November 27, 2008

Andrea Bocelli, night 2

Okay, tonight was even more exciting -- after the concert was over, Bocelli sang two encores! The crew rolled out a grand piano, and he sat down at it to play -- and, of course, sing -- Schubert's Ave Maria. Beautiful. And especially moving for me, as I sang it in September for my father-in-law's funeral mass. The second encore was a duet from La Boheme with the fabulous soprano we had, accompanied by the conductor at the piano. It was a little strange to see all the fawning women at his feet with cameras, rose petals, etc. Good thing he can't see them. But he could hear them, I'm sure.

No more Bocelli photos (can't top the one with his arm around my waist), but a couple from the front of the Municipal Auditorium. The San Antonio Opera really did this one up, with spotlights and red carpet.

All in all, an amazing week for this singer.

November 26, 2008

Andrea Bocelli!

Tonight (November 25) was the first of two evening performances of a semi-staged version of the one-act opera "Cavalleria Rusticana" with Andrea Bocelli in the tenor role! The San Antonio Mastersingers were the opera chorus. What a thrill!!

The Municipal Auditorium was sold out for both performances (5000 seats each night), and the audience was thrilled, too -- lots of applause every time Bocelli came on stage and after he sang, and instant standing ovation at the end. The music is exciting, the drama was very well conveyed by the leads, and of course Bocelli was the star. This is his first time singing this role live, and we were lucky that it was here. It was a rush for us to sing for that size audience, too.

It was interesting to watch how everyone worked with him and his lack of sightedness. There were raised lines (for lack of a better term) placed on stage to indicate where he was to stand and walk, and the staging included other leads walking on with him, lots of times to touch him partly so he could get his bearings, etc. If you didn't know he was blind, and couldn't see his face (big auditorium), you would have never known. And he was very gracious to all of us fawners after rehearsals this weekend, as you can see from the photo above!

If anything changes after Wednesday night's performance, I'll post again. Oh, yeah, and in the audience tonight was Sherrill Milnes, famed Metropolitan Opera star; I've been in two choirs that sang "Elijah" with him and Dave and I drove him back to NYC from State College about 10 years ago. He was backstage as we filed on for the second half, and I said hello as I walked past. :) Rumor has it that Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs star, was in the audience too. No word if Eva Longoria Parker was there with him...

November 19, 2008

The Zoo - Wed., November 19

Katie and I went to the San Antonio Zoo this morning for the first time. I'm not sure why we waited so long, but we'll now be going back again. It's not as nice as the Pittsburgh Zoo (for example, Pittsburgh has at least 6 elephants, while today we saw only 1), but there's still a lot we haven't seen.

I'm not sure what Katie's favorite was, but it was funny to see so many animals sleeping. We'll have to go again when the weather's a little cooler (it was probably 72 when we were there, and warmer in the sun), and see if they're a little more sprightly. We did enjoy watching the gibbon family a lot, including their year-old baby boy. He was just as exploratory and fearless as any human toddler boy! Katie's not that physical, but it was just as much fun trying to get her to pronounce the names of the animals -- "bibirusa", anyone? (That's an African warthog, if you didn't know -- I didn't.)

Dave's birthday weekend

Dave's birthday was November 15 (Happy Birthday also to Erin, Dick/Opa, and Cara!), and he wanted to go hiking. So we went back to Government Canyon and spent the morning outdoors. Katie's turning into quite the hiker - she walked about a mile, almost half of the trail. Here are the birthday boy and the newest hiker resting partway up.

Of course we went to the brewpub, the Dodging Duck, for dinner. Our friends Keith and Lori joined us, and then came back to the apartment for birthday cake.

And Sunday was the Peter and the Wolf concert! The San Antonio Symphony does a fabulous job with their interactive family concerts. There was an "instrument petting zoo" (kids actually get to try out instruments with members of the symphony), crafts, and conducting workshops with Ken-David Masur, the conductor (he's Kurt Masur's son, for anyone who knows who that is). All before the concert, which featured an "ask the maestro" segment, a chance for one lucky kid to conduct the orchestra briefly, and captions for sections of each piece projected onto the back wall. The place was packed, and kids -- including Katie -- really had a good time. And now she has a conductor's baton!

November 11, 2008

Katie's first symphony concert, Sun., Nov. 9

Sunday afternoon was Katie's first symphony concert -- and she did really well! Our friends from PA, Keith and Lori, have a high-school age son who is a very talented percussionist. He plays in the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio (the philharmonic level, VERY good), and their first concert was this weekend. We knew two of the pieces - Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez", arranged for harp, and Copland's "Billy the Kid" suite. It sure helped to have been able to play them for Katie in advance, and she really enjoyed the music. We were proud parents, of course.

Next Sunday the San Antonio Symphony has a kids' concert - "Peter and the Wolf". Katie is very excited already! Now if we could just find a copy of the CD in the library...

Leaf-peeping in South Texas, Fri., Nov. 7

Just so it might feel a little more like fall, we headed out to Lost Maples State Natural Area to find some fall color. Leaf-peeping in South Texas just doesn't hold a candle to PA or New England! We joked that Lost Maples really refers to the trees, not just the maple variety...

