Posts Tagged ‘’

The Sorcerer enthralls

The Sorcerer: Gilbert & Sullivan Society of AustinYes, it’s silly; yes, it will make you laugh. The Sorcerer is the current production of the Gilbert & Sulllivan Society of Austin.

A mysterious potion in a teapot causes upheaval in a country village. Love is everywhere but perhaps not always where it should be.

Not least among the pleasures is a full accompaniment for the excellent vocalists provided by the Gillman Light Opera Orchestra under the expert direction of Jeffrey Jones-Ragona: nineteen instrumentalists!

There’s no stinting on the fine chorus: ten men and ten women! The principal parts are sung by old favorites and new. Each is wonderful in his or her individual fashion, and there’s no justice in singling out anyone.

All are easily understood, thanks to the small auditorium with its excellent acoustics. There are, nevertheless, supertitles for all dialogue and lyrics. The libretto is available on line, but why spoil the story in advance if it’s unfamiliar? Keep the suspense. Read it after the performance.

Direction, costumes, lighting, set and sound design, stage business, and choreography are all just as they should be. We attended a performance preceded by an hour-long children’s program. Little children attended that and then stayed for the two-act show afterwards. The Sorcerer is truly a delight for audiences of all ages.

There are no bad seats in the house at the Worley Barton Theater, Brentwood Christian School, 11908 North Lamar. Remaining performances are:

Thursday, June 25; 7:30 pm
Friday, June 26; 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 27; 2 pm and 7:30 pm
Sunday, June 28; 2 pm

Ticket prices are most reasonable, from $7 to $25. The Sorcerer is a sparkling jewel, one not to be missed.

First, there was one; then, there were five

black vulturesFirst on the scene was the intrepid squirrel, racing across from the mostly pecan side of the street to the mostly acorn side of the street, in the midst of which venture he met his untimely end.

Within seconds of his demise, two black vultures were on the scene, in a contest to be the first to have at his remains. One drove the other away a short distance and began his banquet. Viscera were the appetizers (or “starters,” as so many say these days). The sound effects were akin to those of an over-stretched elastic band being pulled to the snapping point.

Vulture number two was intermittently driven up onto a tree limb when it approached too closely, but would return for overlooked tidbits of squirrel on the pavement.

Three other vultures arrived, to make five, but they never succeeded in approaching as near as number two and had to be satisfied with watching from tree limbs and the utility pole.

Black vultures
are smaller and less fearful than the larger red-headed turkey vultures. They seem to be more common these days than they used to be.

It’s astonishing how oblivious passers-by can be, even pedestrians, with their earbuds and their texting. Of the several who passed within inches of this sight, only one noticed, did a double-take, and hurried on at a faster pace.

Advice to squirrels would be to look both ways before crossing.

Posing at the pumpkin patch

Grace Methodist Church, just east of South Congress on Monroe, has the perfect pumpkin patch for the little ones. There are places to pose with pumpkins, bales of straw, and scarecrows, but nothing is too overwhelming for even the youngest. We saw little girls wearing orange tulle skirts with spangles, and little boys having their pictures taken with pumpkins small and light enough for them to hold in their arms. The smallest gourds have already sold out, but there are large warty ones in various colors to enhance anyone’s autumn decor beyond what pumpkins can do.

We missed the fair and bake sale yesterday, but there will be another bake sale this coming Saturday. Grace United Methodist Church is located at 205 East Monroe, just a block away from the South Congress bus line. Hours are 4 to 7 pm Monday through Friday, 10 am to 7 pm on Saturday, and noon to 7 pm on Sunday. Prices of the pumpkins vary by size. Proceeds go to support good causes.

Twin Oaks library branch: new, but perhaps not improved

Perhaps that judgment is unfair. It’s better to say that the outdoors is a great improvement over the parking lot surrounding the old branch in the strip shopping center. Handsome lanscaping has replaced most of the paved area that surrounded the old post office that preceded the new library branch at this site. There’s shady seating outdoors with comfortable chairs and capacious tables. The picture here shows a portion of the outdoor amphiteater, which is a pleasing touch. Additional snaphots show more about the surroundings.

