After Harvey, who preserves our culture?

The organized arts and humanities generally don’t save lives directly during emergency situations. Yet they save our culture — our shared memory — over the long run. Here are some ways the state and national communities are responding to Harvey and where the help will be most needed.

The Rockport Center for the Arts after Hurricane Harvey. Contributed by Rockport Center for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Humanities has pledged $1 million to cultural groups hurt by Harvey.

The National Endowment for the Arts is working with the Texas Commission on the Arts to assess the situation. NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu: “As the current situation stabilizes, the NEA is prepared to direct additional funds to these state arts agencies for re-granting to affected organizations, as we have done in the past.”

The Texas Library Association and Texas State Library and Archives Commission are working to coordinate a response for the affected library community.

While some smaller arts facilities have been devastated on the coast (see image from Rockport), the massive Houston Theatre District has sustained enormous damage, as it has in previous storms (much of it was built underground not far from Buffalo Bayou).

At the Alley Theatre, the small Neuhaus Theatre and its lobby were flooded. The same spaces were severely beat up during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.

The Wortham Theatre Center, where Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet perform, took water on the Brown Theatre stage and out front of the house. The basement with its costume and prop storage, however, was totally flooded.

On the other hand, the Hobby Center and Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, came off relatively unscathed, although the parking garages were inundated.

It’s raining Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Earlier, we reported that an important photographic exhibit about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera would be seen at Mexic-Arte Museum come Sept 16-Nov. 26. Later, we learned that some local elements would be added to the touring show, including a piece inspired by Kahlo’s Blue House.

“Diego and Frida: Smile in the Middle of the Way” comes to Mexic-Arte in September. Contributed

Now we find out that the Butler School of Music and the University of Texas School of Fine Arts have commissioned a Spanish-language opera about the creative duo. Other partners in the deal are Fort Worth Opera, San Diego Opera and DePauw University.

To add to the buzz, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and composer Gabriela Lena Frank have signed on to create “The Last Dream of Frida & Diego.” It will premiere in Fort Worth in spring 2020, San Diego in 2021 and at UT’s Butler Opera Center in February 2021.

We love this. Austin Opera has co-commissioned several outstanding works, although not for a while, as has UT. It’s what an opera producer should do.

Artists and audiences prepare now for the coming Austin arts season

The Austin arts season is upon us.

Wait, you say, it’s just July.

Right.

Jeff Lofton plays the Long Center on Oct. 25.

With some exceptions, arts and other cultural groups — we include major literary and historical outlets — don’t return to full form until September.

Yet now’s the time for all arts groups to confirm their seasonal slates and for all readers to consider purchasing season tickets.

In fact, for some high-demand groups, if you haven’t secured your 2017-2018 subscriptions already, you’re stuck with angling for single slots.

For instance, galvanized by the chance to secure tickets for the matchless musical, “Hamilton,” in the 2018-2019 season, more than 3,000 new subscribers have signed on for Broadway in Austin’s 2017-2018 offerings.

RELATED: Broadway smash “Hamilton” coming to Austin in 2018-2019 season.

Now, some groups don’t operate on the traditional season system, rolling out one show at a time. Others split up their seasons. For instance, the Long Center for the Performing Arts won’t announce its Winter/Spring slate until September.

We respect that. What will follow soon in these pages is a list of shows that we could discover with relative ease in July. We’ll add others to digital extensions on the Austin Arts blog when they arrive.

The warm, loving, slightly boozy embrace of the Austin Critics Table Awards

The Austin Critics Table Awards ceremony was long. Very long. A record four hours at Cap City Comedy Club.

18301912_1348772971873683_7782280579048730102_n

Yet the 25th anniversary celebration of all things arts might have been the best one ever. Because every minute was a warm, loving, slightly boozy embrace between artists and the writers who cover them.

I loved every tribute from the critics and (almost) every enthusiastic and authentic acceptance speech. (Why do some people choose a moment of honor to be mean?) Bonus: a witty proclamation from Austin Mayor Steve Adler for the occasion

RELATED: Behold: The Austin Critics Table Awards nominees

Some people — well, a lot of people — left early. But then they missed the best acceptance speech of the evening, given by Christine Hoang, who shared the David Mark Cohen New Play Award with Lisa Thompson, and who talked about how each word from her reviews reduced her “imposter anxiety,” and whose bilingual play, “A Girl Named Sue,” represented a social and cultural leap for the descendants of Vietnamese refugees and their families.

