Carmen at the Winspear

Lobby of the Winspear Opera House

Lobby of the Winspear Opera House – taken during the opening festivities three years ago.

Winspear

The interior of the Winspear, taken when it first opened.

Ever since we stumbled into the unexpected awesomeness that was Turandot at the Death Star – I have been jonesin’ for some more opera. I managed to take in a couple of Met Simulcasts at local movie theaters – which was extra cool – but there is no substitute for the real thing.

Despite our poverty at the moment, I splurged and bought tickets to the Dallas Opera’s production of Carmen at the Winspear. Wanting to enjoy the show with the minimum of folderol I chose the Sunday matinee. The tickets have been magneted on the refrigerator for months… finally, today was the day. I was psyched.

I have always loved the music of Carmen – I have had an album of the orchesteral suite on my own personal heavy rotation for thirty years. It is a treat to hear the familiar melodies on their home turf, so to speak.

The only problem I have with Carmen is one of those stubborn stray childhood memories. Implanted like an intractable splinter is the remembrance of a particular episode of Gilligan’s Island… where the castaways produce a homegrown play of their own device. It is a musical version of Hamlet, set to well known opera themes – in particular a couple of the more famous melodies from Carmen.

The combination of the serious genius of Shakespeare and the classic musical stylings of Bizet mixed with the silly sitcom technique caused a rift in the time-space continuum and a permanent spot of damage in my young brain. The corruption persists to this day. Unfortunately, I can’t listen to The Toreador Song without hearing the Skipper singing, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be….”

And then, Gilligan singing “To be or not to be,” to the tune of Habanera… Oh, man, I wish I had never heard that….

But, other than that, I love the music.

And hearing it live was especially special. So much of the music we hear today (all of it, really) is electronically amplified. Even live music is miked and boomed out over speakers. To hear the complexity and delicacy of the orchestra and the voices within the exquisite acoustics of a place like the Winspear with no intermediary between the instruments and performers and your eardrums is a pure treat… something to be treasured and remembered, experienced whenever possible.

Now, because I am poor, we could only afford nosebleed seats – way up in the top, only three rows down from the ceiling (though, since I bought them on the first day, they were in the center). It wasn’t bad at all. The sound was still perfect and, although we couldn’t make out the emotion in the faces of the performers, the staring-down-on the relatively narrow staging gave the production a three-dimensional look that staring straight through the proscenium from a floor seat doesn’t boast.

As we went to the elevator before the performance the attending woman said, “Sixth Floor – Now at the intermission, go down to the fifth floor if you want to buy something. That’s actually a great place because there is a balcony outside.” So that’s what we did. I really enjoyed the few minutes out on the balcony, looking down onto the familiar reflecting pool and across the arts district… you could even see past the highways on to Fair Park – a beautiful view. The massive aluminum grid of the sunscreen was only a few feet over our heads.

Trammell Crow Center and the Winspear Sunscreen

Trammell Crow Center and the Winspear Sunscreen

The aluminum grid of the Winspear Opera House sunshade - very high overhead, reflected in the pool.

The aluminum grid of the Winspear Opera House sunshade – very high overhead, reflected in the pool.

The opera is not a quick thing – it takes up the whole day (though for me, the actual performance goes by all too quickly). But it is an experience that I have come to treasure – a special form of entertainment. The history of it, the people watching at the performance, and especially the industry and expertise of everyone associated with the show makes is so worth the effort and expense.

Now I have to look ahead… what to see next? Maybe Death and the Powers? It looks like it will be simulcast all over the world, maybe you can join me?

Four Women

Digital Painting done with Corel Painter and The Gimp, based on a photograph taken in the reflecting pool in front of the Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas

“Used to say there was four women in every man’s heart. The Maid in the
Meadow, the Demon Lover, the Stouthearted Woman, the Tall and Quiet Woman.”
― Annie Proulx, The Shipping News

Four Women, Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas

Four Women, Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas

Plane in the Pool

I like taking photographs of reflections, I like photographs of planes landing over downtown Dallas, I like reflections of planes landing over Downtown Dallas, I like the reflecting pool in front of the Winspear Opera House, I like the high metal sunscreen in front of the Winspear, sometimes I like black and white reflections.

Here’s all of it.

plane_pool

The Kiss

While I was sitting alongside the reflecting pool listening to the music I looked up and there was this blonde woman wearing a white skin-tight stretchy shiny Spandex dress running barefoot as fast as she could down the middle of Flora street with a pair of heels clutched in her hands. She was trying to smile but was obviously upset at being late for something. Her legs were moving as quickly as they could, but she was slowed by that dress. Nothing much could move above her knees.

