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Free for All: "Farewell to the Flesh," Summer Symphony Nights and New Arrivals

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Photographer Ray Traboulay was visiting relatives in Trinidad in 2010 when he realized that Carnival season was coming up. He decided to extend his stay and spend some time capturing the images of the colorful festival. He returned to the island in 2011 and shot more photographs. Those images became the art exhibit "Farewell to the Flesh," a collection of 30 documentary photos of carnival street scenes and traditional characters which opens on Friday.

"The best way to learn about something is to be part of it," Traboulay tells us. "So, I took my studio gear to the streets, to the heart of the action. People prepare for carnival year-round, but they really go into high gear right after Christmas. The feathers-and-beads stuff is really cool, but I chose to focus on the more traditional characters, the Indians, the Blue Devils and the Bats."

There's an opening reception with the artist 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday. Regular viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Through July 30. Commerce Street Gallery, 1701 Commerce. For information, visit the gallery's Web site or call 713-229-0094.

In the Houston Symphony's ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights, the work of Beethoven, Bizet, Brahms, Strauss, Stravinsky and others will be brought to life by renowned guest conductors and featured performers.

The Friday night program, which includes music by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Bragato, will be conducted by Cristian Macelaru (who was a first violinist in the Houston Symphony for two seasons), with HS principal cellist Brinton Averil Smith as a featured soloist. Highlights include Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol, a violin and clarinet cadenza inspired by Spanish folk music, and Falla's The Three-Cornered Hat.

The Saturday night program is a "Tweetcert," with conductor Robert Franz commenting on the program via @HouSymphony during the performance. The program includes Ravel's Piano Concert in G Major, Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 and Strauss's Don Juan. Pianist Xiayin Wang is the night's guest artist.

See ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights at 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, visit the Miller Outdoor Theatre Web site or call 713-224-7575.

New Arrivals, the next installment in the Song of Houston East + West series by Houston Grand Opera's HGOCo, hits the stage on Sunday. When Yani Rose Keo fled Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge with her youngest child and husband in 1975, she flew out on a private plane with almost no one else aboard. For playwright Catherine Filloux, that haunting image underlines the fact that so many people wanted to flee Pol Pot's mad regime but didn't have the resources the more affluent Keo did. Instead, more than two million of them would die in the years to come. Keo's story and her work as a leader in the Cambodian refugee community in Houston had a huge impact on the making of New Arrivals.

"That metaphor of so many empty seats on the plane was so theatrical -- her being able to transform her pain and anger and all her feelings into helping other people, which has been the grand story of her life," Filloux says. With a score by American composer John Glover, the operetta is set in the mid-1970s, when Pol Pot became the head of the Cambodian government, looking to destroy anyone who opposed him, and moves forward to present day. The resulting operetta is not a bio of Keo, but a "poetic" rendering of her experience, says Filloux, who came to Houston last year to meet refugees firsthand.

See New Arrivals at 4 p.m. on Sunday at Rothko Chapel, 3900 Yupon. Other performances run June 16 to June 23 at various locations. For information, visit the Houston Grand Opera Web site or call 713-228-6737.

Adam Castañeda and Margaret Downing contributed to this post.

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