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Fall Arts Preview 2015: Dance/Opera

Tons of Tchaikovsky, dueling Manons and Carmen gets stripped down

By Nick Esquer September 1, 2015 Published in the September 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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The tragic story of Carmen, the Gypsy seductress at the center of the eponymous novella by Prosper Mérimée, began life as a Frenchman’s idea of Spain. Though later immortalized by Bizet’s landmark opera, Mérimée’s story is still being adapted today, most recently in Ballet Hispanico’s CARMEN.maquia. A whirling blend of dramatic movement and modernist set design that the Society for the Performing Arts will bring to town, it marks the first full-length production in Ballet Hispanico’s 45-year history. “[The show] has intricate relationships that are an exciting challenge for any choreographer to translate into the language of dance,” says Eduardo Vilaro, the company’s artistic director. For 70 minutes, dancers jut and strike across a stark stage stripped of its Carmen trappings, with white platforms, spires that poke through the floor, and a mise-en-scene reminiscent of a Picasso dreamscape. “We wanted a blank slate so that his choreographic language would tell the story,” says Vilaro, “and not rely on the accessories of the past.” 

Oct. 24. spahouston.org 

O Columbia

This world premiere chamber opera will examine the past, present and future of American exploration, from the discovery of the New World to the final frontier of space travel. Composer Gregory Spears and librettist Royce Vavrek collaborated with director Kevin Newbury, interviewing current and retired NASA astronauts, space shuttle mission trainers and engineers for the project.

Sep. 23 & 24. houstongrandopera.org


Jules Massenet’s beloved opera about an alluring girl from a small French town with a fatal attraction to riches and pleasures has been breaking hearts since its stage debut in 1884. This production, featuring young talents from UH’s Moores Opera Center, may well break hearts anew.

Oct. 23–26. uh.edu

The Medium and The Telephone

This Opera in the Heights doubleheader will combine two Gian Carlo Menotti works from the 1940s into one interesting evening. In Medium, a fake psychic surprises herself by actually making contact with the spirit world, while Telephone concerns a young man trying to squeak in a marriage proposal to his phone-addicted girlfriend.

Oct. 30–Nov. 7. operaintheheights.org

Eugene Onegin

At first, Tchaikovsky didn’t think Pushkin’s romance novel had enough oomph for opera. It’s a good thing the Russian composer changed his mind, however. Otherwise we might never have had this soaring piece filled with painfully beautiful arias of regret and redemption. Don’t miss this handsome production originally created for the Metropolitan Opera.

Oct. 30–Nov. 13. houstongrandopera.org


Houston Ballet’s staging of Massenet’s opera (not to be confused with the opera opera in October, above) will feature the work of legendary choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan, a brilliant exploration of love, sex and heartbreak in 19th-century Paris.

Sep. 10–20. houstonballet.org

Fall Mixed Repertory Program

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Fall Mixed Repertory Program

Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances and Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch’s Tapestry should make for a dazzling contemporary choreography revue. Dances, set to the music of Latin American folk ensemble Inti-Illimani, focuses on political upheavals in the region, while Tapestry is set to a Mozart violin concerto.  

Sep. 24–Oct. 4. houstonballet.org

Swan Lake

The touring Russian Grand Ballet presents the Tchaikovsky balletic masterpiece to end all masterpieces. Expect hordes of fans of the ballet (not to mention the psychodrama Black Swan) to snap up tickets quickly for this one-night only engagement in Stafford.

Sep. 27. staffordcentre.com

Daniil Simkin’s Intensio

The Society for the Performing Arts will showcase the athleticism and grace of this 27-year-old principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. Developed by Simkin, the high-energy work features four newly commissioned dance pieces from modern and contemporary ballet choreographers including Alexander Ekman, Gregory Dolbashian, Jorma Elo and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.

Nov. 6. spahouston.org

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