The big news, however, was the expansion of the Critics Table to 20 members including web-based writers, a move I’ve strongly supported for years. The Table began with just five of us newspapermen, sole survivor Robert Faires reminded us — I no longer vote — and over the years has included more than 50 writers.

AUSTIN CRITCS TABLE AWARDS 2016-2017

W.H. “Deacon” Crain Award for Student Work: Madison Williams, Emily Ott

Lighting Design: Jason Amato (“Atlantis: A Puppet Opera”), Patrick Anthony (“A Perfect Robot,” “Old Times”)

Group Gallery Exhibition: “The First Horizons of Juno: Christina Coleman, Jane Hugentober, Candice Lin, Karen Lofgren, Christine Rebet, Alice Wang and Chantal Wnuk,” Mass Gallery

Museum Exhibition: “Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser,” Blanton Museum of Art

Singer: Donnie Ray Albert (“The Manchurian Candidate,” “I Too: The Voices of Langston Hughes”), Liz Cass (“Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance”), David Adam Moore (“The Manchurian Candidate”), Paul Sanchez (“Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance,” “A Christmas Carol”)

Chamber Performance: “I, Too: The Voices of Langston Hughes,” Living Paper Song Project

Original Composition/Score: “Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance,” Graham Reynolds & Lagartijas Tirades al Sol

Scenic Design: Chris Conard (“Totalitarians,” “The Drowning Girls”), Desiderio Roybal (“Clybourn Park,” “The Price,” “The Herd”)

Short Work, Dance: “Camille: A Story of Art and Love,” Jennifer Hart

Solo Gallery Exhibition: “Tammie Rubin: Before I Knew You, I Missed You,” De Stijl Podium for Art

Artist: Deborah Roberts

Costume Design: Susan Branch Towne (“One Man, Two Guv’nors,” “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”)

Dancer: Alexa Caparedo (“Tikling(bird),” “Loose Gravel”), Amy Morrow (“Hiraeth,” “We’ve Been Here Before”)

Ensemble Dance: Dance Repertory Theatre (“Momentum”)

Gallery, Body of Work: “Museum of Human Achievement”

Independent Project: “Workout with Erica Nix,” Erica Nix

Ensemble, Classical: Schumann Chamber Players

Classical Concert/Opera: “The Manchurian Candidate,” Austin Opera

Sound Design: Lowell Bartholomee, “Clybourne Park,” “Fahrenheit 451”

Direction: Jenny Lavery (“The Drowning Girls”), Lily Wolff (“Lungs”)

Dance Concert: “Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees,” Sharon Marroquin, produced by Latino Art Residency Project, Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

Choreographer: Lisa Nicks, “Dear Johnny, in Response to Your Last Letter”

Digital Design: Greg Emetaz, “The Manchurian Candidate”

David Mark Cohen New Play Award: “A Girl Named Sue” (Christine Hoang), “Underground” (Lisa Thompson)

Ensemble, Theater: “Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe,” Doctuh Mistah Productions

Actor: Liz Beckham (“Lungs,” Neva,” “Clybourne Park), Chase Brewer (“Hand to God”), Michael Joplin (“Lungs”), Amber Quick (“One Man, Two Guv’nors,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Herd”)

Production, Theater: Clybourne Park (Penfold Theatre), “The Drowning Girls” (Theatre en Bloc), “The Great Society (Zach Theatre)

Special Citations: Luis Armando Ortiz Gutierrez, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, Andrea Ariel, Babs George, “Rambunctious,” Jennifer Sherburn for “11:11,” Theatre Synesthesia, Sandy Yamamoto, Thr3e Zisters,” Amy Downing.

Austin Arts Hall of Fame: Katherine Brimberry and Mark L. Smith, Zell Miller III, Kate Warren

UPDATE: Thanks to Robert Faires for correcting some embarrassing typos in names banged out quickly this morning.

Giving City toasts Austin Critics Table Awards

If you missed the short history of the Austin Critics Table Awards written by Monica Maldonado Williams of Giving City and published in Sunday’s American-Statesman, below find a snippet. The free awards ceremony returns 7 p.m. June 5 at Cap City Comedy Club.

MF -CRITICS
The Austin Critics Table in in 1995. L-R: John Bustin, Barry Pineo, Michael Barnes, Jamie Smith Cantara, Belinda Acosta, David Mark Cohen, Jerry Conn and Robert Faires. (Bustin and Cohen are deceased.) Mark Fort/American-Statesman

FULL STORY:  At 25 years old, an arts awards event learns to adapt.

