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Mexican American composer Nathan Felix is set to premiere Ribas-Dominicci, a new 60-minute, three-act opera inspired by the life of Major Fernando Luis Ribas-Dominicci, a pilot in the United States Air Force who was killed in action during Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986.

The opera was written to premiere live as part of KPAC’s 40 year anniversary. Ribas-Dominicci features tenor Pedro Carreras as Ribas-Dominicci and soprano Lucianna Astora as Blanca Ribas.

The opera will be followed by a post-show reception featuring non-alcoholic refreshments and custom cocktails.

Photo courtesy of Opera San Antonio

Opera San Antonio presents Maria de Buenos Aires

Opera San Antonio presents Pagliacci

Maria de Buensos Aires is a sensual and seductive piece featuring the story of a tango-obsessed prostitute born on a day "when God was drunk." The immersive experience turns the Alvarez into a gritty nightclub complete with cocktail table packages, bar service, and tango dancers creating a passionate atmosphere.

The opera will be performed in Spanish with English translations.

Photo courtesy of Opera San Antonio

A chat with Opera San Antonio's conductor on Rigoletto's 'pure Verdi magic'

Q&A

Verdi's Rigoletto has often been called the greatest of all operas, with its famous arias and powerful drama about a flawed father's love. It first premiered in Venice in 1851, and is now being staged at the Tobin Center for two performances only, May 5 and 7, 2022.

Presented by Opera San Antonio, Rigoletto is performed in Italian with English supertitles and is a co-production with Boston Lyric Opera, The Atlanta Opera, and Opera Omaha.

CultureMap recently spoke with Francesco Milioto, Opera San Antonio's music director and the conductor for Rigoletto. Milioto is also music director of Holy City Arts and Lyric Opera, as well as artistic advisor to the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee and maintains cover conductor positions with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Santa Fe Opera.

CultureMap: Francesco, tell us about your work with Opera San Antonio as both a music director and a conductor. How long have you been associated with the company?

Francesco Milioto: I've been associated with OSA since my debut in 2018 with La Traviata. I love my work as music director of Opera San Antonio! I am a very collaborative person and enjoy both sides of my work here, the administrative and creative as well as the performance aspects.

Opera is a huge puzzle and I enjoy the challenge of working with our team to bring a season concept to fruition. The rehearsal room is one of my favorite places to be. It is such a privilege to do this work. I really love being a part of the process of opera and then being involved in the actual execution of it in front of our audience.

CM: How did you first become interested in music and conducting?

FM: Growing up, I wasn't interested in classical music. My father simply bought me a piano, signed me up for lessons, and said "you are playing." Maybe he saw something in me, or just wanted to hear music in our house? No idea, but it stuck and here I am.

I came to conducting very early in my undergraduate degree as a piano performance major in Canada. I heard the orchestra rehearsing and waited until the end so I could approach the conductor and asked, "Could you teach me to do what you just did on that box?"

CM: What do you love most about Rigoletto?

FM: I love the relationship between Gilda and her father, Rigoletto. Their individual music is incredible, but their scenes together are true Verdi magic.

CM: Opera, like many performing arts, is rebuilding after two years of impact from the pandemic. What can audiences expect to see and hear with this production?

FM: Our audience can expect the full spectacle of opera at our home in the Tobin Center. We will have the full cast, orchestra, chorus, sets, costumes etc. We were very proud to be one of the only opera companies in Texas producing opera during the pandemic, and we are even more excited to be back to full production.

CM: Any San Antonio highlights you are looking forward to experiencing while you are here?

FM: I very much enjoy my time in San Antonio. My favorite thing, of course, is the food! I can't wait for my regular walks along the Riverwalk and spending time at the Pearl. San Antonio has a wonderful vibe, welcoming and kind people, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that I am looking forward to the warmer weather.

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To purchase tickets to Opera San Antonio's Rigoletto, contact the Tobin Center box office online or at 210-223-8624.

Photo by Arielle Doneson

Celebrated soprano makes her San Antonio Opera debut with Don Giovanni

Q&A

With the #MeToo movement still very much in the news, there might never be a more appropriate time for Opera San Antonio to stage Mozart's Don Giovanni, based on the notorious character Don Juan.

The incorrigible playboy flouts conventional morality by bedding and discarding nearly every woman he meets, but he cannot escape his fiery punishment in the end.

Celebrated soprano Raquel Gonzalez portrays Donna Anna, an aristocratic young woman whose father is murdered by the amoral swain.

It may be Gonzalez's first time performing with Opera San Antonio, but it's certainly not her debut in this role.

The opera runs October 7 and 9, 2021, and is performed in Italian with English supertitles. Tickets start at only $40.

