Arts & culture 2019 itinerary in full swing

So much has been going on in the arts since I last wrote. I took the winter off, but it’s great to start again on such a busy week. Cultural organizations hit the ground running in 2019.

One of last month’s highlights was the El Paso Opera’s production of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” at the beautiful Masonic Temple. It was a perfect confluence of talented singers with acting chops to match, eye-popping costumes on loan from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the temple’s 80-year-old hand-painted backdrops unearthed for the occasion.

An El Paso Opera newsflash: Opera America just selected EPO board president Stacey Hunt Spier for one of five 2019 National Opera Trustee Recognition Awards. The longtime El Paso Opera board member and supporter will be honored at a dinner in New York City on Feb. 22. Congratulations!

You have many entertainment choices this weekend, and with a little planning, you can have it all. Here’s your itinerary for a memorable three-day weeken

El Paso Pro-Musica

“From the Shtetl to the Concert Stage”

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20

NMSU Atkinson Recital Hall

1075 N. Horseshoe, Las Cruces 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21

UTEP Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall

500 W. University

Info: eppm.org

We are thrilled to have back two favorite Cleveland Institute of Music musicians, cellist Melissa Kraut and pianist Elizabeth de Mio, along with clarinetist Rena Kraut from Minnesota.

The visit is not for a typical performance, however. In addition to their concert, the Kraut sisters will be out and about in history and music outreach programs at UTEP’s Centennial Museum, El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center, the Jewish Federation and classrooms.

Their topic and repertoire: music from their grandparents’ home in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Felipa Solis, EPPM executive director, says that “From the Shtetl to the Concert Stage” tells a powerful story: “It traces the thread of Jewish music and folk music from Poland during the Holocaust through the grandparents’ escape to Palestine and eventually to the United States.”

Vintage photographs of the Kraut sisters’ relatives and scenes from Poland will be projected behind the trio. Their stories and music will combine to create an evening to remember.

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El Paso Ballet Theatre

“El Paso With Love: Grand Gala”

Friday, Feb. 22

5 p.m. cocktails; 6 p.m. performance

7 p.m. dinner and dancing

Grace Gardens, 6701 Westside

Info: elpasoballettheatre.com

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the city’s only active nonprofit ballet company is hosting its first-ever benefit gala at Grace Gardens.

“We have held sold-out ‘El Paso With Love’ performances every February since we started, but we were always limited to about 100 seats in our black box studio,” says Marta Katz, El Paso Ballet Theatre founder and director. “This year we are going all out.”

Romance will be in the air – and on the dance floor.

In addition to candle-lit dining on ballet-pink tablecloths, dancing, and live and silent auctions, you will enjoy a sampler of some of the most romantic pieces in the history of ballet.

“The brief ballet performance shows different facets of love – the passion, the romance,” adds Katz.

Selections come from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” Minkus’s “Don Quixote,” Chopin’s “Lady of the Camellias,” and the fiery Bolivian tango tradition.

Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23

6:30 p.m. Opening Notes preview

7:30 p.m. concert

Plaza Theatrem 125 Pioneer Plaza

Info: epso.org

In the fifth classical concert of the season, the El Paso Symphony Orchestra rolls a pair of fives: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. Maestro Bohuslav Rattay, EPSO music director and conductor, selected the pair in part because of audience request.

Rattay met the evening’s guest artist, Russian pianist Daria Kiseleva, when he was judging a piano concerto competition in Colorado. She performed this Beethoven concerto and won.

Rattay liked how the works stand in distinct contrast to one another, but he says they do share a similarity: both were written during wars.

In 1944, Prokofiev wrote this symphony after fleeing Moscow to the countryside, while Russia faced great losses as the Nazis advanced.

“You can almost hear the tanks,” says Rattay. Beethoven wrote his most popular piano concerto during Napoleon’s bombardment of Vienna in 1809.

Likely christened the “Emperor” concerto by a British pianist and music publisher, the work is dramatic, proud, and almost as flamboyant as the little emperor himself.

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