“While almost all Austin arts organizations operate as nonprofits, the caliber of the art has become more professional and innovative, said co-founder Robert Faires. To reflect the range of art, this year’s Critics Table judges have adjusted the categories to make them less theater-heavy.

“There’s more diversity among the artists and the art forms in Austin, but this is not just a participation award,” said David Wyatt, a long-time volunteer for the event and the owner of a public relations agency that specializes in the art organizations. “Artists have to wait years to the point where they’ve developed their craft and matured as an artists to get recognized. It’s very meaningful.”

RELATED: See this year’s nominees for the Austin Critics Table Awards.

“In addition to adjusting the categories, Faires has had to adjust the roster of judges. As the last of the founders participating, he realized that the awards should include the new breed of art writers, especially those who publish primarily online. This year’s judges include writers from websites and blogs like Broadway World Austin, Austin Entertainment Weekly, Arts & Culture Texas, and Conflict of Interest TX.”

RBB MALDONADO WILLIAMS 2
Monica Maldonado Williams. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

BACKGROUND: Monica Maldonado Williams cracks the charity code.

Behold: The 2017 Austin Critics Table Awards nominees

More than two decades ago, a half dozen ink-stained wretches sat down over obligatory martinis at a 24-hour deli to honor Austin artists. Thus was born the Austin Critics Table Awards, which return to Cap City Comedy Club on Monday, June 5.

image

During the intervening years, artists, critics and award categories have come and gone. One constant: Robert Faires. The Austin Chronicle arts editor has shaped the awards in his image: generous, omnivorous and witty.  He’s always been as well the diligent note taker and records keeper for the disparate group of staff and freelance critics.

I retired from the Table — named after our usual meeting spot at Katz’s on West Sixth Street — many years ago when my wider wanderings led me to write about Austin’s people, places, culture and history.

I remained, however, passionately loyal to the arts. And more recently, I’ve written quite a few arts news and features stories. It’s important to emphasize, however, that I am no longer a critic. To be sure, opinion informs my reporting, but you won’t find any recent reviews under my byline in our archives.

It gives me considerable pleasure, then, to share with our readers the work of those staff and freelance reviewers which today culminates in the 2017 nominations for the Austin Critics Table Awards:
THEATRE
Production
Buyer and Cellar, Zach Theatre
Clybourne Park, Penfold Theatre
The Drowning Girls, Theatre en Bloc
The Great Society, Zach Theatre
Hand to God, Capital T Theatre
The Hotel Vanya, or A Metaphysical-Paradigm at the End of Everythingness, Natalie George Productions
Lungs, Hyde Park Theatre
Nevermore, the Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, Doctuh Mistuh Productions
Song About Himself, Capital T Theatre
The Totalitarians, Theatre en Bloc

Direction
Ann Ciccolella, Old Times
Lindsay Doleshal, Dead Man’s Cell Phone
Katie Green, The Shift
Nathan Jerkins, Clybourne Park
Jenny Larson, With Great Difficulty Alice Sits
Jenny Lavery, The Drowning Girls
Mark Pickell, Song About Himself
Rudy Ramirez, A Perfect Robot
Dave Steakley, The Great Society
Lily Wolff, Lungs

David Mark Cohen New Play Award
Dust, Nicole Oglesby
A Girl Named Sue, Christine Hoang
The Hotel Vanya, or A Metaphysical-Paradigm at the End of Everythingness, Timothy Braun
A Perfect Robot, Sarah Saltwick
The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Allen Robertson & Damon Brown
Underground, Lisa Thompson
With Great Difficulty Alice Sits, Hannah Kenah
Wraith Radio, Chris Fontanes

Ensemble
Atlantis, A Puppet Opera, Ethos, with the Vortex
Clybourne Park, Penfold Theatre
The Drowning Girls, Theatre en Bloc
The Great Society, Zach Theatre
Neva, Theatre en Bloc
Nevermore, the Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, Doctuh Mistuh Productions
Old Times, Austin Shakespeare
The World According to Snoopy, Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance

Acting
Liz Beckham, Lungs/Neva/Clybourne Park
Chase Brewer, Hand to God
Jay Byrd, Hir
Barbara Chisholm, The Totalitarians
Jacqui Cross, For the Love of Mahalia
Sarah Danko, A Perfect Robot
Lana Dieterich, John
Bridget Farr, Dead Man’s Cell Phone
Judd Farris, Trevor
Joey Hood, W.
Michael Joplin, Lungs
J. Robert Moore, Buyer & Cellar
Marc Pouhé, Death of a Salesman/Underground
Amber Quick, One Man, Two Guv’nors/Charlotte’s Web/The Herd
Cecil Washington, Jr., The Great Society
DESIGN
Set
Theada Bellenger, The Addams Family
Chris Conard, The Totalitarians/The Drowning Girls
Ia Ensterä, Dead Man’s Cell Phone
Lisa Laratta, Poor Herman
Mark Pickell, Hir/Hand to God/John
Desiderio Roybal, Clybourne Park/The Price/The Herd
Court Watson, One Man, Two Guv’nors

Costume
Susan Branche Towne, One Man, Two Guv’nors/The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
Jennifer Davis, Wolf Hall/Pride and Prejudice
E. L. Hohn, In the Red and Brown Water
Barry Doss, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Lighting
Jason Amato, Atlantis: A Puppet Opera
Patrick Anthony, A Perfect Robot/Old Times
Don Day, John
Kate Ducey, The Drowning Girls
Kathryn Eader, The Manchurian Candidate
Natalie George, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui/11:11/Potential
Natalie George & Sadie Langenkamp, Riverside
Stephen Pruitt, More or Less/One Step at a Time/”panning_memory”
Alex Soto, Radiance
Scott Vandenberg, Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees

Sound
Lowell Bartholomee, Clybourne Park/Fahrenheit 451
David DeMaris, A Perfect Robot
Robert Fisher, The Hotel Vanya
William Meadows, Radiance
Bill Mester, The Manchurian Candidate

Digital
Ana Baer, Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees
Lowell Bartholomee, Fahrenheit 451
Greg Emetaz, The Manchurian Candidate
Eliot Gray Fisher, A Perfect Robot
DANCE
Concert
4×3, Performa/Dance
2016 Fall Dance Festival, Chaddick Dance Theater
Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees, Sharon Marroquin, produced by Latino Art
Residency Project, Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center
More or Less, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Co.
One Step at a Time: A Journey Toward Present Grace, Tapestry Dance
Radiance, Blue Lapis Light

Short Work
“Black is the New Black,” Oluwaseun Samuel Olayiwola
“Camille: A Story of Art and Love,” Jennifer Hart
“Dear Johnny, in Response to Your Last Letter,” Lisa Nicks
“panning_memory,” Jennifer Sherburn
“Planets,” Michelle Thompson Ulerich
“Slowness,” Jun Shen
“Tikling(bird),” Alexa Capareda

Choreographer
Acia Gray, “Jazz Voices”/“Hourglass”/“Time”/“Listen”
Kathy Dunn Hamrick, More or Less/The Four (Three) Seasons/“Salud”
Sally Jacques, Radiance
Jennifer Hart, Camille: A Story of Art and Love
Sharon Marroquin, Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees
Lisa Nicks, “Dear Johnny, in Response to Your Last Letter”
Kate Warren, Change Without Change

Dancer
Jeremy Arnold, Listen – With Ears Wide Open
Ellen Bartel, “Ocean”/Potential
Alexa Capareda, “Tikling(bird)”/Loose Gravel
Alyson Dolan, Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees/The Four (3) Seasons/The Bowie Project/Potential
Lisa Anne Kobdish, More or Less/Potential/“Salud”
Sharon Marroquin, Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees
Amy Morrow, Hiraeth/“We’ve Been Here Before”/Save Our Spaces Second Line March
Oren Porterfield, Camille: A Story of Art and Love/To China with Love
Andrea Torres, Listen – With Ears Wide Open

Ensemble
Ballet Austin, To China with Love/Belle Redux
Cast of Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees
Dance Repertory Theatre, Momentum
Frank Wo/Men Collective, Loose Gravel
Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company,  More or Less
CLASSICAL MUSIC
Concert/Opera
Autumn Song, Conspirare
The Flying Dutchman, Austin Opera
Mahler: Symphony No. 6, Austin Symphony Orchestra
The Manchurian Candidate, Austin Opera
Rule of Three, Austin Symphony Orchestra
Symphonic Follies, Austin Symphony Orchestra

Chamber Performance
Drumming, line upon line percussion, for Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company’s More or Less
I, Too: The Voices of Langston Hughes, Living Paper Song Project
Sacred Shadows, Ensemble VIII
Schumann Chamber Players, Austin Chamber Music Festival

Original Composition/Score
Have a Good Day, Kathryn Mishell
Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance, Graham Reynolds & Lagaritas Tiradas al Sol
The Passive-Aggressive’s Guide to Mother Goose, Ross Crean
Problems, Rain Nox
String Quartet No. 4, Yevgeniy Sharlat
Potential, line upon line percussion