In advance of the new 90-minute production, CultureMap spoke to Gonzalez about her return to the stage following the pandemic, why this story is so timely, and what she's most looking forward to experiencing in San Antonio (hint, tacos are involved).

CultureMap: Raquel, this is your first time working at Opera San Antonio. What are you most looking forward to with this production?

Raquel Gonzalez: This will be my first production since before the pandemic, so I’m looking forward to the simple joys of live music, working in person with other artists again, and returning to stage.

I haven’t worked with most of this cast and creative team before, so I’m excited to collaborate with new colleagues. This will be my third time singing Donna Anna, and there’s always more to learn about the character and new perspectives to incorporate when presenting this piece.

CM: Why is Don Giovanni an important piece to present? How does it speak to today’s audience?

RG: I first sang Donna Anna seven or eight years ago, and it’s incredible just how much the conversation surrounding the piece has evolved, even since then. Unfortunately, the story of Don Giovanni is timeless. It’s easy for audience members to recognize someone they know (or know of) within this cast of characters.

Don Giovanni may be the title character, but the piece is really about the destruction he wreaks on the lives of those he encounters. Often, perpetrators’ stories — rather than those of their victims — end up being centered. Mozart and Da Ponte provided ample opportunities for Giovanni’s victims’ voices to be heard.

Reducing Don Giovanni to 90 minutes is a challenge and an opportunity for all of us to hone in on the heart of this story.

CM: What kind of preparation needs to happen for a role like Donna Anna? How do you portray a character who is taken advantage of by a criminal like Don Giovanni?

RG: When I first performed Donna Anna, conversations about Donna Anna’s altercation with Don Giovanni inevitably started with the question, "Is she telling the truth?"

I think we’ve come a long way from that, and a character like Donna Anna is allowed to be flawed, to have an imperfect romantic relationship, and to be grieving, while having none of those aspects cast doubt upon the truth of her account.

The women in Don Giovanni can often be perceived as wavering between "damsel in distress" and "woman scorned." It’s important to me that Donna Anna be three-dimensional. So many women share her experience, and I’ll feel I’m successful if my performance allows any of those women to see themselves in Donna Anna.

CM: Have you been to San Antonio before? What are you looking forward to exploring in the city?

RG: This will be my first time in San Antonio! I’m excited to visit the River Walk, the Japanese Tea Garden, and Market Square, in addition to the many museums. I’m also looking forward to eating a lot of Mexican food, and I hear there’s quite a culinary scene to take in.

CM: How does it feel to return to the stage after the pandemic has forced so many productions to be postponed?

RG: It feels a bit surreal to finally be returning to the stage after all this time. It may be cliché, but this time away has really made me appreciate every musical moment that I would have otherwise taken for granted.

There’s also a renewed sense of freedom to performing live that I didn’t fully appreciate before. Our tendency as musicians is often to be overly critical and demanding of ourselves, but having discovered how easily it can all be taken away will hopefully allow us to be bold where we might have once been afraid, and to relish the moments we previously let pass us by.

To purchase tickets to Opera San Antonio's Don Giovanni, contact the Tobin Center box office online or at 210-223-8624.

Photo by Simon Van Rompay

Texas-born baritone stars in Opera San Antonio's bloody good tragedy

Mad For It

With Opera San Antonio's upcoming production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, audiences get two phenomenal experiences.

First, this Italian tragedy is OSA's grand return to live performance following the pandemic, and second, it brings Texas-born baritone Scott Hendricks back to the Tobin Center stage.

The celebrated singer is playing Enrico, the main character's brother who wants to use her as a pawn to restore his family's power. Torn between her brother and her lover, who cannot see past his own pride, Lucia is driven to madness and a frightening finale (which also happens to be one of the most famous scenes in opera).

Running May 6 and 8 and performed in Italian with English supertitles, tickets start at only $45. In advance of the new staging's premiere, CultureMap spoke to Hendricks about his career, his Texas ties, and what he's most looking forward to with this role.

CultureMap: You were born and raised in San Antonio. What was your path to becoming an opera singer?

Scott Hendricks: I auditioned for the Converse Judson High School choir at the beginning of my senior year, and then it was all music, all the time. My first exposure to opera happened while I was a freshman at Texas State University, and it was love-at-first-rehearsal.

Then I transferred to Louisiana State University, where I received a bachelor of music education degree, and then I studied vocal performance at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

This is when I decided to go for it, so to speak. I was engaged at the Wolf Trap Opera in the summers of '96 and '97, and I was accepted into the Houston Grand Opera Studio around this time as well. Then I became a member of the Oper Köln ensemble for the 2000/2001 season, and Europe has been my base ever since.

CM: What do you love about the role of Enrico?

SH: Well, he’s a flawed character, for sure. I love how his angst, ambition, and desperation are portrayed in the music.

