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LIKE SO MANY BABY BOOMERS warily approaching that milestone birthday—yes, you know which one—the Dallas Opera finds itself at the contemplative crossroads of half a century. Happily, there’s no midlife crisis in sight: Beginning this month, the venerated institution will be treating its guests to a star-strewn golden-anniversary season. So put those AARP subscriptions away. The DO is more alive than ever.
Now, it’s true that this vitality has not always been apparent—after all, Houston Grand Opera (two years the Dallas company’s senior) boasts most of the national publicity and has a more acoustically gratifying home to boot. But that hardly makes the DO second- rate. For one thing, there’s its pedigree: In the beginning there was the unequaled soprano Maria Callas, singing in angelic octaves at the company’s inaugural recital. Then there was Montserrat Caballé, Dame Joan Sutherland, and Plácido Domingo, among others, who all made their U.S. debuts in Dallas. As Dallas Morning News classical music critic Scott Cantrell points out, “The company really came out of the gate in a grand way.”
Today the DO is still a contender in the international competition for velvet-voiced singers, and it has done a decent job of keeping up with the ever-increasing de- mand—thanks to visual oversaturation—for more-elaborate productions (video killed the opera star?). With general director Karen Stone at the helm, the company is in good hands: Since her arrival in 2003, the DO’s hefty deficit has been vaporized and its “artistic product stabilized,” as Cantrell, for one, sees it. And Stone is making good on her promise to vary the repertoire. Of this season’s five full-length operas, four are a first for the company.
And all of them are stacked with talent. The luminous Ruth Ann Swenson will take on the weighty lead role in Maria Stuarda. (Of her dazzling turn in last year’s Rodelinda, Cantrell says, “I remember thinking there could not be more glorious singing.”) Also of note are Christopher Ventris, a vocal powerhouse, in the lead role of Lohengrin, and his cast mate Sergei Leiferkus as Fred- erick of Telramund. And keep your ears perked for Anna Shafajinskaia as Abigaille in this month’s opener, Nabucco; Vivica Genaux as Rosina in The Barber of Seville; and Verónica Villarroel as Magda in La Rondine. More arias, anyone? The cherry on top is a onetime concert of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, featuring bass Robert Lloyd and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.
Fifty or not, the DO can’t afford to go soft. If anything, it must ride the season’s mo- mentum into the future, which includes a move into a world-class opera house, one of four venues to be clustered together in the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. This new home won’t be completed till late 2009, but early-onset excitement can’t be quelled; Big D will soon be the only city anywhere to have four buildings in one block designed by Pritzker Prize—winning architects. There are certainly questions ahead—how to boost ticket sales, modernize the repertoire, and nurture new talent—but if the Dallas Opera’s next five decades are anything like its first five, we’re in for a treat. As the saying goes, once you’re over the hill, you pick up speed. Nov 10, 12, 15, & 18. Music Hall at Fair Park, 909 1st Ave; 214-443-1000; dallasopera.org JORDAN BREAL
This small town 65 miles north of Dallas may be best known as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s birthplace, but it’s the local art scene that’s been drawing attention of late. What residents already know—and tourists are quickly realizing—is that Denison’s ten-block downtown square is a veritable creative cocoon, populated by neighborly artists and rife with galleries and studios. The optimal way to acquaint yourself with the charming local talent? This month’s Fall Fine Art Tour, a two-day open house with talks, demonstrations, and meet and greets spread among sixteen galleries. The hub of all this artistic activity—and a great place to start—is the 400 block of Main Street, where you’ll find the following delightfully diverse tenants. Nov 4 & 5. Along Main, 903-465-1551, smalltownbigart.com
Mary Karam Gallery Beautiful images by a handful of “photographic artists” are all the more stunning hung in Karam’s spare and sophisticated space. You should catch “Visions,” a show curated by June Redford Van Cleef and up through November 14, if only to see Cathy Strong’s infrared images of horses. 404 W. Main, 903-465-3703, marykaramgallery.com
Images—A Gallery of Fine Art A mélange of styles cohabit in this gallery, run by a partnership of sixteen artists. From oil landscapes to gold-leaf pointillism, contemporary acrylics to cut-paper collages, wooden kaleidoscope eggs to handcrafted jewelry—the creative energy here spills over into many media. 408 W. Main, 903-463-0408
Artplace Gallery and Framing Prepare to discover a few gems amid the eclectic but well-edited presentation of works here. Director Shelley Tate Garner, herself a multitalented artist with a varied oeuvre, will let you in on all the details of the dozen or so painters, sculptors, and photographers represented. Standouts include Dominique Haas, who works in the Yucatán and molds leather sculptures, and Tara Thelen, of the Netherlands, whose delicate black-and-white paintings are crafted with fluid acrylics and dry metallics. 413 W. Main, 903-327-8180, artplacegallery.com