Singer
Donnie Ray Albert, The Manchurian Candidate/I, Too: The Voices of Langston Hughes
Liz Cass, Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance
Julia di Fiore, The Passive-Aggressive’s Guide to Mother Goose
Brenda Harris, The Manchurian Candidate
David Adam Moore, The Manchurian Candidate
Stefanie Moore, Autumn Song
Tim O’Brien, LOLA@4th Tap: January
Kathlene Ritch, Autumn Song
Paul Sanchez, Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance/A Christmas Carol

Ensemble
Conspirare
Ensemble VIII
line upon line percussion
Schumann Chamber Players
VISUAL ART
Solo Gallery Exhibition
“Ana Esteve Lloren: Studies for Future Objects,” Women & Their Work Gallery
“Lauren Moya Ford: New Hands on Old World Flowers,” Big Medium
“Liz Rodda: Heat Loss,” Women & Their Work Gallery
“Low Down: New Works On Paper by Ricardo Vicente Jose Ruiz,” Not Gallery
“Scorch and Drag: Prints and Sculptures by John Robert Craft,” Flatbed Gallery
“Tammie Rubin: Before I Knew You, I Missed You,” de stijl | PODIUM FOR ART
“Tania Mouraud: Everyday Ogres,” UT Visual Arts Center

Group Gallery Exhibition
“ANTHROPOCENE: Jonas Hart, Dameon Lester & Melissa Loop,” grayDUCK Gallery
“Femme National(e): Audrey Brown, Christina Coleman, Kasumi Chow / Desiree Michelle Espada, Emmy Laursen, Juliana Isabel Ramirez,” Pump Project
“Figure/Heads: David Bae and Erin Cunningham,” ICOSA Collective Gallery
“The First Horizons of Juno: Christina Coleman, Jane Hugentober, Candice Lin, Karen Lofgren, Christine Rebet, Alice Wang and Chantal Wnuk,” MASS Gallery
“March ON!” Christian-Greene Gallery at the Warfield Center
“One/Sixth,” de stijl | PODIUM FOR ART
“Textscape,” Co-Lab Projects DEMO Gallery,

Independent Project
“FinalCon,” Museum of Human Achievement, Ink Tank, Dys/Mem, Drew Paryzer, and Gwar
Spam’s, The Internet Diner, Museum of Human Achievement, Rachel Stuckey, curator
This is Hardcore, Sean Ripple
Workout With Erica Nix, Erica Nix
XYZ Atlas, Jennifer Chenoweth

Gallery, Body of Work
Co-Lab Projects DEMO Gallery
Flatbed Complex
Museum of Human Achievement
Not Gallery
Pump Project

Artist
Cliona Gunter
Amy Hauft
Beili Liu
Sean Ripple
Deborah Roberts

UPDATE: Four people will be inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame: Zell Miller III (theater, spoken word); Katherine Brimberry and Mark L. Smith of Flatbed Press (visual arts); and Kate Warren (dance).

Ernest and Sarah Butler give $1 million to support Austin Opera artistic director

Not long after she took the reins as Austin Opera’s general director, Annie Burridge told a reporter how she felt about the quality of company’s sound under Artistic Director Richard Buckley.

“The second the performance started, I bolted forward in my seat,” Burridge recalled. “I couldn’t believe the caliber of the musicianship.”

RELATED: Austin Opera general director turns to big data to engage audiences.

photos.medleyphoto.4421596
Austin Lyric Opera Artistic Director Richard Buckley (left) coaches Wayne Tigges. American-Statesman

Soon after the article was published, major benefactors Sarah and Ernest Butler asked the general director over for tea. Burridge came away with a pledge from the Butlers — who have strategically given tens of millions of dollars to build Austin’s arts — to support Buckley’s position with $1 million.

“As long-time opera fans, Sarah and I are so pleased with the artistic achievements of Maestro Buckley and quite proud of the caliber of musicianship he has brought to Austin,” Ernest Butler said. “We are also very optimistic about the future of Austin Opera under the leadership of General Director Annie Burridge. We hope that our gift will enable the company to flourish for years to come.”

photos.medleyphoto.4408274
Sarah and Ernest Butler. American-Statesman.

Son of a distinguished maestro, Buckley has conducted operas and symphonies far and wide. He has been part of 38 Austin Opera productions — 37 percent of them new to the company’s repertoire — going back to the 2004-2005 season with “Tosca” and “Electra.”

