Octavio Moreno has performed many times with Opera in the Heights, but the ConciertOh! De Invierno concert hits a personal note, and is our pick for Friday night. The Latin American zarzuelas (opera-like, with both sung and spoken sections), boleros and música navideña (Christmas music) on the program are the music Moreno grew up with in Mexico. “This is what I grew up listening to,” he tells us. “This music is what pushed me to pursue a musical career. Even today, I try to do some of this music whenever I can; it’s too beautiful for me to let go. It’s music that I feel it deep in my heart, in my soul.
“Also, I love romantic music, and two of the two arias [I sing] are very romantic.”
Opera in the Heights Executive Director Mariam Khalili approached Moreno and a few other singers with the idea for the concert a few months ago. The organization had done a similar event several years ago and when the subject of a holiday concert came up, Khalili suggested ConciertOh! Along with Moreno, the lineup of performers includes Claudia Chapa, James Rodriguez, Arnold Yzaguirre, Patrick Contreras and pianist Brian Suits.
Moreno switches roles for a few songs, going from singer to accompanist when he picks up a guitar in the second half of the show. “I play on ‘Granada’ for Patrick. [Playing guitar,] that’s an obscure part of my life, one that I really enjoy.”
Does a zarzuelas concert being performed by an American opera company surprise Moreno? “Actually, no. Opera in the Heights isn’t a Latin American organization, but it also isn’t an Italian organization or a German organization; nevertheless, they’re doing Italian opera and German opera. I think we, the whole world, has gotten to a point where pretty much everything is everybody’s. In a country like this, where you can look around and see Irish people, Africans, Germans all in one place, adding a program like this makes sense.”
7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights. For information, call 713-861-5303 or visit operaintheheights.org. $25.
Gabriella Nissen got a lesson in ballet when she set up a backdrop for a photo shoot of Dominic Walsh.
“I thought it was high enough; it went up way over the dancers’ heads,” she tells us. “[A dancer] walked by and I asked him if it was high enough. He looked at it and said, ‘Oh no. You’ll need to go up three more feet.’ I thought, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ He wasn’t. I had no idea dancers jumped that high or did all of the amazing things they do.”
The experience is one of many Nissen recounted as she discussed the new photography book Dominic Walsh Dance Theater. A joint project with Walsh as writer and Nissen as designer, Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre is being launched Saturday at a reception at the Deborah Colton Gallery.
Nissen has been photographing Walsh and his dance troupe since 2007. Over the past eight years, she’s amassed thousands of images. And, of course, she wasn’t the only photographer working with Walsh. When she and Walsh decided to put together a retrospective of the group, she asked other photographers to contribute.
“When you’re doing something that’s not just your work, you have to step out of yourself a little bit. This book wasn’t about me and my photography; it’s about Dominic and his dancers. I wasn’t the only photographer who had part of that story to tell.
“Dominic and I looked through thousands and thousands of images for the book. It was much more difficult to put together than I would have thought originally. But putting the images together wasn’t the end. Now we have to promote it and make sure people know about it.”
And in some ways, this is the hard part, she tells us. “I’m really shy about promoting myself and doing all of this web stuff; it can get to be a bit much. One day, Dominic and I were trying to figure out how to put a link up on Facebook — here we were, he’s this talented dancer [and choreographer], I’ve been a photographer for years, and neither one of us knew how to post a link online.”
6 to 8 p.m. Deborah Colton Gallery, 2445 North Boulevard. For information, call 713-869-5151 or visit gabriellanissen.com. Free.
Still need more holiday lights in your life? Grab your walking shoes and take to the streets for Lights in the Heights 2015 Saturday night. Put on your best ugly Christmas sweater — you know someone, somewhere is having an ugly Christmas sweater party, it's the law — and try not to act too silly as you view the lights and sights along Euclid and Woodland; you're in a neighborhood, so don't go ruining anyone's home or lawn. The road closures begin at 5 p.m., so plan accordingly. And if you see someone from the Press snapping photos, smile; you could end up in our slideshow recap.
6 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.woodland-heights.org/.
Legacy Fighting Championship calls it “the 21st series of amateur mixed-martial arts bouts.” We call it “an excellent way to see some of the new blood and possible future superstars of fighting.” The card is pretty much stocked with combatants on their first fight, but there are a couple of known entities who’ll be in the cage. If you're looking for an alternative to Christmas cheer, watch the fighters step into the cage Saturday night.
Particularly interesting should be Leomana Martinez, who’ll be defending his undefeated streak after a two-year absence from the sport. He’ll be taking on Royala Smith, who might knock the dust off Martinez — if he can catch him, that is. Martinez is a marvel of speed, finishing fights quickly in a blur of punches and kicks. It will be interesting to see if he can wear down the slower, more powerful Smith and his greater endurance.
Another fight with some promise is Melvin Giron taking on Timothy Nations. (Don’t you love these names? Giron. Nations. They sound like champs, right?) Expect this one to be a ground game as both men seek to apply their respective and devastating choke holds rather than punch it out. It’ll be Nations’s first fight in a year, and he’ll have to be on his guard against the more seasoned Giron, especially since Giron has never tapped to a hold before.
5 p.m. Arena Theatre, 7326 Southwest Freeway. For information, call 713-772-5900 or visit legacyfights.net. $30 to $80.
The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to a peasant in what would become Mexico City in 1531. But according to Dirk Van Tuerenhout, curator of the “La Virgen de Guadalupe: Empress of the Americas” exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, her story began long before that.
“We go back in time and explain where her story really started,” he tells us. “Back to Mexico at the time of Juan Diego and back to Spain, before that. Juan Diego lived most of his life before the Spaniards came to Mexico. He lived in an Aztec world. In order to show where she came from, we need to show that aspect as well — where did he come from? What was the world like when she appeared to him?”
For Juan Diego and others like him, that world was a pretty bloody, confusing place.
The Catholic Spaniards, pushed out of Europe by Muslims, were looking for new territories to conquer. They came to the New World and encountered the Aztecs. “The Spaniards and the Aztecs were fighting; the Aztecs lost. Everything changed. Lots of people have died during the fighting; many more would die after the fighting when diseases devastate the population.
“You look around and the capital is totally devastated. The world has completely changed. You have to come to terms with the idea that the religion that you have was not powerful enough to protect you. That was the world that she appeared in.”
Van Tuerenhout tells us the museum, which organized the exhibit, had been thinking about it for a year and a half. Among the many aspects museum staff faced in putting the exhibit together was the question of theology versus history, politics versus pop culture. “We are obviously not a church; we will never be a church. We approached this with a lot of respect. We tell the story from a historical and archeological viewpoint.”
The five-section exhibit includes the original manuscript known as Nican Mopohua, an Aztec-language record of the apparition, an interactive version of the oldest known map of Mexico City (both of which date back to the 16th century), and other artifacts and related objects.
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Modern objects of devotion in the exhibit include a bedspread with the image of the Virgin on it, an acrylic doorknob showing her image, and Christmas lights. Van Tuerenhout points out, “She represents protection, and what more protection than to sleep under her image? You’re opening a door, touching her image.”
Van Tuerenhout says the “Empress of the Americas” exhibit is the Virgin of Guadalupe’s story up until today. The end of the exhibit is not the end of the story, he points out. “Her story’s not over. It will keep changing, keep growing.”
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Through September 5, 2016. 5555 Herman Park Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit hmns.org. $25 to $35.
Olivia Flores Alvarez and Jef Rouner contributed to this article.