Archive for January, 2012

Lucia di Lammermoor: operatic wonder

“Enthralling” is the one-word description for the current Austin Lyric Opera production of Lucia di Lammermoor. We all know that this is a peak allergy season, but there was seldom even a half-suppressed cough or sneeze to be heard; through most of the evening there was not a sound except from the stage and the orchestra pit. Once the performance was under way, the audience was all but mesmerized.

Lucia di Lammermoor from start to finish offered beautiful music. It would be worth the price of admission to hear only the overture. The singing is a high-wire act for the principal singers in the cast and we heard some spectacular vocal fireworks. We were fortunate indeed to hear not just a fine Lucia, but also fine performances from all the men, Edgardo in particular. Physical agility was demanded and it was not lacking.

It’s not a favorite practice for there to be action while the overture is playing (as there is here). The chorus attacked its first number in a way that sounded a bit muddy. Thereafter, though, there was no reason at all to quibble about anything.

Staging, costumes, lighting, and sets matched the superlative singing and playing. Our orchestra just sounds better and better and better.

We’ll probably never have the opportunity to attend a finer Lucia here in Austin. Tickets are still available for the remaining performances (Friday, February 2, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, February 5, at 3 pm). There are no bad seats in the house and there’s an affordable ticket for everyone, starting from $19. Lucia di Lammermoor is for everyone who loves any type of music, and this production embodies excellence in every aspect.

AISD in the news

Once a certain article about discipline in the schools (see below) is more widely read, the Austin Independent School District will, for preparation of a response, rely, no doubt, upon the services of its “communications apparatus,” now or soon to be the “Department of Public Relations and Multicultural Outreach,” according to an article in today’s local daily (“District revamps public relations office using federal funds for cultural outreach,” byline Laura Heinauer).

The five most highly remunerated members of this department will earn annual salaries of $107,999, $88,306, $85,128, $82,000, and $78,710. According to the Statesman article, the job description of someone not even among these five will be to “come up with ‘branding and communications strategies,’ assist in the crafting of speeches for Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and other senior leadership, build a network of ‘internal key communicators to act as ambassadors for district objectives and accomplishments,’ and write news releases and official statements that ‘accurately convey the district’s message . . . [elision in article] correcting inaccuracies advanced by the media.'”

What will the AISD “communications apparatus” find to say about an article entitled “Don’t talk back to teacher” (byline Chris McGreal) appearing in print as a three-page article in the Guardian Weekly of January 27 and on line with many hyperlinks as “The US schools with their own police.”

This is really a must-read report that will be seen by subscribers all over the world. It’s about so-called “zero tolerance” policies in the schools (in Texas particularly, with attention paid to a specific case connected with Fulmore Middle School), school police forces, and studies by Texas Appleseed, based here in Austin.

How did schools educate anyone in the years before the advent of “communications apparatus” and police on the premises, some bearing firearms? How did principals and superintendents manage to answer questions from the public and from reporters without assistance? How did they write their own speeches or even deliver them extemporaneously? How did students known for bringing jackknives, pea shooters, slingshots, and squirt guns or water pistols to school escape dire consequences and graduate and become law-abiding citizens? Just wondering.

Sign irony

A Sign of things to come?

A Sign of things to come?

I must admit when I saw this sign go up on South 1st St. last year, I wondered what it was for. Since then a number of others have gone up on the main arterial roads around downtown.

If you’d ever been to Montpellier in France you’d know that parking downtown is soooo simple, they have large signs on the way in telling you how many available spaces in which lots. Nope that’s not what these are for.

I wondered if they were maybe for game day, maybe posting the latest score from UT. Nope. Given it’s Austin, maybe positive wibes on the way to work, “Today y’all gonna make money!”. Nope. Then I figured maybe they were to broadcast city hall meetings live, maybe Mayor Leffingwell  has aspirations to broadcast Prothero-like safety and security announcements from City Hall? Nope.

Turns out the signs are for traffic conditions. Given the limited number of alternative routes into the city from the south, if South 1st gets really jacked up, I can’t imagine the sign suggesting I35, and from where the sign is, there’s no route to South Lamar, so I figure the signs will either say, “Give up, turn ’round and go home” or “You shoulda came on your horse!”

Then I thought about it some more, California dreaming!

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