffrey’s annual treat

In the old days, the staff at Jeffrey’s wore costumes on Halloween. That was back when Chef Raymond, so the stories go, refused to cook fine beef beyond a certain point of doneness, no matter how it was ordered, back when the menu was on a blackboard, back when the physical premises were much smaller. From the first days of Jeffrey’s, we made an pilgrimage every Halloweeen without fail even if money was short every other day of the year.

I don’t believe that we’ve been to Jeffrey’s since last Halloween. Last year’s was very good; this year’s was superlative. Somebody is bringing out the very best in vegetables, allowing their essential nature to shine forth while adding mysterious savory enhancements: cabbage, carrots, chard, beets, spinach, potatoes, bell peppers, and those are just the ones we tasted. I’m no fan of beef tenderloin, but a fellow diner shared a slice from his plate and I never expect to taste a better example: lightly smokey, handsomely browned on the outside, and with the proper degree of rareness and every bit of flavor of which that often bland cut is capable of offering. My superlative plate starred red snapper, brought piping hot to the table and in every way an exemplar of perfection in freshness and preparation. New since the last time, at least so far as we can remember, are the three stand-alone vegetable items on the menu. One of them is a cone of beautiful pommes frites (thin, match-stick French fries in a cone), served with a tomatoey “ketchup.” We, along with many, ordered the crisp oysters and the spring rolls, those menu constants, as well as that perfection in chocolate named intemperance. The menu posted on line hews quite closely to the current offerings of the season.

Music was on the jazzy side, with many vocals by Billie Holliday. The volume was never enough to in any way inhibit the lively flow of conversation. Dress among the patrons was eclectric, and the welcome, as always, was warm for all. We especially enjoyed conversing about the early days with two of the stalwart veterans on the waitstaff who remember them just as well as we do.

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