Anything but a stuffy space

Art party: Divergence opens its new theater with greatest hits blowout

Art party: Divergence opens its new theater with greatest hits blowout

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Dennis Arrowsmith, bass, performed on stilettos and wearing a corset and fishnet top. Courtesy of Divergence Vocal Theater
News_Divergence opening concert_May 2011_performance_Meg_Mish
Divergence Vocal Theater celebrated its new home at Spring Street Studios with a musical fete fit for the most discerning musical minds. Soprano and artistic director Misha Penton, dancer Meg Brooker and pianist Kyle Evan collaborated, presenting a work commissioned for the ensemble, among other selections that exemplify the DVT's aesthetic. Courtesy of Divergence Vocal Theater
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Alison Greene , Lois Alba , Misha Penton Courtesy of Divergence Vocal Theater
News_Divergence opening concert_May 2011_Kyle Evan_Dennis Arrowsmith_Alison Greene_Shelley Auer
Kyle Evan , Dennis Arrowsmith , Alison Greene , Shelley Auer Courtesy of Divergence Vocal Theater
News_Divergence opening concert_May 2011_Michael Walsh_MaryBeth Smith
Michael Walsh , MaryBeth Smith Courtesy of Divergence Vocal Theater
News_Divergence opening concert_May 2011_Cecy Duarte_Shelley Auer
Cecy Duarte , Shelley Auer Courtesy of Divergence Vocal Theater
News_Divergence opening concert_May 2011_Performance_Dennis
News_Divergence opening concert_May 2011_performance_Meg_Mish
News_Divergence opening concert_May 2011_Alison Greene_Lois Alba_Misha Penton
News_Divergence opening concert_May 2011_Kyle Evan_Dennis Arrowsmith_Alison Greene_Shelley Auer
News_Divergence opening concert_May 2011_Michael Walsh_MaryBeth Smith
News_Divergence opening concert_May 2011_Cecy Duarte_Shelley Auer

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 AlbaSt.John Flynn, Dominick DiOrio and John Allegar, MaryBeth Davison Smith and Chris Welsh, Cecy DuarteBrian 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.