Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

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!

The circus is in town!

Circo Hermanos Vazquez 2015Circo Hermanos Vazquez+ is smartly paced and choreographed and very beautiful as a spectacle. The costumes are not extravagant, but they are fresh and very becoming to the artists, who are of the first class. The band is live. The clowns are laugh-out-loud funny.

Circo Hermanos Vazquez is set up at Highland Mall through this coming Sunday, April 12, when there will be shows at 2, 5, and 8 pm. Monday through Thursday weekday shows are at 7:30 pm. On Friday and Saturday, the shows begin at 6 and at 9 pm. Tickets may be purchased on line; the box office is open every day beginning at 10 am. Discount coupons admitting a child under 10 accompanied by an adult with a paid-for ticket are to be found around town; there was a plentiful supply at Chango’s on the Drag. Doors open a half hour before the spectacle begins.

The popcorn (palomitas) was fresh; the beverage was Coca-Cola. Opportunities for souvenir photographs with the members of the circus are numerous.

Photographs and unedited videos give only the merest notion of what a very fine show this is, definitely a treat for all ages.

H.M.S. Pinafore: this saucy ship’s a beauty

This production of H.M.S. Pinafore captivates. The orchestra’s bigger and brighter than ever (19 members counted), and so’s the chorus (28 members counted). Both the men and the women of the chorus excel, and for once the men get to dance more than the women. The orchestra is bold and bright, a true pleasure to hear.

Austin favorites Holton Johnson, Russell Gregory, Janette Jones, and David Fontenot reprised starring roles to great applause; Gil Zilkha as the captain and Carol Brown as Josephine, his daughter, shone. We attended the Sunday matinee that was preceded by a one-hour program for young people. H.M.S. Pinafore held the attention of children for the entire performance. There was no difficulty at all in understanding the snappy lyrics, so clearly sung, but there are supertitles above the stage for anyone who may find them to be a helpful supplement to the performance.

This show is crammed with songs that are not to be forgotten. Most are jaunty and funny; some are a bit more serious and are treated so (for example, “Refrain, audacious tar”). Pinafore will make happy people happier and will brighten the darkest day.

Remaining performances are: Thursday, June 19, 7:30 pm; Friday, June 20, 7:30 pm; Saturday, June 21, 2 pm and 7:30 pm; and Sunday, June 22, 2 pm. All seats are reserved; tickets may be purchased on line for pick-up at the theater (Brentwood Chistian School, 11908 North Lamar).

Thank you, Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin!

The circus: mejor que nunca!

Circo Hermanos Vazquez is back in town, set up in the Highland Mall parking lot, and it truly is “better than ever,” which is saying something!

The seats in the capacious and sturdy big top are more comfortable than ever. No bad seats are to be found. There’s an eight-person live band again this year to accompany the acts, and the volume is not too loud for anyone, including all the infants, toddlers, and older children at the show attended. There are porta-privies available as there are at most events in Austin, and there are also sinks with soap for hand-washing inside the tent near the food-service area. The lighting seems to be entirely LED and provides excellent illumination. The audience is allowed to take still pictures and videos, so long as no flash is used.

The artists without exception were most entertaining and the acts were smartly paced and well done. They included funny dogs, a beautiful liberty act with white and dark Arabian horses, Russian swing, balance performances, an ingenious act featuring diabolos or Chinese yo-yos, aerial shows, two outstanding clown acts, and more. We were spared the cliches of the “wheel of death” and the “motorcycle globe of death.”

There’s a fifteen-minute intermission, during which attendees may have their pictures taken with the beautiful dog-act lady and some of the featured canines, with the result printed on the spot. Following the circus, there were two other photo opportunities, with the clowns and with the beautiful dancing girls.

Remaining shows are tonight (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:30 pm, plus Friday and Saturday at 6 pm and 9 pm, with the last performances on Sunday, April 13, at 2 pm, 5 pm, and 8 pm.

Prices are: adult general admission, $40.00; adult senior general admission, $35.00; children’s admission, $15; so-called “better seats” for adults, $50.00, and for senior adults, $45.00; with “VIP” adult seats going for $60.00. Radio 107.7-fm is stationed at Highland to give away free promotional items.

There’s no need at all to know any Spanish to enjoy this Circo Hermanos Vazquez. Safety announcements are made in English for those who need it; after that, words are completely unnecessary. See a few pix and unedited videos; go to the circus!

The box office is open every day from 10 am to 9 pm; tickets are also sold at Fiesta Mart.

Texas Independence Day parade 2014

It was foggy and damp for today’s parade, but there was music for everyone: the Eastside Memorial band, the LBJ High School band, and a contingent from the 36th Infantry Division band of the Army National Guard complete with banjo and instrumentalists who sang. The Air Force J.R.O.T.C. from Del Valle was there; so were Shriners and a group of Vietnam veterans. There were no political candidates. The day was damp and overcast; spirits were bright. Search this site for recollections of other Texas Independence Day parades. See photographs and unedited videos and look for people you know.

