Archive for May, 2015

Austin conjunto festival: 25 years of bringing happiness

conjunto t-shirtsHappy music makes for happy people and happy feet. The Austin conjunto festival marked its 25th anniversary on Sunday, May 3, established by Johnny Degollado all those years ago, when people first gathered in July in the heat, but in the shade of Parque Zaragoza, to hear and dance to the many rhythms of the accordion, bajo sexto, and other customary members of a traditional conjunto, so complex yet simple enough to set up in about five minutes.

The festival and dance contest were a happy component of the tenth Fiestas Patrias of Austin celebration of Cinco de Mayo. The weather was more than cooperative under the shade of the trees and the pavilion at Fiesta Gardens, with a beautiful breeze playing as children scampered and people of all ages danced and danced. Seven conjuntos were on the bill; we could be present for the first two only: Conjunto Aztlan and Santiago Jimenez, Jr.

This event is always perfect for music-lovers of all ages. See still images and unedited videos from this year’s festival and resolve to attend next year.

Don Giovanni: a disguished production

Don Giovanni: Austin Opera 2015If you miss the Austin Opera production of Don Giovanni (the May 3 Sunday matinee at 3 pm is the last live performance, with a KMFA live broadcast Don Giovanni beginning at the same time), you’ll miss a highlight of 2015 music and theater in Austin.

The music is always a delight to hear whether or not the opera is staged in such a fashion as to awake emotions and promote deep engagement with the plot. So many times, for example, Donna Elvira is almost a figure of ridicule; not so in this staging. The entire cast sings beautifully, alone and with other members; the sets and lighting are evocative and speedily set up for each succeeding scene so that no virtually no time is expended in waiting and so that the momentum never flags. All stage business is inventive, but never to the extent that outpourings of song are hindered. The singers are not just vocally agile; they are physically agile, to the extent that they appear able to enjoy second careers as acrobats and dancers. It would be unfair to single out any individual member of the cast for particular distinction: everyone sounded wonderful, as did the orchestra and chorus.

The Friday night audience was attentive from beginning to end; no departures were observed during the sole, brief intermission; enthusiastic applause lasted and lasted. Check on line for available remaining tickets for Don Giovanni (as low as $15 and there are no bad seats), and don’t forget the live broadcast. What a triumph!

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