Musically speaking, I love how we experience bel canto in all of its glory, as well as witness a glimpse of where romantic music is headed. Enrico’s duet with Lucia is, without a doubt, my favorite moment in the opera. In this scene alone, the range of emotions for both characters runs the gamut.

CM: What are you most looking forward to with this performance opportunity?

SH: This specific opportunity is important to me because my family and friends can attend. Since I spend so much time in Europe, my mother and sister don’t get to see me perform very often anymore.

And I’ve never participated in an opera production in my hometown, so I’m thrilled to be able to make my debut with Opera San Antonio. I’ve seen a few rock concerts at the historic Tobin Center, so it will be nice to perform on that stage for the very first time as well.

CM: This is OSA’s grand return to the stage — and live performance — since the start of the pandemic. How does this impact you emotionally as an artist?

SH: Oh my gosh, to be able to hear the orchestra tune, to perform for an audience, and for me personally to have my family and friends in attendance … It’s going to be overwhelming in the best possible way.

To purchase tickets to Opera San Antonio's Lucia di Lammermoor, contact the Tobin Center box office online or at 210-223-8624.

Photo by Ed LaCasse Photography

Opera San Antonio takes to the stage with return of bewitching live performances

MUSIC TO OUR EARS

Lovers of live performance can finally shake off a year of soap operas in favor of the real thing, as Opera San Antonio steps back into the spotlight this spring for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of only a handful of opera companies in the country returning to a live-performance schedule this season, Opera San Antonio hits the Tobin Center stage May 6 and 8 with two abridged concert performances of Lucia di Lammermoor, composer Gaetano Donizetti’s operatic take on Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor. Tickets are currently on sale through the Tobin Center box office.

While the show may not conjure lighthearted sentiments (after all, it is the story of a young woman who goes mad after being caught between the aspirations of her brother and her prideful lover) the bewitching live performances will surely help opera patrons shed some of their pandemic gloom. The Opera San Antonio show, performed in Italian with English titles projected above the stage, stars soprano Brenda Rae of Metropolitan Opera fame and a cast that features a few local players, including San Antonio native and baritone Scott Hendricks and tenor Rick Novak, as well as Austin-based mezzo-soprano Claudia Chapa, South African bass Musa Ngqungwana, and newcomer Scott Quinn. The production is a collaboration with San Antonio Symphony.

The return to live performances was driven by Opera San Antonio’s assurance that in-person events could be hosted in a safe manner for all.

“Despite the challenges of the last year, OSA has been committed to serving our community. Since last March, that has meant shifting to virtual productions and online educational activities, but we have now reached a place where we can return to in-person performances,” says E. Loren Meeker, general and artistic director, also noting the health of the production’s staff, artists, musicians, and audience are paramount.

In addition to OSA continuing to follow recommended health and safety policies — and ensuring the public it will adjust its plans should new COVID-19 restrictions arise — OSA and the Tobin Center have implemented more safety measures to allow for in-person events. Those include regularly sanitizing high-touch surfaces, providing access to hand-sanitization stations, enforcing social-distancing guidelines and the wearing of masks for the entirety of each performance, offering touchless ticketing, and providing temperature checks. The Tobin Center will provide physically distanced seating, which is more easily accomplished with its reduced seating capacity, and performances will last no longer than 90 minutes, with no intermission breaks.

OSA also notes that the organization is following CDC guidelines, with the Lucia di Lammermoor performances including a reduced orchestra and only seven singers, enabling OSA to maintain appropriate social distance between the artists, staff, and the audience at all times.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio suburb among the richest places in Texas for 2023, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio suburb cashes in among the richest places in Texas for 2023. Alamo Heights has been renamed the third richest place in Texas for 2023 in a recent study.

2. San Antonio home sales slowed in December 2022, report finds. San Antonio sold 36,477 homes all year, a 10 percent decrease from 2021.

3. Here are the top 5 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and more music-centered events made our roundup of the best things to do in Alamo City this weekend.

4. San Antonio Home & Garden Show returns with HGTV star. Ati Williams will headline the San Antonio Spring Home & Garden Show, which takes place February 24-26.

5. H-E-B opens first location in growing San Antonio suburb. The state-of-the-art facility offers 110,000 square feet of floor space, providing everything from cat food to charcuterie.


Popular Pearl brunch spot remixes with new weekend DJ nights

OONCE OONCE OONCE

Though Full Goods Diner has barely been open for half a year, it has already become a San Antonio staple for working weekday lunches and lingering Sunday Fundays. Now the Pearl eatery is looking to be a hot spot after dark.

Via release, the popular local haunt just announced a new limited-time music series, Full Goods at Night. Starting on February 2, Full Goods Diner will open select evenings throughout the month.