Indoors, the library seems to have fewer books, both for adults and for children. Space is ample at computer work-stations, and there are many; space is cramped for those trying to see books on the shelves or to select DVDs or CDs to borrow. Among the bookshelves, there’s room for one, not-large person in each aisle, with not much, if any, space for one library patron to pass another. Where CDs and visual media are stored, when a tray or drawer is open on one side of a row, there’s no room to open one on the other side.

Today, there was a line at the service desk, and only two of three self-service devices were working. Meeting rooms for community use seem to be pleasant. The restrooms are near the entry. I hope that this does not become one of the branches where patrons must request a key to use them. The magazine-swap has survived. There’s much availability of natural light. The acoustics, however, are very busy, and I noticed that some people were having difficulty understanding what others were saying.

The new branch is in a much better location for those west of Congress than the old one was, but the old one was at the crossroads of close-in South Austin. We’re all happy to benefit again from a South Austin branch. The new one took much longer to be ready than expected, and the old one was closed for months before this one finally opened, last weekend.

Here’s what the City says about the new Twin Oaks branch library.

New India Cuisine quick-lunch

New India Cuisine brings new dining pleasures to South Austin, including two of the most refreshing beverages available anywhere in town to help the hot and thirsty withstand our hot weather. These are homemade fresh ginger soda and homemade fresh lime soda. The first is extremely generous with fresh ginger-root and is sweeter than the deliciously tart lime drink. I think we must ask for both the next time we visit.

New India Cuisine shares space with Eva B’s Bakery in the shopping center at South Congress and Oltorf that’s directly east and across the street from H-E-B and across Oltorf from the Twin Oaks shopping center. The door faces south and the building is at a right angle to the former Bealls, now AceMart.

Orders are placed at the counter and paid for at that time. We were famished and too tired to deliberate and so were delighted to follow suggestions from the owners. We began with Wada, which arrived accompanied by a delicious mint chutney and a tamarind chutney. These were seasoned potato cakes, which I’d gladly order again. At the table was a generous bowl of boneless chicken pieces in a coconut curry. Rice was beautifully seasoned. I enjoyed my curry of cauliflower and potato with tomato and seasonings. Our garlic naan was hot and a wonderful accompaniment. I plan to return again and again for the dal tarka malvani style (a broth of yellow lentils with black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and curry leaves), as beautiful as it was tasty.

Menu options include many vegan and gluten-free selections. WiFi is free. New India Cuisine is closed on Monday and closed daily from 3 to 5 pm. Call 445-9727 for more information or to place a takeout order.

Circus, circus

Only two shows remain (today, at 2 pm and 6 pm) before the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus moves on. Our tickets were fifteen dollars apiece, and they were worth every penny and more. There are no bad seats at the Erwin Center for Zing Zang Zoom, as the production’s called.

If there were favorites among the varied acts, they included the youthful Chinese acrobat troupe, the dog acts, the beautiful liberty zebras and horses (although I love those even better when there are plumes nodding atop their heads), the multi-platform Russian swing act, the chiffon dancers, and the beautifully choreographed and costumed vaguely Balinese dance accompanying the parade of elephants.

The band boasted nine pieces (two trumpets, a trombone, a saxophone, percussion, two guitars, and two keyboards), and it offered up a wonderful arrangement of our national anthem. For once, the ringmaster was not a singing one and so those of us spectators who sang were not overpowered by a show-bizzy vocal.

The costumes were all bright and clever, and the between-acts demonstration of a certain flying gizmo did a lot to sell examples to the audience. I succumbed to temptation myself, but haven’t yet tried out my skills. We all left the arena smiling, and some of us took time to peer backstage and see the artists, in and out of costume, and some of the jaunty performing dogs.

What an entertainment bargain!

Counter Cafe: breakfast for the busy

At the Counter Cafe, there’s also breakfast for those at leisure. This is the former GM Steakhouse on Lamar across from Book People.

The patrons this Friday morning were young and old, first-timers and regulars, deuces, solos, and larger parties, with children and without them, seated on backless diner stools at the counter, or at tables, inside or outdoors.

Although the coffee comes to the table in one of those extremely thick mugs, not a personal preference, the brew is from excellent beans and is generous with them, and the refills come without asking.

