Don't Miss List
From King Tut to British ballet to paintings that stare back, Houston's artsscene builds anticipation
Editors Note: We've asked Houston arts leaders and CultureMap contributors to pick the jewels from Houston's upcoming arts season — the events that they cannot imagine missing. Here is contributor Joseph Campana's don't-miss list:
It's heady time for the arts in Houston.
With a gorgeous new building for the Houston Ballet, new leadership at the Houston Grand Opera, a beautiful new Asia Society museum nearing completion, and daily talk of other arts projects galore, the city sustains its commitment to art. Of course, Dallas and Fort Worth are on the rise with a relatively new Dallas Opera complex to put the Wortham to shame and construction already begun on an addition to the Kimbell.
Most of us receive a flood of ancient Egyptian imagery on a daily basis, and this obsession with pyramids and scarabs predates both the Bangles and Stargate.
Houston can only thrive, survive and outclass its neighboring cities with great arts programming. Fortunately the 2011-12 season promises a mix of thrilling spectacles and intimate splendors. Here are five things I won't miss as autumn approaches, hopefully with cooler weather.
1). I've been hooked on Egyptology since I was a kid. No, I've never rappelled down pyramids, hunted for treasure with Lara Croft, or sifted for artifacts deep in the desert. Still most of us receive a flood of ancient Egyptian imagery on a daily basis, and this obsession with pyramids and scarabs predates both the Bangles and Stargate.
Having spent some time in Egypt, from Cairo to Karnak and back, I can tell you the real thing dwarfs the fantasy. It's no contest. So I'll be first in line for Tutankhamum: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, which shows at the MFAH this fall from Oct. 16 to April 15, 2012.
The exhibition features more than100 items, some recently discovered, from the tombs and temples of the famous boy pharaoh Tutankhamun, son of the legendary Akhenaten. The 1922 discovery of the pristine tomb of King Tut was probably the single event responsible for the modern obsession with Egypt. The artifacts on view, most never previously on display in the United States, include the largest image of Tut and a cold coffin that once held Tut's stomach.
Be on the lookout for plenty of Egyptian kitsch in the gift store, but don't risk the wrath of Tut's curse.
2). Just last year, I wrote about a trip to London where I saw the Royal Ballet perform. It was mind-boggling. One afternoon at Covent Garden seeing Sir Frederick Ashton's Sylvia got me hooked on the British dance tradition with luminaries that include Ashton and his successor at the Royal Ballet Kenneth MacMillan. The marvelous Manon was a Houston Ballet triumph, as was Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee.
That production left me like poor little Oliver, asking for more Ashton and MacMillan. Houston Ballet will come through marvelously in its 2011-12 season opener Return of the Masters. The program, to be performed Sept. 8-18, features Ashton's Les Patineurs (The Skaters), MacMillan's Song of the Earth, and the marvelous In the Night choreographed by American visionary Jerome Robbins.
3). Many describe the Menil as a temple to art that reveals the spirituality of modern art, but of course, part of Dominique de Menil's legacy is a substantial commitment to religious art, from the Byzantine Chapel to the objects highlighted in Kristina Van Dyke's Objects of Devotion. This fall don't miss Imprinting the Divine: Byzantine and Russian Icons from the Menil Collection, which will highlight the fascinating iconography of eastern Christianity. The exhibition will be on display Oct. 21-March 18, 2012.
The 60 works in this show were acquired in 1985 and span six centuries and several countries.
Some Byzantine theologians imagined that while viewers looked at icons, the icons looked back. How could anyone not be captivated by such haunting images?
4). Many are wondering what the unexpected changing of the guard at the Houston Grand Opera will mean. In an HGO newsletter, freshly appointed Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers announced bold plans for outreach and education. In addition to initiatives already announced, including HGO's first stagings of Wagner's Ring beginning in 2014, Summers promised to put Mozart at the heart of HGO with brand-new productions of all the major works.
Happily, this year HGO continues its commitment to Benjamin Britten, whose operas have been a marvelous addition to the city's cultural life. Though it's not an autumn production, I can't help but include Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, which runs from Feb. 3-11, 2012. This opera tells the often-told tale about the rape and suicide of the honorable matron Lucretia, whose death inspired the establishment of the Roman republic.
This story had major importance from the early church fathers through the Renaissance, but for Britten and co-writer Ronald Duncan, the opera was an allegorical exploration of World War II.
5). Finally, how could I miss Lawndale Art Center's annual Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos celebration? 2011 marks the 24th year Lawndale has offered local artists and students the opportunity to be part of a gallery show of works inspired by the Mexican holiday of remembrance. The show opens Oct. 17 and runs through the actual Day of the Dead on Nov. 5.
I'll stand in line for tickets to King Tut if you bring the candy skulls.