The Full Goods at Night series will feature popular local San Antonio DJs, including El West Side Sound, Hector Gallego, DJ Plata, Steven Lee Moya, and Cami Gee. Guests can enjoy live sets while indulging in a specially curated food and drink offerings.

The menu will include some of Full Goods Diner's best—selling items, such as French toast sticks, barbacoa waffle fries, and jumbo cheesy tots. Libations like the Attaboy Negroni, Royal Bermuda Daiquiri, Pink G&T, and more will fuel the festivities.

In addition to enjoying moonlight brunch, guests can relish some prime people-watching. And, of course, the restaurant is just a hop from other nightlife destinations like Pink Hill, 3 Star Bar, and Summer Camp Bar, making it the perfect party starter.

The series runs every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from February 2-25, 6-10 pm. The complete DJ schedule is listed below.

February 2 — El West Side Sound·
February 3 — Hector Gallego
February 4— DJ Plata
February 9 — El West Side Sound
February 10 — Steven Lee Moya
February 11 — Cami Gee
February 16 — El West Side Sound
February 17 — Steven Lee Moya
February 18 — Hector Gallego
February 23 — El West Side Sound
February 24— Steven Lee Moya
February 25 — DJ Plata

4 San Antonio culinary pioneers win $21K from the Texas Food & Wine Alliance

CULINARY INNOVATION

Texas’ skyrocketing culinary scene is about to get a huge boost. The Texas Food & Wine Alliance’s grant program has awarded $107,500 to 19 culinary innovators around the state. This marks the Alliance’s 11th year providing funding to support culinary projects contributing to local communities.

The award winners were announced in a ceremony at Austin's Holdsworth Center on January 21. A private panel of distinguished culinary experts chose the winners out of 40 grant applications this year. Nine winners hail from Austin, three from Dallas-Fort Worth, three from Houston, and four from San Antonio. The awards range from $1,500 to $10,000, with a special $25,000 grant investment from Austin favorite Tito’s Handmade Vodka in honor of the company’s 25th anniversary. Grant funding will support chefs, farms, and culinary education groups, among others.

Out of the four San Antonio area winners, Talking Tree Farm received the most from the grant program, $6,250 to purchase shipping containers for storage and to buy a solar-powered cold room for their harvests. John Marshall High School’s culinary arts program will use their $5,000 grant to establish a morning café. Agricultural project Habitable Spaces and pasture-raised chicken farm Cielito Lindo Farm also won $5,000 each to purchase equipment or build infrastructure to further their endeavors in the culinary space.

Austin-area winners received the most funding from the grant program, totalling $53,750, while San Antonio winners received $21,250 in total. Dallas/Fort Worth winners were awarded $19,750, and the three Houston recipients won $12,750. All of the 2022 winners reflect just how diverse the state's trailblazing culinary scene continues to expand.

“All of this year’s funded projects will further enrich the state through innovation and giveback,” said Erika White, executive director of the Alliance. “We’re extremely grateful to each of the Texas communities, our sponsors and their support in allowing us to reward these mold-breaking projects.”

In Austin, organic farm Trosi Farms was awarded the most funding ($10,000), which will help construct a germination shed for more stable plant start production. Locavore pioneer Boggy Creek Farm won $7,500 in grants to provide ADA-compliant accessibility to their new climate-controlled Tomato House, while Texas’ first organic feed mill, Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill & Farm, received $6,250 to help purchase a building to be used as a store for the local community.

The six other Austin area grant recipients, each winning $5,000, include Vista Farms at Vista Brewing, Jamaican family business Tierra Todun ATX, coffee roasters Rising Tide Roast Collaborative, culinary educator Chef Pascal Simon from Bake Austin, East Austin food truck Community Vegan, and Latinx pastry project Comadre Panaderia (who also just earned a James Beard nomination). All winners will be able to use their grants to improve efficiency and expand their businesses, or in Chef Pascal's case, further research and development for her upcoming cookbook for Gen-Z young adults.

After starting the program in Austin, grant co-chair and TFWA past president Cathy Cochran-Lewis says it was the Alliance’s dream to expand the grant statewide.

“We’re so humbled and thrilled to now not only support worthwhile projects across Texas but also to give more than a half million dollars in funding over the last decade to help dreams come true,” she says. “This is a tribute to the culinary talent and the community mindset we are lucky to have in our state.”

The winners in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas include:

For this year's Honorable Mention, the Alliance chose San Antonio eatery Tacos Cucuy, who will soon open a brick-and-mortar space with an expanded menu. Tacos Cucuy are currently looking for support to develop a Tex-Mex charcuterie program called La Cura Carnes Especiales.

More information about the 2022 grants and its recipients can be found on texasfoodandwinealliance.org.