Pair the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin with ballet and what do you have? Believe it or not, a show that has traveled to considerable acclaim from its home in Canada. As part of the Houston Ballet's The Cullen Series, Love Lies Bleeding comes to the Wortham Theater for a weekend run, including a Friday show. Created by the Alberta Ballet's artistic director, Jean Grand-Maître, and performed by 36 dancers from the company, it features 14 classic songs in a story that traces a lot of things from John's own life: his rise to stardom and the good and bad things that followed. Grand-Maître spoke to us recently while walking to work on what he called a warmer day. (It was minus 6 instead of the minus 20 it had been the day before, from his headquarters in the Calgary-Edmonton area.)
"When we started these portrait ballets, we started with Joni Mitchell," Grand-Maître said. John had heard about the show and asked for a performance tape, which Grand-Maître sent him. Three months later, Grand-Maître sent John an email asking if he'd be interested in doing something similar and to his surprise, John said yes. They met in Las Vegas, and when John began talking, it wasn't about his many successes, Grand-Maître said. "For Elton, the first thing he said to me was he wanted us to use his life to educate people, so about homosexual repression, drug addiction, bulimia, alcoholism, he had it all. The death rate is very high in that business. Acting too and the business of celebrity. He didn't talk so much about his triumphs. He talked about his struggles, and so you realize the struggles really make the music."
Grand-Maître studied John's entire catalog of songs before submitting his selections to John (who suggested and got two changes). Grand-Maître says he didn't want to do a biography. ("It would take too long.") Instead, Grand-Maître focused on the demands of celebrity and the burnout. "Because for Elton, for the first four years of his contract, had to write four albums a year. And they all went platinum."
See Love Lies Bleeding at 8 p.m. Friday; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Wortham Theatre Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $100 to $105.
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The fourth dimension, according to instinctive scientist/artist Takis, is made up of "invisible energies" -- not magical or spiritual per se, but one of several fundamental properties of nature. "Takis: The Fourth Dimension," presented by The Menil Collection, is a collection of 25 fascinating and groundbreaking works by the Greek artist that tell his story of scientific exploration through artistic practice. The exhibit is one of our choices for Saturday.
The Menil has devoted many years to following this artist and has been a strong supporter of his kind of work -- experimental, kinetic and often involving performance art -- in general. Possessing the largest collection of Takis's works outside of Europe, the Menil was well equipped to organize this exhibition, which is, surprisingly, the first survey of the 89-year old's art to be shown in the United States.
To reveal the true power of fourth-dimension forces (including sound, light, kinetic energy and, especially, magnetism), Takis invented new forms: paintings that incorporate three-dimensional components held in mid-air by magnets; antenna-like statues that delicately collide to produce spontaneous sounds (his well-known Signals series); and kinetic sculptures, which are played by electromagnetic currents, yielding cacophonous "naked music."
In Takis's hands, these powerful elements aren't just gimmicks; their presentation is the result of a lifetime of study. The Menil's curator of modern and contemporary art, Toby Kamps, says, "In comparison to our current, screen-based 'future,' Takis's work seems profound and powerful."
Regular viewing hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Through July 26. 1533 Sul Ross. For information, call 713-525-9400 or visit menil.org. Free.
The Metropolitan Opera's The Met: Live in HD broadcast series season continues on Saturday with the French opera Les Contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach. The high-energy opera follows Hoffmann, a tortured poet who has a dramatic love life, to say the least. Over his lifetime, Hoffmann has three great loves: Olympia, Antonia and Giulietta. One is a mechanical doll; one has a mysterious illness that will cause her to die if she sings; and the third is simply interested in stealing his reflection. Each of them brings him closer to his ultimate destination as a poet.
Tenor Vittorio Grigolo sings the role of Hoffmann while Hibla Gerzmava, Erin Morley and Christine Rice sing the roles of the women he loves.
Attending a screening of Les Contes d'Hoffmann comes with an added bonus. During the intermission breaks, audiences are treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the production and interviews with the cast, crew and production team. It's an affordable way to get an inside peek at one of the nation's most widely heralded opera companies.
11:55 a.m. Saturday. Various locations. For information, visit fathomevents.com. $22.
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Singer/actor/dancer Sutton Foster's impressive talents allowed choreographer and director Kathleen Marshall to do something a little different in the recent Broadway revival of Anything Goes -- Marshall built the entire title song around Foster's singing and dancing skills. In most productions, the female lead sings a little, then moves over to the ensemble do the dancing. Marshall, who won a Tony Award for Best Choreography for the show, kept Foster front and center throughout the song. Foster didn't disappoint; she took home a Tony for her performance. (Foster has performed in a wide variety of hit shows, from Young Frankenstein to Little Women.) The Houston Symphony presents Foster in a night of musical theater classics and more in Sutton Foster: Broadway's Leading Lady. She'll perform songs from Shrek: The Musical and Anything Goes during a three-day run, including a Sunday show. .
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $25 to $134.
Our second choice for Sunday is the Houston Grand Opera's production of The Magic Flute
When Nicole Heaston, the daughter of a Chicago music teacher, was a child taking piano lessons, she was, well, not very good. But her instructor urged her mother to listen to her daughter as Heaston sang along with her playing. In short order, she became a member of the Chicago Children's Choir, sang in high school, where her teacher pushed her to transition from alto to soprano, and after an undergraduate degree and a master's and a stint with HGO Studio Artists, became a professional opera singer. When Lisette Oropesa had to withdraw from Houston Grand Opera's upcoming production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, Heaston, who has sung the role of Pamina at the Met and other opera stages, including here in Houston, and who now lives in Katy, stepped in -- although she had just 20 days to learn a different English version than the one she'd performed before.
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Originally written in German, The Magic Flute is set in Egypt and involves all sorts of exotica; Mozart is said to have incorporated some of the Freemason rituals in it. Prince Tamino is rescued by three blue-haired attendants to the Queen of the Night, who ask him in turn to save Pamina, her daughter, who is being held prisoner. The three ladies give him a magic flute for protection on his quest. In this HGO version, Pamina has been made a much stronger character, though some of the misogynistic elements of the original remain. The last completed and performed opera of Mozart's before he died, The Magic Flute is known for its beautiful music.
"The Queen of the Night (Kathryn Lewek) coloratura, the glorious aria of Sarastro (Morris Robinson) and my personal favorites: the quintets," Heaston says. "It's a great first opera and a great opera to see again."
Sung in English with projected English text. 7:30 p.m. January 30, February 4, 7 and 14; 2 p.m. February 4. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $18 to $386.
Margaret Downing, Alexandra Irrera, Alexandra Doyle and Kristina Nungaray contributed to this post.