There is always something magical about opening night. Gents in fine tuxes, dames in modish gowns and sparkling jewels, exquisite cuisine and bubbly cocktails.
But at the Divergence Music and Arts grand opening bacchanal Saturday, the scene resembled nothing of the sort. From the sophisticated socialite to the indie chic, the over-capacity crowd lounged comfortably on velvety floor pillows, mismatched chairs, rockers and loungers, awaiting a musicale that captured the raison d'être of the avant-garde ensemble.
The new venue at the burgeoning Spring Street Studios is home to Divergence Vocal Theater, the brainchild of soprano Misha Penton, who using a fiscal sponsorship model has been growing the company by breaking every convention of traditional vocal arts programming.
Exposed brick and vibrant green walls fuse to fashion an informal warehouse lofty aura, making the space feel more like a bohemian living room than a formal chamber hall. Almost tailored as a Divergence greatest hits, the grand opening bill included classic arias, works commissioned by Divergence, comical musical theater, soulful cabaret and experimental multimedia and cross-artistic compositions.
Mezzo Lainie Diamond brought the audience to tears with a tender, expressive a cappella American spiritual. Shelley Auer's "Alto's Lament" was quirky, full of personality and sass. Bass Dennis Arrowsmith, donning a corset, a fishnet top and stilettos, unleashed his masculine femininity in a theatrical performance of Dick Tracy's "More."
Jade Simmons tore up the piano with a virile virtuoso showcase of Liszt's Grand Etudes de Paganini No.6 in A Minor, ending with a spirited jazzy riff. Closing the program was a collaboration between pianist and composer Hsin-Jung Tsai, Chris Becker on laptop and dancer Meg Brooker, demonstrating the efficacy of juxtaposing traditional and contemporary genres, mediums and techniques.
Applause, applause! After the revue, devotees spilled onto the covered veranda for nibbles, libations and a lively mix and mingle with the artists.
Toasting to the new venue were Lois Alba, St.John Flynn, Dominick DiOrio and John Allegar, MaryBeth Davison Smith and Chris Welsh, Cecy Duarte, Brian Hoffner, John Bradshaw, Troy Campa and Rene Ibarra, Brad Goertz and Michael Zuraw.
It's official. Houston has a new boutique arts venue. That's something to celebrate.