416 West Gallery Opening just in time for the weekend is “Super Heroes,” an all-media juried show that seeks to define the titular term (you can see more entries at On Main Off Center, 325 W. Main). Director Barbara Elam’s own craft of choice is printmaking; peek around the back wall to glimpse the large press and ask the retired Rockford College professor to explain the intricate process. 416 W. Main, 903-463-0416, 416westgallery.com
Old Katy Glass Works It’s no wonder that proprietor Mike Williams is the president of the Denison Arts Council. He has a keen collector’s eye, and he’ll happily point you to another gallery if your tastes run a different direction. But the art here—his own custom stained-glass pieces and 3-D wall sculptures, Keith Hartline’s Picasso-esque clay etchings, and Chance Dunlap’s deceptively graceful metal fauna, for example—is refreshingly unique. 427 W. Main, 903-465-6460, oldkatyglassworks.com
Pat Waymon Gallery “Ample” and “luxurious” aptly describe this space, with its museum-quality offerings (Betty Nash’s still lifes and Waymon’s florals are stunning), big-name artists (Xiang Zhang and Dalhart Windberg, among them), and practical viewing room. Just around the corner is Waymon’s School of Fine Art, which employs acclaimed teachers from around the globe. 430 W. Main, 903-465-2008, patwaymongallery.com
The Filter: Events
Houston, Austin, Belton, Canyon
This month the congenial domestic art of quilting escalates from mere hobby to cultural phenomenon with a slew of patchwork presentations across the state. Far and away the largest will be the Houston International Quilt Festival, which any Suzy Thimble worth her stitch has been anticipating all year. More than 50,000 attendees will scurry among acres of booths (with cute-as-a-button names like It’s a Stitch, Seams to Me, and Bold Over Batiks!), classes (appliqué, dye, paint, print), and lectures (“Confessions of a Scrap Maniac,” “Visual Texture: The Quiltmaker’s Secret Weapon”). The sew-happy craze has also made its way to Austin with “Miss Ima’s Quilts” at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum; to Belton with a historic quilt display at the Bell County Museum; and to Canyon with the “Crazy About Crazy Quilts” showcase at the Panhandle-Plains Histor- ical Museum. Maybe all this basting and binding is mere coincidence. Or perhaps it’s a shrewd marketing move planned to take advantage of “fall” temperatures and the consequent desire to wrap ourselves in something cuddly. As artist Bill Davenport wrote in a Houston Chronicle article earlier this year: “Not liking quilts is like not liking apple pie.” Cozy and lovable and clearly popular, the quilt has suddenly become cool. Houston: Nov 2—5. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas; 713-781-6864; quilts.com. Austin: Through Jan 7. 1800 N. Congress Ave, 512-936-8746, thestoryoftexas.com. Belton: Through May 5. 201 N. Main, 254-933-5243, bellcountytx.com/museum. Canyon: Nov 11—Mar 18. 2503 4th Ave, 806-651-2244, panhandleplains.org
Mad About Dirk
Dallas, San Antonio, Houston
What’s seven feet tall and warm and fuzzy all over? All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who led the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals last season. We’re guessing that the German-born player will be a force to reckon with again this year as the quest for the 2007 title begins. The Mavs, who will get a much-needed boost in defense from the addition of three-time NBA champ Devean George, play their first home game against their in-state rival (uh, that would be the San Antonio Spurs). Are Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and the gang up for it? As for the lowly Houston Rockets, we’re just hoping their luck turns and they can keep their players off the injured list for a change. Dallas Mavericks. Nov 2: San Antonio Spurs. Nov 6: Golden State Warriors. Nov 14: Chicago Bulls. Nov 18: Memphis Grizzlies. Nov 21: Washington Wizards. Nov 25: New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. Nov 27: Minnesota Timberwolves. Nov 29: Toronto Raptors. American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave; 214-747-6287; nba.com/mavericks. San Antonio Spurs. Nov 3: Cleveland Cavaliers. Nov 8: Phoenix Suns. Nov 11: New York Knicks. Nov 15: Charlotte Bobcats. Nov 17: Chicago Bulls. Nov 22: Miami Heat. Nov 24: Dallas Mavericks. AT&T Center, One AT&T Center Pkwy & E. Houston; 210-225-8326; nba.com/spurs. Houston Rockets. Nov 4: Dallas Mavericks. Nov 10: New York Knicks. Nov 14: San Antonio Spurs. Nov 16: Chicago Bulls. Nov 22: Washington Wizards. Nov 25: Memphis Grizzlies. Nov 28: Minnesota Timberwolves. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk; 713-758-3865; nba.com/rockets
Yada Yada Yada
“I am so busy doing nothing … that the idea of doing anything—which, as you know, always leads to something—cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.” Jerry Seinfeld resurfaces with a stand-up tour and a single stop in Texas. Nov 3. Bass Concert Hall, 23rd & Robert Dedman Dr; 512-471-1444; utpac.org