Don Carlo: a grand opera indeed

Verdi's Don Carlo: Austin Lyric OperaHere for our enjoyment is a lush sonic treat in every respect, and a visual feast as well, with a fine orchestra, a lively chorus, and a uniformly excellent cast of singers in the leading roles, plus a production that fills the stage: Austin Lyric Opera has outdone itself with the current production of Verdi’s Don Carlo.

Don Carlo was staged as one of the musical events inaugurating the Performing Arts Center on the UT campus, but has not been performed here since.

At the Long Center on Friday, the temperature became chillier as the evening went on, so it’s best to dress for all conditions. Another reason to dress for comfort is that the performance lasts for three and one-half hours.

Tickets are still available for the two remaining performances (Thursday, November 21, at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, November 24, at 3 pm).

Anyone not able to attend in person may hear a live broadcast via KMFA 89.5-fm radio, beginning at 2:50 pm on Sunday, November 24.

This ambitious undertaking is also a strongly successful one and should not be missed! Anyone who loves music and theater is in for a great treat.

Princess Ida: Gilbert & Sullivan royalty

Don’t miss this musical and stage delight. Just five performances remain for the the Austin Gilbert & Sullivan Society production of Princess Ida: Thursday, 20 June, 7:30 pm; Friday, 21 June, 7:30 pm; Saturday, 22 June, 2 pm; Saturday 22 June, 7:30 pm; and Sunday, 23 June, 2 pm. All performances are supertitled. The venue is the lovely theater at Brentwood Christian School, 11908 North Lamar (see map).

Principal singers, orchestra, and chorus have never sounded better. Princess Ida serves up vivid characterizations and laugh-out-loud comedy. This is a three-act production. We attended the children’s matinee and, even though the show is a bit longer than usual, it held the attention of all ages from start to finish.

We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy a production of such wonderful quality, a theatrical pleasure in every way: music, acting, dancing, and wonderful stagecraft of all kinds. There are no bad seats and there are supertitles to assist the audience in following the rapid patter of many of the songs. These are far better coordinated with action on the stage than, say, those at the Austin Lyric Opera, where people sometimes laugh at a comedic action that hasn’t yet been sung or acted.

Princess Ida is obviously a labor of love, and the audience did love it. So will you.

Juneteenth parade 2013

It was a glorious day for Juneteenth festivities in Austin. A list of just some of the parade participants tells it all: city council membes minus one, Constable Danny Thomas, Margo Frasier, Kirk Watson, Andy Brown, fraternities, sororities, graduates of old Anderson High, Cheops Temple, church groups, more Austin bicycle police than anyone’s ever seen in one place, Spirit of the Drum, Greater Houston All Star Band, Austin All Star Band, the Manor Ace All Star Drumline, and a band we’d like to know the name of, KAZI radio, the king and queen of Huston-Tillotson University, car clubs, motorcycle clubs, the Wells Fargo stagecoach hitched with a team of six horses, Capital Metro, Fiesta Markets, H-E-B with its super-giant self-propelled shopping cart, and at least four riding clubs showing off beautifully groomed gaited horses, and much, much more, including representation from many City of Austin departments. The weather was beautiful and spirits were high, as toy-camera photos and unedited videos will attest.

Ramon Ayala at the Capitol

Ramon Ayala at the CapitolIn celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, yesterday evening there was a free concert in the Capitol grounds by Ramon Ayala y sus Bravos del Norte.

Fortified by delicious brisket from Live Oak Barbeque, we very much enjoyed seeing the crowd assemble. Many could not resist dancing on the Capitol lawn as we heard such favorite hits as “No mas un puno de tierra,” “tragos amargos,” “casas de madera,” “un rinconcito en el cielo,” and many, many more.

We were so caught up in the moment that we didn’t capture many toy-camera photos or (unedited) videos, but we’ll never forget the magic. The Capitol grounds were made for gatherings like this!

Cinco de Mayo conjunto fest

The weather was perfect and the people were out to dance. Fiestas Patrias of Austin provided a full schedule of music and other activities on both days.

We attended on day two, the conjunto festival managed by Johnny Degollado. We were sorry to arrive just too late to hear the University of Texas conjunto and the violins from Lake Travis.

As always there was much meeting and greeting. Congressman Lloyd Doggett took the stage and spoke briefly to great applause. Big news is that, in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Ramon Ayala y sus Bravos del Norte will give a free concert in the south grounds of the Capitol, from 6 to 9 pm on May 15. Here are the FAQs for the event.

Henry Zimmerle and his conjunto
have played many times at this event and are always a treat to hear. Our great favorites are Los Dos Gilbertos, and they never disappoint.

When we left, between 6 and 7 pm, people were beginning to pour in and there was already a crowd. Toy-camera photos and unedited videos can never come close to capturing the delight of this festival. How wonderful it is for Austin to enjoy this wonderful annual event, made for all ages!

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