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A Travel Blog from the Editors of T+L

RSS Feed Posts by Mario R. Mercado

Mexico: To Visit or Not to Visit?

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On Wednesday, April 14, the same day that First Lady Michelle Obama arrived for a two-day visit to Mexico City, drug violence erupted in Acapulco, one of Mexico’s most famous resort cities, 190 miles southwest of the Mexican capital on the Pacific coast.  The shootings and murders (six people were killed; five wounded) were startling because they occurred during the day, on the main boulevard of the tourist zone, and three bystanders were victims. However, no tourists were among the casualties and the violence seems to have resulted from a power struggle within a drug cartel operating in Guerrero, the state in which Acapulco is located.

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BAM (and NYC) Goes Baroque

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When, in 1989, American William Christie arrived at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with his France-based vocal and instrumental ensemble Les Arts Florissants a new world opened up for audiences interested in opera, music, dance, theater, and something called "historical performance practice."

Christie and his troupe presented a work that was known—if it was known much at all—from music history books: Atys. It's a French Baroque opera by Jean-Baptiste Lully, who in his career served Louis XIV.  Seeing that production it was hard to imagine anything more intensely dramatic, musically vivid, revelatory in its beauty, or vivid in performance. Oh, and did I say, erotic? (Atys is a young man who professes indifference to love, but there’s a nymph who stirs his passions...)

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Europe's New Must-See Museum Galleries

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Three museums in European capitals—London, Madrid, Berlin—opened spectacular new galleries this fall/winter. The collections are unrivaled—some of them on view for the first time—and their exhibition design provides visitors with novel perspectives and insights that beg a lingering afternoon.

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Holiday Must-Sees: "The Nutcracker" on Both Coasts

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The holidays have become the traditional time for productions of the Nutcracker.  The ballet, through Tchaikovsky’s evocative score, depicts a child’s inner life and imagination—a world transformed by dancing snowflakes and exotic lands of sweets and fantasy. What better time to indulge a bit of fantasy? Here are two, not-to-miss stagings, from the classic to modern interpretations.

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NYC Arts News: Renovations Galore, Discount Tickets, New Opera Season

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York and the country’s most significant cultural complex is getting a makeover. In February, the center unveiled the thoroughly renovated Alice Tully Hall, one of the city’s premier spaces for chamber music. Next month's opening of the Atrium at Lincoln Center offers a first: a visitor center with a box office at which it will be possible to purchase same-day tickets, some at 50 percent discount, to performances presented by Lincoln Center and its resident companies (think TKTS for Lincoln Center, but better—the attractive indoor space has a ‘wichcraft café, free Wi-Fi, and an info desk, among other amenities).

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Dallas Cowboys Unveil Stadium—and New Art Collection?!

200910-b-cowboys-1jpg In arts and culture circles, Dallas and Fort Worth have long been highly regarded. Fort Worth has remarkable museums and later this month Dallas adds to its luster when it opens a new performing arts center, touted as the most significant since Lincoln Center.  But for anyone who grew up in Dallas-Fort Worth, as I did, amid the symphony orchestras, opera and ballet companies, and distinguished architecture, sports loomed large, and amid the professional sports teams the Dallas Cowboys loomed the largest.

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Recently, the Cowboys unveiled a new $ 1.15 billion stadium (above) before a national television audience during the first, regular-season game against the New York Giants (for the record, the New York Giants won). But it may come as a surprise that in addition to the stadium's state-of-the art this and that, including the world's largest HDTV video board, is an art collection. And not kitschy “sports” art but the real thing.

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Big Changes at Two New York Music Institutions

The New York cultural season, though just started, seems electrically charged as a new generation of conductors is stepping up and onto the podium. In mid-September, Alan Gilbert took over as music director of the New York Philharmonic, the first native New Yorker in the orchestra's 167-year history.

And on Friday, October 9, the New York Pops orchestra will introduce its young, dynamic music director Steven Reineke.

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End of Summer’s Top Must-See Exhibits + Festivals

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With the Labor Day holiday arriving a little later this year, the summer seems a bit longer.  I don’t know anyone who isn't grateful.  While many festivals finish their seasons in August, a few extend into the warm weeks of September.  And this summer has brought some remarkable exhibitions, worldwide. There are only a few weeks to catch them, but any of them will refresh, provide a cultural charge, and give your imagination a boost—just in time for fall. Here are my picks:

Basel, Switzerland. "Vincent van Gogh, Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes" at the Kunstmuseum Basel (through September 27). In his intense short career, Van Gogh produced some 70 landscape paintings, depicting scenes in Holland, southern, and northern France. They are gathered in Basel for a landmark show, drawn from public and private collections as far as Hawaii and Japan, some lent for the first time.  Because of their fragile state, some canvases may not travel again. That's why you should.

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Dualing Ivories: Young Pianists Compete in Texas

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“The experience of live music is unique and its immediacy and impact irreplaceable,” states the program of the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, currently underway in Fort Worth, Texas, where 29 young pianists (upper age limit: 30) from around the world are competing in the most challenging, and certainly best-organized and innovative, classical music contest.  The Cliburn, divided into three rounds—preliminaries, semi-finals, and finals—includes recitals, performances of commissioned pieces, chamber music, and concertos with orchestra, and is packed into little more than two weeks.  It wraps up on June 7.  Its aim: to discover talent worthy of a career and to provide a sustained push. When I was in Fort Worth last weekend, I heard two pianists in one of the preliminary sessions: Michail Lifits , born in Uzbekistan, representing Germany, and Alessandro Deljavan of Italy.

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Sound Chambers NYC: Where To Hear Classical Music Now

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Lincoln Center recently opened the dazzlingly renovated Alice Tully Hall that provides an intimacy—even with a capacity of 1,100 seats—both palpable and rewarding for concertgoers. Tully (above) is now an enviable place for chamber music, and should be a lively spot for multi-media (there’s a state-of-the-art movie screen). The new hall prompted me to think of other spots in New York that put the listener on the frontline of the music-making. Here are some favorites:

Le Poisson Rouge
The former Village Gate subterranean nightclub in Greenwich Village morphed last summer into the “multi-media art cabaret” Le Poisson Rouge. When pianist Simone Dinnerstein, much admired for her Bach Goldberg Variations, performed there, the piano was set on a platform in the middle of the space and the audience packed café tables and bar (yes, there’s a full bar). This month Poisson features an eclectic genre-bending line-up.

Baryshnikov Arts Center
Pressed for time?  Looking for something unusual and free? The Movado Hour concerts at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in far west Midtown offers 60-minute programs that blend the familiar with the less well known. Contrasts are engaging. Concerts start at 7 p.m., take place in a loft-like space, and are gratis (reservations are required).  Performers are starry, audiences appreciative.  There’s a cozy feel. On April 20, the St. Lawrence String Quartet devotes its attention to Mendelssohn and the String Quartet No. 3 by R. Murray Schafer, a contemporary composer known for evocative soundscape pieces.

Rubin Art Museum

Some of the city’s most innovative programming—lectures, music, film—materializes in the small, cherry wood auditorium of the Rubin Art Museum, which is dedicated to Himalayan art and housed in the former Barneys department store in Chelsea. But for the world premiere on April 23 of minimalist composer John Tavener’s Towards Silence—described as a musical meditation on death and the four states of consciousness—the setting shifts to the building’s dramatic spiral staircase (originally designed for the store by Andrée Putman), along which four string quartets and a player of the Tibetan singing bowl will be positioned. The music is bound to soar.

Mario R. Mercado is the Arts editor for Travel + Leisure.

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