Beauty and the Beat

If you know who Renée Fleming is, do not read this concert preview. Because if you know her name, then you are quite aware that she is, arguably (an argument you will lose), the biggest opera star in America today. You know she sang "Amazing Grace" and "God Bless America" at Ground Zero during the memorial service for victims of 9/11. If you are attuned to high-culture media, then you know that the opera world sings only songs of praise for the Grammy-winning artist. (The New York Times notes that Fleming receives "reviews her mother could hardly improve on [and] fan mail by the bushel.") If you know of Fleming, you, of course, are aware that she will join music director Andrew Litton for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's 2003 Gala on September 6 at the Meyerson Symphony Center. If you know all that, good for you; we're sure you'll attend, have a good time and won't drink and drive. No, this preview is for people like me, people who, if they didn't receive press releases from the DSO and have access to, wouldn't know Renée Fleming from Eric Fleming, who played Gil Favor on the '60s TV western Rawhide. See, my generation didn't grow up with a proper appreciation of the fine arts; we know too little about arias and too much about Air Supply. To us, Bel Canto is not the name of Fleming's smash-hit CD but the name of an underappreciated moody synth-folk group from Norway that channels October Project through the Cocteau Twins. Which means that we think a good vocalist is someone like Mariah Carey. Which means we're sorely in need of a proper education in what makes a voice world-class, in how a sound can convey emotions words cannot. This is partly because of her vocal abilities, but to those who revere Fleming, they say she must be seen and heard to be appreciated. That's because she fills a stage not just with her voice but with her look, her empathy, her aura. (Not unlike one of her idols, Joni Mitchell.) So if you, like most people under 35, need you some culture, seeing Fleming is the perfect place to begin. For ticket prices and info, call 214-692-0203 or go to --Eric Celeste

Garza Plays Late Summer Songs

Amazon customers who bought David Garza's Overdub, released in 2001 and now selling for two bucks used on the Internet retailer's Web site, also picked up Pete Yorn's Day I Forgot, Ryan Adams' Demolition and Heartbreaker and Rhett Miller's The Instigator. The latter isn't a surprise--Garza's on The Instigator, and I know people who thought the Old 97's front man and former Twang Twang Shock a Boomer were the same dude and probably still do--but the appearance of Yorn and Adams raises the question: How is it the Irving-born Garza, infinitely more talented than either man, never achieved their level of fame? He's got the looks and hooks and a way with words, and his has been a most loyal fan base, the kind that collects the rare major-label outings and annual Summer Tapes self-releases and guest shots (Juliana Hatfield to Patricia "Robert Rodriguez's Sister" Vonne) and keeps him in beer money long after Atlantic Records gave up trying to make Garza more famous than the dead Jeff Buckley. Garza, who comes home to Club Dada, 2720 Elm St., on September 6, still has a shot in a world warming up to songwriters who write, whadyacallem, songs, but why he hasn't broken big is the easiest question to answer: The good ones rarely do. Call 214-744-DADA. --Robert Wilonsky

Inch by Inch
Sex changes, wigs and rock and roll

Moulin Rouge and Chicago did wonders for reviving the popularity of the musical, but any show tune lover with a smidgen of indie credibility knows that Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the show that gave the genre a much-deserved kick in the head. Kitchen Dog Theater takes on the rock-musical challenge with the area premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. To ensure that the show truly rocks, Hedwig's backing band consists of local musicians such as New Style American Boyfriends guitarist Keenan Wayne Nichols, American Fuse drummer Clint Phillips, former Polyphonic Spree member Stephen Shelton Kirkham on keyboards and Denton scenester Jacob Weber on bass. Joey Steakley, who starred in Kitchen Dog's gender-bending Barbette last year, will be donning the meticulously feather-curled wig. He may be in danger of being typecast in androgynous roles, but if the wig fits... Hedwig opens Saturday. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. through October 11 in the Heldt/Hall Theater at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave. Tickets are $15 to $25, or $8 to $12 for students and seniors. Call 214-953-1055. --Jay Webb

Great Danes

We're not going to give a spoiler warning, because if you haven't seen Hamlet by now--you know, anytime in the past 400 years or so, including dozens of Broadway productions and a score of film versions--well, you're not trying very hard. Given that you've had more than ample opportunity to view what some consider the greatest play in the English language, we won't hesitate to tell you about slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or how the thought of someone putting stuff in our ears while we're sleeping really creeps us out. But if, for some reason, you've failed to check out this dark Danish prince and his psychologically unsound associates, the Dallas Theater Center's got you covered. Set in 1913, this version stars Jason Butler Harner of Garmento and features, if you're lucky, a soliloquy or two, and maybe even somebody being stabbed behind an arras. But we won't say more than that. See what's rotten in Denmark at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd., through October 11. Ticket prices vary. Call 214-522-8499. --Michelle Martinez


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