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The Detroit tigers—literally, Sumatran cats from the Motor City—make their new home at the Dallas Zoo. A house-museum called Rienzi proves that home is where the art is in Houston. Lance Armstrong rides tall in the saddle to fight cancer in Austin. Russia’s Romanov dynasty holds court at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Two maestros conduct themselves admirably in Dallas and Houston.
The Main Event
Tigers Burning Bright
Yes, the rumors are true: The Detroit tigers are heading south and moving to Dallas this month. But before you toss out your Texas Rangers jersey, know that we’re talking about two endangered Sumatran tigers, not major league baseball. The Dallas Zoo recently acquired Paul and Sasha from Detroit’s Belle Isle Zoo, and they’ll be making their home in the Exxon Endangered Tiger Habitat, a permanent one-acre exhibit that opens May 8. Stroll over the flowing stream, then peek through bamboo groves into a lush environment complete with heated rocks for catnaps and pools of water for drinking and splashing. The $4.5 million shelter is more than just a generous addition to the 111-year-old zoo, however; it’s a state-of-the-art breeding facility that gives Dallas the potential to become a leader in tiger conservation programs. The felines will have 3,600-square-foot private holding quarters, fitted with air conditioning, shelves for sleeping, skylights, and two maternity dens ready for those stumbling cubs to come. This exhibit is bound to be a hit for the zoo, the tigers, and the families who come out to welcome Texas’ newest residents. KATY VINE
Home Is Where the Art Is
For nearly half a century Rienzi belonged to one prominent family, but the elegant River Oaks residence now belongs to all of Houston. Late philanthropists Carroll Sterling Masterson and her husband, Harris Masterson III, donated the home they built in 1954 to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 1991, and it finally opens its doors to the public on May 1. Inside, the house-museum is filled with treasures: paintings by Guido Reni, George Romney, and Arthur Devis; fine English furniture; art objects by Fabergé and David Webb; and one of North America’s finest collections of Worcester porcelain (including a 1770’s plate from the Duke of Gloucester service, above). Despite its extravagant facade—a combination of Italian villa and eighteenth-century Palladian architecture—the house is “very down to earth,” says Katherine Howe, the director of Rienzi. “When you look at an object that was designed for both beauty and function,” she says, “it really becomes a marker for a culture. Sometimes an object that is defined purely as art can’t satisfy.” So consider taking the tour of the home and its gardens as a sort of aesthetic fulfillment. “When you come to Rienzi, as lavish as the interiors are, you really have a feeling you’re walking into a residence,” says Howe. “A living, breathing one.” EILEEN SCHWARTZ
A Model Spokes Man
When cycling superstar Lance Armstrong learned in October 1996 that he had testicular cancer, the Austinite had reason to believe that his career, if not his life, was over. But thanks to aggressive treatment, fierce determination, and a little bit of luck, the 27-year-old is now healthy and back in the saddle. Armstrong, however, showed his true character when he became a spokesman for the prevention of the disease and formed the Lance Armstrong Foundation for Cancer. This month, for the third straight year, he will host the Ride for the Roses Weekend in Austin, which raised nearly $400,000 for the foundation in 1998. The four-day event features a gala dinner with UT football coach Mack Brown, a bike expo, a ride for children, and a criterium through the streets of downtown. But the real attractions are the athletes. Along with Armstrong (wearing number one, above) and other top pro cyclists, legends such as Greg LeMond and Miguel Indurain (think Roger Staubach or Nolan Ryan) will participate in the IKON Ride for the Roses, a road race through the Hill Country that is expected to attract five thousand entrants. Though you’d never have the chance to beat these guys on the Champs-Elysées, the race is a rare opportunity to go pedal-to-pedal with some of the world’s top athletes. And even if you can’t keep up, don’t worry—knowing you’re supporting such a worthy cause will have you riding high. BRIAN D. SWEANY
Her Majesty’s Silver Service
Catherine the Great’s crowning in 1762 as the empress of Russia gave rise to one of the most opulent dynasties in history, one whose lavish style is on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art beginning May 29. The incense burner pictured here, first used in the 1797 coronation of Catherine’s son Paul, is but one of a dazzling array of treasures from “A Taste for Splendor: Russian Imperial and European Treasures From the Hillwood Museum.” This traveling exhibit—the largest collection of imperial Russian art in the West—features the gilded objets d’art, Sèvres porcelain, Beauvais tapestries, and Baroque French furniture that once graced the royal palaces of the Romanovs, as well as the liturgical chalices and Russian Orthodox icons used during coronations and royal weddings. An eighteenth-century portrait of Catherine the Great is also featured in the exhibit, as are rarities such as the diamond-encrusted nuptial crown worn in 1894 by Alexandra, the last empress of Russia. Of particular note is the pink enamel Fabergé egg that Czar Nicolas II presented to his mother on Easter 1914 during the monarchy’s final years, a fitting symbol for a dynasty that relished its own delicate grace. PAMELA COLLOFF
A Party and a Parting
The state’s top two symphonies have cause to celebrate their musical directors this month, and both are offering patrons extraordinary programs. The festivities begin May 15, when the Dallas Symphony Orchestra hosts a flashy fortieth birthday bash for maestro Andrew Litton (left), now in his fifth season with the DSO. The program of show-stopping excerpts will feature friends of the Grammy-winning conductor, including pianists André Watts and Yefim Bronfman, violinists Cho-Liang Lin and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and cellist Mats Lidström. Vocalists such as Angela Simpson and Lynette Tapia will balance the program with songs and arias. Then, on May 31, the Houston Symphony will say bon voyage to maestro Christoph Eschenbach (right), who is off to lead orchestras in Paris and Hamburg, with a gala celebrating his eleven years of building the symphony into a first-rate ensemble (luckily, he will perform with the Houston Symphony a few times each year as conductor laureate). For the rousing performance of Beethoven’s Ninth, Eschenbach has assembled a spectacular cast of young soloists—Americans Patricia Racette and Jill Grove and Canadians Gordon Gietz and John Relyea. Even in his final performance as music director, Eschenbach continues to promote great new performers. Parting hasn’t been such sweet sorrow since Romeo left Juliet. Chester Rosson