"It get's better," lord of the violin Joshua Bell joked from the Jones Hall stage. When the house lights came up after Bell's first piece, the audience thought it was intermission and therefore permissible to meander around the theater.
If anything good unfolded from this Society for the Performing Arts production boo-boo last weekend, it's that listeners garnered a glimpse at the personality behind the $8 million Gibson ex-Huberman Stradivarius. Though it was apparent that many of the concert goers weren't accustomed to proper classical music etiquette, any classical music that brings throngs to a performance venue always ends on a high note.
I am not sure it got better though as every piece from Bell was a delightful gem brilliantly executed, from the gorgeous melodies of Mendelssohn's Sonata in F major to the rich sonorities of Brahms' Sonata No. 3 in D minor.
Guests were enamored by the reveal of a newly renovated breakfast room imbued with lovely blues and a sparkly crystal chandelier at Rienzi.
Audiences immediately connected with the jazzy riffs in Ravel's Sonata and Gershwin's Three Preludes, though this Bell junkie drooled at Ysaÿe's solo Sonata in D minor. Though the composer is obscure outside of the violin world, his music is what Paganini would have written had he lived into the 20th century. Read that, very arduous and musically succulent.
Rienzi's Foodie Fest brought gourmands with a penchant for anything Monica Pope and devotees of European decorative arts together. With a nod to the museum's first exhibit, English Taste, the social waved too-da-loo to a lavish display of 18th century delicacies as described by the period's Martha Stewart, Mrs. Elizabeth Raffald, on view through Jan. 29.
Amid light bites and inspired punch concoctions, guests were enamored by the reveal of a newly renovated breakfast room imbued with lovely blues and a sparkly crystal chandelier.
That was followed by a cheery high school-themed bacchanal inspired by Theatre Under the Stars' production of Bring It On at Advantage BMW Midtown where Houston Young People for the Arts honored three powerhouse doers: Sophia Arabani, Paul Pettie and Brian Thorp. I ♥ HYPA Homecoming Gala was chaired by Cindy Rodriguez, Kelser McMiller, John Andell and James Sivco and featured the Westfield High School 50-piece marching band.
With RachFest behind us, how will I spend my time? Take note, CultureMap's suggestions are on their way:
Houston Grand Opera's La Traviata at Wortham Theater Center
It should be enough that HGO is at it again. Think gleaming Paris, unfulfilled love, sacrifice, passionate romance. Who I am really there to see is Albina Shagimuratova, former HGO Studio alum whose turns as Gilda in Rigoletto, Queen of the Night in Magic Flute and the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor stole show after show. Rumor has it she's tearing up Violetta in rehearsals.
Not to say the rest of the cast is any less worthy. It's quite the roster with Bryan Hymel, Giorgio Germont, Scott Quinn, Catherine Martin, Flora Bervoix and Boris Dyakov. I'll always have a soft heart for sopranos who can physically kick my butt though.
It's one of the repertoire most beloved's operas and you should experience the drama, the heartache, the music. Open Friday and runs through Feb 12. Tickets start at $38.
Explore the History of American Beverages at Bayou Bend Collection & Gardens
Three Starbucks within just a few feet from each other can only mean one thing: Houstonians love beverages, whether coffee, tea, the latest whipped cream topped whatever or Bobby Heugel's newest potion.
If your curiosity is piqued by the history of such refreshments, CutureMap recommends you take a look at this series of educational — and delicious — events at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's home of American decorative arts, also the former home of Ima Hogg.
The series continues Sunday, 1 p.m. with spirits. $25.
2012 Lunar New Year Festival at Houston Chinese Community Center
Celebrate the Year of the Dragon at this Chinese New Year Festival. This annual celebration features food, multicultural performances, music, shopping and lots of fun for the whole family.
The festival attracts more than 10,000 visitors every year and its main features include: Chinese Face Changing; Dragon, Lion and Zodiac dances; Martial Arts presentations; arts and crafts; cultural displays and a 60-booth bazaar with free giveaways galore. Better yet, it's free to get in. 10 a.m. Saturday.
River Oaks Chamber Orchestra Chamber Series: Lefthand Canyon Trio at Gremillion Fine Art and Co.
Call the River Oaks Chamber Ochestra, ROCO. It suits the laid back, informal yet classy ambiance at these recitals much better than anything that typically happens in Houston's premiere pricey neighborhood. These chamber concerts open the door to the personalities that make ROCO's events gatherings where you can have fun with serious music.
Principal flutist Christina Jennings, also a member of the Lefthand Canyon Trio with violist Matthew Dane and guitarist Jonathan Leathwood, promises a weekend afternoon of original works covering a wide gamut of styles.
2012 Houston Auto Show at Reliant Center
My lease on my adorable Acura, I call him Amadeus (fitting, don't you think), is about to expire so my mind has been occupied poring through many high-octane possibilities to replace my current set of wheels. I need something cute, stylish and safe.
What's a girl to do? Any recommendations?
I don't know much about vehicles and that's why I intend on checking out this year's Auto Show, which runs through Sunday with $10 admission.
Arts smarty pants and beer lovin' lovable dance maven Nancy Wozny's pick: eState Sale at Art League Houston
Nancy says: "Stuff is on my mind, having gotten rid of most of mine to sell my house. But stuff takes on an almost luminous quality in Hillerbrand + Magsamen's video installation eState Sale at Art League Houston, running through Feb. 24.
"The husband and wife team are famous for using themselves and their two adorable children in their work. Watch their daughter disappear into a mountain of stuffed animals, while their son gleefully smashes plates. Magsamen bricks herself into her overly jammed closet using feathers as mortar while Hillerbrand stands stoically with a running sprinkler.
"Suburbia has never been this weird or interesting. Don't miss their video Accumulation, which shows the dark side of too much stuff. They even want your stuff, which will be auctioned off on Feb. 18, to benefit Star of Hope."
Assistant editor, party gal and lifestyle expert Caroline Gallay's pick: Saint Arnold One Pot Showdown
Caroline says: "I'll be doing my civic duty as a judge, and I can't wait to see everybody out for this awesome annual sold-out event on Sunday, which is billed as 'one part chili cook-off, one part stew stampede, one part gumbo gauntlet, and 10 parts Saint Arnold goodness.'
"All proceeds benefit Noah's Kitchen."
Managing Editor Chris Baldwin's pick: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Houston Rockets at Toyota Center
Chris says: "A visit from the TWolves — one of the NBA's perennial losers — does not seem like cause for excitement. But if you're a basketball nerd, you know it means Ricky Rubio will be making his first appearance in Houston.
"The sweet-passing wizard from Spain has been a YouTube legend for basketball fans for years. He was the most exciting player in the 2008 Olympic Games at age 17 and NBA fans who prefer a certain style of selfless, flashy play have been waiting for him to arrive in the league ever since. Better yet? While many pegged him as a myth, Rubio's more than lived up to the hype in the first third of his first season.
"It sounds crazy, but this is one of the few Rockets games I wouldn't dream of missing. Yes, a TWolves matchup." 7 p.m. Monday.