At our two-top we enjoyed eggs benedict, which arrives with a baking-powder biscuit for a foundation and a choice of layers; spinach was the selection. The egg dish shared a plate with a very generous helping of house-made hash-brown potatoes with onion and pepper. I can only speak about my own order, biscuits and French fries. I was very pleased.

Pancakes and breakfast tacos seemed to be the most popular orders. On every table were bottles of “rooster sauce” (Sriracha), Tabasco, and a bottled red salsa from Mexico, along with a bowl of tiny portions of half-and-half for those who don’t take their coffee unadorned.

The acoustics do not overpower conversations, but the space is small and it’s possible to overhear talk that’s interesting and not. Those seated at the counter enjoy a close-up of the professional culinary work behind it. Table service is swift and professional. Someday, I hope to try the lunch menu; the quail sounds especially tasty. Counter Cafe is one more only-in-Austin place that’s not overrun by tourists but that’s a lot of fun and people-watching for out-of-town guests.

Hansel and Gretel: not just for children

There were a lot of children at the first-night performance of Hansel and Gretel on Saturday, and they did stay right through to the end, not taking advantage of the intermission to leave, which is a good thing, because the last act was very much the best one.

The orchestra in the pit was illuminated by a spotlight for the entire overture (the opening was at too slow a tempo, a lot of us thought), before the curtain rose on the first stage vignette of the evening. The sets and lighting were wonderful throughout, and voices were strong and musicianly.

We all know some version of this story. In this one, there’s no woodcutter, no forest, and not a single breadcrumb. For the purpose of this production, Central Park in New York is the woodsy location, and the witch is a creature of the late nineteenth century.

The stage busines and choreography were a treat; theatrically and musically all was a pleasure to see and hear. I don’t believe that Austin Lyric Opera has ever performed this opera.

I found the English translation to be facetious and distracting, perhaps because as a child I was in a choir that sang the dance, the “little man” song, and the song of guardian angels (“when at night I go to sleep”) in a different translation. The little bits of German that are heard seem to suit the music best. It is certainly true, though, that the English text does go well in the last act, which is wonderful. I don’t want to spoil any part of that, and no part of it should be missed.

Three performances remain: Wednesday, 28 April, at 7:30 pm; Friday, 30 April, at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, 2 May, at 3 pm (call 472-5992 for more information). As always, there are supertitles displayed above the stage in order to assist in understanding what is being sung. Although every part was performed well, I consider the witch to have the star turn. Austin is fortunate indeed to enjoy a live performance of this classic.

Austin art exhibition receives national notice

The exhibition of the Petrobelli altarpiece by Veronese, just concluded at the Blanton, receives a good three print pages in The New Republic (“Venice in Texas,” byline Jed Perl, February 18). Here’s a representative quotation offering tribute to the curatorial knowledge at the Blanton: “In Austin, the exhibition was embraced by a loyal audience that has come to expect word-class scholarly work from the curators at the Blanton.” The accomplishments so far and the goals for the future are recognized. Perl dislikes the atrium and staircase as much as many of us do (“simultaneously overbearing and bland”). The Blanton is credited at its fiest with “exhibitions in which the best art historical scholarship, closely linked to the academic values of the university, flows seamlessly into the dazzling showmanship that any museum needs to attract the public.” The Veronese show is said to be “a powerful example of a modium-sized museum building on its strengths and coming up with something truly substantial.” The Suida-Manning, Leo Steinberg, and Latin American collections are recognized for their artistic and scholarly value. “Even after you have factored in Austin’s long tradition of intellectual sophistication, there is something rather extraordinary about the amount of money that has been raised to support a program of collections and exibitions,” Perl says. I’ve noticed that the Blanton seems to have cut back on its mailings and other forms of publicity. We should not overlook the gem in our midst; the rest of the world doesn’t.

Itinerant tree stand found again

next to Taco Xpress

next to Taco Xpress

The trees are fresh, the people are friendly, and the signs are all painted or stenciled by hand.

Rudolph’s Christmas trees spent some time away from its customary location while Maria’s was moved and the drugstore and condos went up. But for at least the second season in a row, it’s back at the old location, just a bit less conspicuous than it used to be.

The staff will remove branches and make a fresh cut at the base of the tree selected.

Ours is up, drinking water, and filling the house with its balsamic scent. It’s so fresh that we know it will hang on to its needles right up to Three Kings Day and beyond.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.