Austin quiz kids prove they know opera, the Texas Commission on the Arts proves it cares about Republic Square, and visual artist Tré Arenz proves she cares about humanity.
You expect high schoolers today to know about Buffy, about Britney, about Brad. You don't expect them to know about Der Fliegende Holländer. But the half-dozen teens in the Heller Center for Opera this past Saturday sure knew about this German romantic opera, and about its composer, Richard Wagner, the comic masterwork Falstaff and why Guiseppe Verdi came out of retirement to write it, the romantic gem La Bohème and how Giacomo Puccini fostered realism in opera with it, the politics of all three composers, and their attitudes toward women. The six were part of the ChevronTexaco Quiz Kids program, a youth-oriented offshoot of the quiz feature that has run on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts for more than 60 years. High school students in 12 cities across North America match their knowledge of opera in written tests, identification of operatic pieces by ear, and extemporaneous speeches on operatic questions, and the highest-scoring student from each city goes to Houston in February for the Finals Round, from which three contestants will be selected to play the quiz on the Met's broadcast of Falstaff in April, 2002. As this was Austin's first time as a Quiz Kid city, the local turnout for Round One was relatively small. But what the students lacked in number, they more than made up for in smarts and enthusiasm. No matter what was thrown at them, these teens were never at a loss; they fielded every query with the poise and zeal of old pros. As a judge for the day (a duty I happily shared with Melody Long and Stephen Skaggs), I was mightily impressed and pleased by the efforts of the contestants: Jessica Mercer of Lanier High and Lynn Talbot and Chien-Fen Jennifer Wu, both of Westwood High, and especially of Westwood's Mallory Burchfield, John Pettengill, and Juliana Tutt, whose high scores earned them a shot at Round Two here in January. They all won my admiration. My thanks to them, and to Margaret Perry and Rosita Bradham of Austin Lyric Opera and Randy Harriman and Russell Sarre of KMFA for making this neat event happen.
As more and more city rises up around it, that lonesome little patch of grass hemmed in by Fourth, Fifth, San Antonio, and Guadalupe streets, otherwise known as Republic Square, gets more and more lost. Now, the Texas Commission on the Arts is doing something about that. It has commissioned a sculpture for the Square, which it will donate to the city, from artist Jesús Moroles. The Corpus Christi native, who fashions geometric works from slabs of granite, will create an open staging area with seating for events and performances. Income from the Texas Cultural Endowment Fund will fund exhibitions and performances at the site. On that note, a design charrette for Republic Square Park, hosted by the Austin Parks Foundation and Downtown Austin Alliance will be held on Monday, Nov. 26, 5:30-9:30pm, in the 8th floor conference room of One Congress Plaza, 111 Congress. To attend, contact Ginny Sanders: firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-1566.
Here we are once more hurtling headlong from Halloween to Christmas and barely taking a pause to remember the holiday that falls between. But Tré Arenz remembers. The Austin artist was chosen by the Austin Fairchild Art Foundation, in cooperation with The Center for World Thanksgiving in Dallas, to create an image conveying the concepts of thanksgiving and gratitude -- without relying on stereotypical images -- to inspire people of all cultures and beliefs. Arenz's response was "Gratitude Is the Memory of the Heart," an image of two transparent hands holding a heart-shaped red stone through which can be seen seven smiling faces. She developed the piece in the aftermath of September 11, as a source for healing. The work is on display in the windows of the Scarbrough Building, Sixth and Congress. Thanks, Tré.