A few steps behind her, walking leisurely, but more or less at the same speed, was another woman, casually dressed, carrying a bundle of flowers and walking a beagle on a leash. She had a big grin watching her friend try and hoof it.

I wondered what was up, and then looking down the street in the distance by the Meyerson Symphony Hall I could see the last of the sunlight glinting off a tripod and a woman with a big camera pacing around. The woman in the dress was late for a photo shoot. Looking closer – I spotted a man in a suit.

Maybe wedding photos; maybe engagement. I don’t know about the beagle – maybe the dog would be in a few shots. I saw them start to set up and shoot some down by the Symphony Hall and then they were lost in the distance.

I didn’t think about them for a while. I was enjoying the music – but for some reason I turned my head and there they were, right in front of me. They had moved down and were taking pictures in the middle of the reflecting pool. I guess the photographer was at an angle where the crowd listening to the music didn’t appear in the background.

They were almost finished. I raised my camera and only had time to squeeze off a couple shots.

It would have been cool if they had dragged that dog out there too.

Reflecting Pool

A photographic technique I like is to shoot an object’s reflection in a pool (specifically the one in front of the Winspear Opera house here in Dallas) then flip the image. For reference I like to leave a little strip of the original object, upside down, at the bottom of the photo.

I liked it when I used it a while back in a photo of a bicyclist crossing the pool. Last Thursday, at it again, I took a picture of a little girl running across the very shallow pool and I was very happy with it.

I’m sure I’ll do this again – so I hope y’all like it.

Kids love the reflecting pool. The water is less than a quarter inch deep.

The aluminum grid of the Winspear Opera House sunshade - very high overhead, reflected in the pool.

Standing on the edge of the pool.

Savor Dallas Wine Stroll

I was really struggling to come up with a birthday present for Candy. I was going to get her a Keurig single cup coffee machine, but right before I went out and bought it she developed some stomach problems related to coffee and told me she would have to quit drinking it. So I was back at square one.

Surfing around the web and checking facebook I came across an upcoming event here in Dallas that I, frankly, had never heard of. It was called Savor Dallas – and it is a multi-day, multi-location, celebration of food and wine and stuff like that. One event was called the Arts District Wine Stroll.

The Stroll was billed as:

The popular “Arts District Stroll” sets the stage for the two-day festival on Friday, March 30th, 5-7pm, where guests can enjoy wine and food tastings in the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Meyerson Symphony Center, and the Winspear Opera House. A group of the popular new Food Trucks will be selling their goodies along Flora Street during the Stroll.

So I guess it is something like a pre-paid pub crawl, except with a little more class.

Well, it looks like we might be on to something here. Walking around the Dallas Arts District, visiting four beautiful public buildings, all designed by Pritzker Prize winning architects, while sampling food and wine along the way. Meanwhile the usual flotilla of Food Trucks waits along the route in case you don’t get enough along the way.

That sounded like a plan to me – so I logged in and bought a pair of tickets online (good thing I didn’t wait – the event sold out a few days later).

The event ran from five to seven – only two hours long. We didn’t want to waste any time, so I took a half-day of vacation from work and we decided to take the DART train down there to avoid any traffic or parking hassles. We arrived at the Winspear Opera house right at five o’clock, had our tickets scanned, received a green wristband and a wine glass, and we were off.

The thing was great. There were over fifty spots pouring out samples of wine spread among the four locations and a healthy handful of food spots. We hit the Winspear Opera house first (an excellent sake there, in addition to the wine), then moved next door to the Meyerson Symphony Hall. These were crowded, but the lines moved quickly and we were able to sample a good selection of wine and some excellent food.

I carried my camera and a small Moleskine Notebook with a matching fountain pen. I tried not to take too many pictures – it was really hard to hold a wine glass, little tray of food, and steady the camera enough to take decent photographs. I was going to take notes on particularly good wines – wines that Candy liked – I’m not a good judge, I like everything,… but it wasn’t really necessary, we simply picked up brochures and business cards from stuff we liked.

After the Meyerson we walked down to the Dallas Museum of Art. I liked it the best. Because it was down on the end and a longer stroll than the others, it was by far the least crowded and there weren’t any lines at all.

Best of all, though, they had a Tequila Sampling station. There were two attractive young girls in white skintight spandex minidresses mixing various tequilla concoctions and pouring out trayfulls of shot glasses for us to snatch up and sample. Some of the mixes (coconut and grapefruit juice) were a little off – I much preferred the straight, smooth tequila – but it was all pretty damn good. I could have parked myself in front of the tequilla sampling place, while waiters kept coming by with strange little hors d’ oeuvres – like lamb on plantain chips or oysters in tiny ice cream cones – all night long.

