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Mexico’s Ballet Folklórico steps lively (Dallas, Galveston, and San Antonio). Plus: the richness of Catalonian art (San Antonio); the brew-haha that is Oktoberfest (Fredericksburg); the keys to jazz piano (Austin, Houston, and San Antonio); and singing the praises of Gabriel García Márquez (Houston).
Edited by Quita McMath, Erin Gromen, and Cheri Ballew
THE MAIN EVENT
Tutus were not what Amalia Hernández had in mind when she started her own dance company in 1952. Although the choreographer was trained in classical and modern ballet, it was the colorful folk dances of Mexico that moved her most and inspired her to invent the ballet folklórico. Forty-four years and countless imitators later, Hernández’s Ballet Folklórico de México remains the premier dance company of Mexico, regularly presenting spectacular shows at Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes. This month, the ballet’s touring company makes three stops in Texas with a program that includes Chihuahua, Hernández’s latest work. A two-part dance, it tells the story of the Tarahumaras, a group indigenous to Mexico’s largest state, then portrays a contemporary culture influenced by European polkas and American cowboys. Retirement is out of the question for the 79-year-old Hernández. “Mexico is so rich in folklore, I will never finish,” she says. “I will go on and on, until I’m in heaven on a cloud.” Cheri Ballew
The Spain Chance
Catalonia, the northeast region of Spain known for its cultural richness, is not unlike Texas. Its citizens identify themselves as Catalonians first, Spaniards second. They have their own language peculiarities. And they have long been the center of a separatist movement (one difference—they’ve actually succeeded in forming an autonomous government). Therefore it seems right that Texas is one of only four U.S. stops for a landmark tour of Catalonian art. Beginning October 13, the San Antonio Museum of Art hosts “From Gaudí to Tàpies: Catalan Masters of the Twentieth Century.” Ranging from the small and precious to the enormous and exuberant, the show’s eighty works are artistically diverse, with celebrated masters such as Picasso, Dalí, and Miró represented (at right is the latter’s undated etching The Merchandise of Color) along with somewhat less familiar artists like art nouveau architect and designer Antoni Gaudí and abstract expressionist Antoni Tàpies. “This is an extraordinary opportunity to view works by leading artists who have influenced the world,” says Douglas Hyland, the museum’s director. “The collection is really a smorgasbord of incredible art from an incredible place.” Erin Gromen
Willkommen zum Oktoberfest! Where better to revel in German ethnicity than Fredericksburg, Texas’ most obsessively restored nineteenth-century German village? Fred-town, as it is affectionately known to some of its neighbors, is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, and the good Fred-burghers are expecting some 20,000 visitors to join in the fun the first weekend of October. In its fifteenth year, this Oktoberfest has a reputation for being a family event, one that goes well beyond the expanded beer-bust concept encountered elsewhere. To be sure, there is beer and dancing in front of two covered stages, where more than twenty bands—including the famous Boerne Village Band, Texas’ oldest oompah group—provide nonstop polkas, waltzes, and schottisches. But there is also food (including the infamous German tacos, chopped wurst and sauerkraut on a tortilla) and handmade Stoff ranging from pottery to fine linens and jewelry under the colorful tents that dot the central Marktplatz (the proceeds support a nonprofit arts foundation). And should you need to escape the brew-haha, Fredericksburg’s museums, shops, and restaurants offer a welcome respite. (See Elsewhere: Other Events, page 57.) Chester Rosson
Marcus Roberts may be known for the brilliant technique he brings to the American solo piano jazz repertoire, but his latest recording, a fireworks improvisation of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” reveals an astonishing power of imagination. That power will be on display when the 33-year-old pianist tours Texas the first week of October with “Portraits in Blue,” a program of Gershwin and other jazz giants. Roberts began piano lessons at twelve, and seven years later he won the piano competition of the National Association of Jazz Educators in Chicago. There, after a fateful meeting with Ellis Marsalis (father of Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason), Wynton took him under his wing—and his career took off. Roberts’ musical roots go back to when he was a small boy in Jacksonville, Florida, and his mother took him to church, where she sang in a gospel choir. If Texas audiences are lucky, he might perform “Preach, Reverend, Preach,” one of his early compositions, as a righteous encore. Renee Boensch
When Houston Grand Opera general director David Gockley gave Mexican composer Daniel Catán the commission, he said he wanted “the most beautiful opera of the last fifty years.” The result—Florencia en el Amazonas, inspired by the characters and writings of Gabriel García Márquez—will debut on October 25 and eventually travel to Seattle, Los Angeles, Bogotá, Mexico City, and Guanajuato. The first work in Spanish ever commissioned by the opera company, it is a musical excursion on a riverboat winding its way along the Amazon to the famous opera house in Manaus, Brazil, where the grand diva Florencia is to perform after a long absence from the stage. Along the way she encounters exotic nature, a violent storm, a pair of tragic lovers, and self-awareness as she comes to terms with a lost love. The libretto, by Mexico’s Marcela Fuentes-Berain in consultation with García Márquez, shimmers with the Nobel-winning writer’s “magic realism,” and Catherine Zuber has designed lovely Edwardian-esque costumes (a sketch is at right). Add orchestration in a lush style seldom employed since the early part of the century (think Richard Strauss gone tropical), and Florencia promises a return to the rich roots of romantic opera that Gockley envisioned. Chester Rosson