Palestine Christmas, that most overextended of all holidays, precedes Thanksgiving this year by several weeks thanks to the third annual running of the North Pole Express on the Texas State Railroad. But only a Scrooge would deny the festive ambience of this themed train trip: With cookies and hot chocolate, rousing carol choruses, and—as the choo-choo races back to the station—a reading of the snuggly storybook tale The Polar Express, the antique locomotive prac- tically exudes yuletide spirit. After an hour-and-a-half ride through the scenic Piney Woods, passengers will disembark not in Palestine, where they started, but in the North Pole. (Spoiler alert: While you’re gone, the Victorian-style depot will be transformed into a wintry wonderland complete with twinkle lights, pseudo-snow, a hundred elves, and a photogenic Santa himself.) The snow-globe-come-alive scene, however, may soon see an end, as the future of the railroad skates on thin budget ice. Whether private investors or emergency government funds will be able to save the train system, which has been operating since the 1890’s, before its December 31 doomsday remains to be seen. This might be the last running of the North Pole Express, but it will be no less merry. Nov 4, 10, & 11. Texas State Railroad State Park, 2 miles east of Loop 256 on U.S. 84 East; 903-723-5567; tpwd.state.tx.us
Let There Be Light
Houston Temporary art appeals to our curiosity of things novel and exclusive, which is exactly what makes it très fashionable (think of those globe-trotters who flock to Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t works). Accordingly, the number of visitors to the Rothko Chapel—that octagonal house of meditation famously opened by John and Dominique de Menil in 1971—will no doubt spike this month with the unveiling of Michael Somoroff’s “Illumination I.” The New York artist’s installation will sit on the chapel grounds through January, joining one of the city’s most popular sculptures, Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk. Somoroff’s addition, like the Rothko Chapel itself, is light filled and evocative. At nearly 20 feet high and 37 feet wide, the hollow artwork, which looks like a giant white stalagmite rising from the lawn, is meant to suggest streams of light pouring into the ruins of a mosque. Conceptual? A bit. And high-tech too. Somoroff used photographs of mosques from around the world (including some since destroyed in Iraq and Afghan- istan) to create a 3-D composite on his computer. From this virtual sketch, he built the structure using fiberglass, resin, and lime cement. It is the artist’s hope that visitors will walk through Illumination I’s slim opening and meditate on “togetherness,” as he puts it. What better way to unite inquisitive seekers than with an imperma- nent masterpiece? Nov 12—Jan. 1409 Sul Ross, 713-524-9839, rothkochapel.org
Austin Graffiti, mass media, pop culture, and the underground art scene collided in Lower Manhattan during the late seventies and early eight- ies, and a handful of young-artistes-turned-cultural-phenoms were more than welcomed to pick up the pieces. Photographer Cindy Sherman posed as stereotypical females (starlet, librarian, sex kitten) to question the role of women in postwar America, and through his boldly outlined and often colorful, faceless creatures, Keith Haring yearned for unity and warned of the dangers of crack. You can see some of their works (always commenting on the political and social issues of the times) in “Radical New York!” an installation at the Austin Museum of Art that features two exhib- its (“The Downtown Art Scene, 1974—1984” and “Abstract Expressionism, 1940s—1960s”) depicting this provocative time and the period that led up to it. Nov 18—Jan 28. 823 CongressAve, 512-495-9224, amoa.org
Money Is No Objet d’Art
Dallas Is art, like love, best when it’s shared? The affection between the Dallas Museum of Art and the three power couples who bequeathed more than eight hundred works to the institution last year undoubtedly proves so. (Not that you can put a price on such generosity, but if you did, it would ring up to $215 million, a stunning dowry.) Ever since Marguerite and Robert Hoffman, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, and Deedie and Rusty Rose announced their joint gift in February 2005, they’ve set off national chatter and single-handedly reconfigured the DMA’s future (all that bounty will require more room). Now society at large gets to see for itself the artistic investments of three very different sets of patrons with “Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum of Art,” the first of two installments. As the catalysts of the unusually collaborative donation, the Hoff- mans provided the lion’s share of master- pieces, including works by Joseph Cornell, Ellsworth Kelly, Cy Twombly, and Willem de Kooning, plus 27 Jasper Johns creations. (No wonder Robert Hoffman’s death in August was such a blow to the local art community; as columnist Alan Peppard wrote for the Dallas Morning News, “[He] harnessed his intellect and his fortune to purchase our future.”) The Rachofskys’ contributions lean toward the minimalist and exploratory, with video and media art, a collection from the Italian postwar Arte Povera movement, and one rather large house on Preston Road designed by Richard Meier. And then there are the Roses, whose attraction to the eccentric and provocative (Dorothea Tanning’s black velvet Pincushion to Serve as Fetish, for example) adds a more playful point of view. Like a debutante being trotted out for her first appearance, these conflated collections have the pristine breeding and stellar reputation—not to mention the celebrity—that piques curiosities. It’s the museum version of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, if you will. Nov 21—May 20. 1717 N. Harwood Rd, 214-922-1200, dallasmuseumofart.org