But it was time to move on and we walked next door to the Nasher for the final half-hour of the festivities. The Nasher garden is a perfect spot for something like this – a healthy crowd milling about the grass lawn of the garden, sheltered by the groves of perfectly groomed trees, sipping wine and eating food while about a billion dollars of modern sculpture looks on.

I slowed down on my alcohol consumption there – only trying a couple of wines – but there was some really good food. I had never had tuna tartare tacos before – and they were very good. I hate to say it, but with all the fancy top-shelf restaurants demonstrating their wares, I think the best thing I had was the tomato basil soup with mini croissant from La Madeleine. It was exactly what I wanted right then.

Everybody seemed to be having a blast. It hit just the right note – fancy enough to enjoy a special night out, but not too upper crust to be unpleasant or stressful. Candy made some new friends and I enjoyed the very diverse and interesting crowd. I even liked the fact that at two hours it was fairly short. It seemed to end right at the right time, we had all had our fill but didn’t get too worn out yet.

I’m definitely going to give this a shot next year. I’ll have to remember to get tickets early again – I’m sure it’ll sell out. It would be nasty if the weather was bad – you wouldn’t want to stroll around in the rain or a storm…. but if that happens I could simply find the tequila place and stay right there.

The crowd milling around in the Winspear Opera House, sipping their wine

In the Winspear Opera House - the wine folks would only pour a taste, but the beer people, like these Stella Artois reps, would give you a whole bottle poured into a big cup. Yeah!

In the Meyerson Symphony Hall.

At the Meyerson

Wine at the Meyerson

The light pouring into the Dallas Museum of Art

The Tequila girls at the Museum of Art

Tequila

One of the nice things at the Museum of Art is they had some semi-live music - a guitar player using some pre-recorded backing. It was very relaxing and everyone hung around and talked.

Pouring wine while the folks from Rush Hour, by George Segal, look on.

George Segal, Rush Hour

The happy crowd in the Garden at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

The Nasher Sculpture Garden

Hanging out at the Nasher on the stone wall in front of The Bronze Crowd, by Magdalena Abakanowicz.

Bronze Crowd, by Magdalena Abakanowicz

Folks at the Nasher

Making Tuna Tartare Tacos

I can’t say we tried everything they had on the Stroll – but I know we tried most of it.

Wines at the Savor Dallas Wine Stroll:
14 Hands Winery
Abbazia
Alexjandro Fernández
Apothic
Becker Vineyards
Black Oak
Bridlewood
Cambria
Carmel Road
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Columbia Crest
Comenge
Concannon Vineyard
Condado de Haza
Cupcake
Darcie Kent
Dow’s
Edmeades
Edna Valley
Emilio Moro
Fall Creek Vineyards
Farrier
Flip Flop Wines
Frei Brothers
García Figuero
Ghost Pines
J. Lohr Vineyards
J Vineyards
Lapostolle Winery
LeBaron Ranch
Les Cadrans de Lassegue
Louis M. Martini
MacMurray Ranch
Matarromera
Montecastro
Murphy Goode
Neige
Ortega Fournier
Prats + Symington
Protos
Red Diamond
Ritual
Santa Cristina
Selección de Torres
Sequoia Grove
Twin Springs
Veramonte
Viña Arnáiz
Vizcarra

Water Supplied by:
FIJI Water

The Tequila
1800 Tequila

Sake:
TY-KU Sake

Beer:
GreatBrewers.com
Hoegaarden Beer
Leffe Blonde
Shock Top
Stella Artois Beer

Food:

Meso Maya
La Madeleine
Texas Spice
Jorges Tex-Mex Cafe
Garlic Expressions
Pho Colonial

Opera House

(click to enlarge)

Ever since I moved to Dallas thirty years ago, I have yearned for the city to have a center, a heart, a place where people gathered. The city planners and developers, such as they are, want that too – but there are the challenges of weather, history, and the city’s car-based culture to do battle.

Now, with the emergence of the city’s Arts District with it’s line of award-winning buildings there is some hope that the vision might be completed. I have been going down there a lot lately (sometimes to simply watch ice melt) and it is a place of varied and interesting attractions.

The heart of the district may be the plaza outside of the Winspear Opera House. The huge elevated grid of aluminum louvers is surprisingly effective at suppressing the roasting summer sun while still allowing a breeze and light to penetrate.

This HDR tonemapped image shows the opera house plaza with a couple of the melting blocks from the transcendence art project.

It is depressing though – most of the times I go down there, in the midst of billions of dollars worth of buildings and artwork, carefully planned, constructed, arranged and maintained – I have the place to myself. It can be a gorgeous, lonely world.