Along with setting high standards with familiar operatic fare, Buckley has won praise from Austin observers for daring ventures such as “Waiting for the Barbarians,” “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” “The Bat,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Dialogue of the Carmelites,” “Flight” and “The Manchurian Candidate.” To celebrate his 10th year as artistic director, the company staged Verdi’s formidable masterpiece, “Don Carlo,” during the 2013-2014 season, along with a revival of his first Austin opera, “Tosca.”

RELATED: Austin Opera conductor Richard Buckley celebrates 10 years.

general-director-annie-burridge-2750xx1500-2000-0-96
Austin Opera General Director Annie Burridge. Contributed.

When Buckley conducts around the world as a guest, he tends to win over even the toughest critics.

“He lifts the orchestra with incontestable spirit, rhythm and presence,” reported Le Figaro newspaper in Paris. “We have here a real artist.”

“Richard Buckley, who has matured into an exquisitely sensitive yet fiery conductor, characterizes every measure of the score,” judged the Miami Herald critic. “But Buckley does it in a natural way that never seems self-conscious, and his reading crackles with theatrical excitement. It is fluent, spontaneous, superbly proportioned and, when necessary, wonderfully hushed with suspense.”

In other Austin Opera news, Burridge recently announced the appointment of three new members to her leadership team: Jennifer Dubin will serve as the group’s chief development officer; Nathan DePoint is the Company’s director of operations; and Melysa Rogen is the Company’s new director of marketing and communications.

Revealed: Free Fusebox Festival events

Austin can make many claims to singularity. But there really isn’t anything anywhere else like the Fusebox Festival.

graham-reynolds-shawn-sides-lagartijas-680420-option-1
‘Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance’ is one of the marquee shows in the 2017 Fusebox Festival.

Each year, more than 100 events are presented at 19 venues in Central and East Austin. More than 40 artists and companies from six continents participate.

It’s a little bit like FronteraFest, only global.

And it’s all free. This year, the carnival runs April 12-16. Advance reservations are now available online. Tickets will be offered at the door as well.

Before the festival proper, one can attend a fundraising party known as Fusebox Eve on April 11.

There’s lots to relish this year, but at the top of our list is the Austin premiere of a chamber opera, “Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance,” from composer Graham Reynolds, Rude Mechs’ Shawn Sides and Mexico-based artists Lagartijas Tiradas del Sol.

Austin Opera leader turns to Big Data

 

This past fall, Austin Opera flew in Annie Burridge, a candidate for general director, to watch its staging of “The Manchurian Candidate.”

newsengin-17351549_general-director-annie-burridge-2
Austin Opera general director Annie Burridge is a coloratura soprano but was more drawn to the business end of the art. Contributed by Paul Sirochman

“I sat down in the hall,” says the former managing director of Opera Philadelphia. “The second the performance started, I bolted forward in my seat. I couldn’t believe the caliber of the musicianship.”

At that night’s dinner, Burridge was seated next to the show’s composer, Kevin Puts, who had won a Pulitzer Prize for his first opera, “Silent Night.”

“Kevin was nearly in tears at how happy he was with the performance,” she says of the piece adapted from a famous film and first staged by Minnesota Opera. “(Artistic director) Richard Buckley had worked with him on editing it. That’s so important for new works. You know, there’s usually not a lot of rewards for opera companies doing subsequent performances. Everyone wants to give the premiere. Austin gave Kevin and his opera a key second hearing.”

Quietly keen with short hair and acute eyes, Burridge is a coloratura soprano with a special zeal not just for the art form but also for big data and the ways that sophisticated marketing research can tune opera to serve diverse audiences.  …

We’re bringing the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing to recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages.

This is a key piece on Austin Opera’s new general manager:

Austin Opera unrolls next season

First out of the performing arts gate for the 2017-2018 season is Austin Opera.

While its current show, “Daughter of the Regiment,” gears up for a second weekend, we can look forward to three treats next go round.

RELATED: Austin Opera’s general director turns to Big Data to engage audiences.

kate-wormald-in-handa-opera-on-sydney-harbour-carmen-2013-photo-by-james-morgan_2556
We’re not promising that Austin Opera’s “Carmen” will look anything like this Australian outing. Contributed.

Next in January and February is a much rarer gem, Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos,” appearing for the first time in Austin as far as I can determine.

Finally, Austin Opera returns to the best-loved list with Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata,” in fact, the most popular  opera, accredited in Operabase from the same reporting period (2009-2015).