But we did see some nice color (more than anywhere else here), and had a great hike of about 4 1/2 miles. Katie walked the first mile all by herself. When it got to the steep part, we made her get in the backpack on Dave's back (he volunteered for the exercise). She was the envy of almost everyone else we saw, especially on the steep sections.

On the way home we ate dinner in the town of Bandera, self-proclaimed "Cowboy Capital of the World". Katie was pleased to see that the man at the next table had worn a cowboy hat. :)

The Election

I am writing this several days after the election, and I know it's not a "family adventure", but I couldn't not comment. Dave and I both voted absentee ballot in Pennsylvania. It was a little odd not to go vote on Election Day. But it was exciting to know that our votes made a difference (wouldn't have been true here in Texas), and we are excited at what this country has chosen to do. No matter what you think of Barack Obama's policies, he represents a sea-change -- we hope -- in the way this country sees itself, and we should all be thrilled and proud.

Our daughter will grow up with Obama as the first president she remembers, and therefore will never think that there is anything unusual in a man whose skin color is different than hers being president. And she will never think it is unusual for a woman to run, seriously, on a national ticket. That knowledge will just be part of the way she views the world, and that can only be a good thing.

November 10, 2008

Tour de Gruene, Sun., November 2

No, we didn't ride the Tour de Gruene, but can you tell from the photo who did? Yes, that is Lance Armstrong!! A small town about 45 minutes away from us has an annual two-day bike race that Lance rode 12 years ago after his bout with cancer. It was the first race of his comeback, and he basically rode it that way again this year. We would probably have gone up to watch anyway -- the scenery along the Guadalupe River was really pretty, and the town has a lot of quaint history, in addition to the race -- but seeing Lance Armstrong was even better. We also went to the awards ceremony; he got first place, of course!

Air Show, Sat., November 1

We live very near Lackland Air Force Base, which is where all enlisted Air Force personnel go through basic training -- a big and busy place. It's close enough that we have fighter jets and huge cargo planes go overhead every day. Luckily we all like airplanes! This weekend was a big air show at Lackland, so we had to go. Lots of planes on the ground to look at, everything from early biplanes to the newest fighters and helicopters. Here are Dave and Katie waving from the back of a BlackHawk helicopter (boy, they're big):

The best part, of course, were the flyovers. The fighters (F-15s, F-16s, and the new F-22s) are FAST and LOUD! I can see why there are so important to our national defense - amazing airplanes. They did a fun "demo" called the Heritage Formation: a WWII-era plane and the three new fighters.
Dave got a great shot of them:

Dave and I both took lots of movies of all of the various aircraft. The one of the F-22 wouldn't do it justice (both speed and deafening noise), but here's one of the famous Navy Blue Angels - they were the stars of the weekend. Note that the plane in the middle of the formation is flying upside down...

And did I mention that we all got a little sunburned in the mid-80-degree weather on November 1? :)

November 6, 2008

Halloween 2008

I wasn't sure we'd be doing Halloween this year, partly since we still don't give Katie candy (although she definitely knows what "lollipop" is), and partly because I couldn't get a straight answer from her about a costume. Eventually we settled on a queen, which at times became a princess, and later a fairy. I made all the pieces of her costume, with some decorating help from Katie (take a close look at the jewels on her crown), and it did look homemade! But she loved it. She wouldn't wear it in advance, but she eagerly wore all the pieces for each of the events we went to: the apartment bash on Wednesday, dressing up for Kindermusik Thursday morning, the library party Thursday evening, and the safe YMCA trick-or-treating (with face painting) on Halloween itself. We decided that going door-to-door in an apartment complex was not the way to go this year.

In addition to the obligatory photos of the cute Halloween kid, I've included a video we took at the apartment party (sorry it's a little dark -we were inside at dusk). One man came dressed with a full-head mask of death (I think). He was tall to begin with, and this thing made him even taller. He was obviously there to try to scare the kids, but one of our neighbors told the littlest kids, including Katie, that he was a big bat. That made her fascinated with him, as you can tell from this movie. You'll hear "Bat, where are you?", and you'll notice she uses her wand to try to repel him :) Enjoy!

November 4, 2008

My sister visits! Oct. 24-27

My sister, Jennifer Bell, came to visit this weekend! We found a cheap airfare online last month, and this was our Christmas present to each other. It sure was great to have her here, since we don't see each other often -- Denver is just so far from Lewisburg. And Katie loved having Aunt Jen around!

We spent the weekend doing all the touristy things, of course, to make sure Jennifer got to really see San Antonio. If anyone else comes to visit, we will tailor your visit to your interests. :) But you really need to see the Riverwalk and the Alamo, if nothing else. That was Saturday's venture, along with a walk around downtown and through the Founders' Day celebration. Here are Katie and Aunt Jen at La Villita (in the bright sun):

On Sunday we spent a lot of the day at two of the four missions that are still extant in San Antonio, part of a National Park site. They are fascinating for their history and architecture, and the way they tie all the disparate cultures that now make up San Antonio together. I visited them when I was here 6 years ago, and they're still really interesting. Katie liked the running-around part best. These are some of my favorite photos from the day:

The girls spent Monday morning at Brackenridge Park -- we rode the little train, and had a picnic in the Japanese Tea Gardens. It was too short a visit, but we had a great time!!