HOUSTON - the 2012 Houston International Festival honors Argentina, which boasts both one of the world’s most distinctive cultures and one of its fastest-growing economies. Argentina will be well-represented in the Chevron Argentina Living Museum, which features a Buenos Aires street scene complete with a Tango Café and a wine bar hosted by Tango and Malbec, as well as an Estancia, an Argentine ranch, complete with gauchos, story-telling and folk dancing.
Of course, the festival is not only about Argentina. The Houston iFest will have world-class music, dance, arts and crafts and food from all over the world, showcasing Houston’s status as one of the world’s great international cities. This year, visitors will see an expanded focus from Argentina to include other South American nations, including Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia.
The festival is also inaugurating what they hope will become a new tradition -- an opening night concert at the Hobby’s Center’s Sarofim Hall, across the street from the festival grounds.
“Eternal Tango,” a full-scale theatrical production featuring Hector Del Curto’s Orchestra and Dancers, includes some of the world’s finest tango musicians and dancers, several of whom were featured in the long-running Broadway production Forever Tango.
What follows is an overview of the Argentinian performing artists at this year’s festival, including internationally-recognized touring artists as well as representatives of Houston’s Argentine performing arts community.
Los Bombos Argentinos, 11:30 pm daily on the H-E-B Cultural Stage; 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 pm daily in the Chevron Argentina Living Museum Estancia – Traditional gaucho folk dancing, malambo drumming and rope tricks.
Lucy Keeper, 11:30, 1:30 and 3:30 pm daily in the Chevron Argentina Living Museum Estancia – Story-telling, in the Argentina campfire tradition. Perfect for the kids coming from the nearby Green Mountain Energy Kids’ World.
Cooking Demonstrations, 12:30 and 5:30 pm daily on the H-E-B Cultural Stage – Goya Foods, Tango and Malbec and Marini’s Empanada House will demonstrate the finer points of Argentine and South American cooking, which have an emphasis on grilled meats that many Texans can appreciate.
Espantapajaros, April 21, 12:30 pm Bud Light World Stage; 2:30 pm on the 29-95 Texas Entertainment Stage – Rock en espanol with a psychedelic Sixties flavor, from Argentina by way of Houston. One of Houston’s most respected club bands, led by guitarist-vocalist Pablo Espantapajaros.
Austin PiazzollaQuintet, April 21, 12:30 pm 29-95 Texas Entertainment Stage; 6:30 pm H-E-B Cultural Stage – Five of the best musicians in Austin playing the Nuevo tango music of Astor Piazzolla, the great Argentine composer and bandoneonist who helped elevate tango into one of the world’s great art forms, on the level of European classical music and North American jazz, and who is now recognized as one of the most brilliant musical minds of the 20th Century.
Mauro and Elizabeth, 1:30 pm daily on the H-E-B Cultural Stage; 12, 3 and 7 pm daily in the Chevron Living Museum Tango Café – Houston’s top tango dance couple demonstrating the romantic art of two people dancing very close together. They will also be giving daily lessons in the Tango Café.
“Evita,” 2, 4 and 6 pm daily in the Chevron Living Museum Tango Café – We couldn’t celebrate Argentina without Evita. Houston’s Lisa Borik will portray Argentina’s controversial one-time first-lady Eva Peron, singing songs from the popular Broadway show and movie.
Sur, April 21, 2:30 pm H-E-B Cultural Stage, 5 pm KHOU Center Stage; April 29, 12:30 pm Bud Light World Stage, 6:30 pm H-E-B Cultural Stage – Folk music of the Andes, featuring musicians from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico playing in the ancient tradition of the Incas, with a modern twist. The 6:30 pm set on April 29 will include a version of “Misa Criolla,” the unique Argentine musical Catholic Mass featuring the 1st Unitarian Universalist Church Sanctuary Choir.
Hector Del Curto ‘s Eternal Tango, April 21, 2:30 p.m., KHOU Center Stage, 8 p.m., Hobby Center Sarofim Hall; April 22, 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., KHOU Center Stage; April 29, 2:30 and 6:30 p.m., KHOU Center Stage – Hector Del Curto plays the bandoneon, an Argentine accordion and the essential melodic and textural instrument in tango music.
As a teenager, he played in the classic Argentinian dance orchestra of Osvaldo Pugliese. More recently, he has served as the orchestra director for the spectacular Broadway show “Forever Tango” and currently tours with pianist Pablo Ziegler, Astor Piazzolla’s last music director, whose Nuevo Tango ensemble is considered to be the living heir to Piazzolla’s legacy of brilliance. Del Curto’s musicians and dancers include several current and former members from the cast of “Forever Tango.” They’ll be performing twice daily on Center Stage on April 22 and April 29. But for the total “Eternal Tango” experience, with dramatic lighting and elegant costume changes spotlighting a troupe of the world’s finest tango dancers, you need to be at the festival’s official Opening Night concert at the Hobby Center’s Sarofim Hall, 8 p.m., April 21.
Pablo Fernandez, April 21 and 28, 3:30 pm, April 22 and April 29, 2:30 pm, H-E-B Cultural Stage; 1, 5 and 7:30 pm in the Chevron Living Museum Tango Café – A recent arrival in Houston from Buenos Aires, Pablo Fernandez will demonstrate the artistry of the bandoneon, the Argentine accordion whose melancholy sound is at the heart of tango music.
Milonga, 3:30 pm April 21, 28 and 29, 5:30 pm April 22, KHOU Center Stage – A milonga is an Argentine social dance, with tango dancers at all skill levels, from beginner to professional, dancing together in a set pattern of moods and rhythms. Dance on the stage, and in the plaza in front of Houston’s City Hall, to the selections of Houston’s top tango DJs Indre and Viju (April 21), Luis Benavides (April 22), Arturo and Adriano (April 28) and Mercy (April 29).
Luna Argentina featuring Susana Collins, April 21, 4:30 pm April 21, April 29, 3:30 pm, H-E-B Cultural Stage – 5:30 and 6:30 pm daily in the Chevron Argentina Living Museum Estancia – Buenos Aires native Susana Collins is one of Houston’s finest all-around dancers and tango teachers. Her company Luna Argentina specializes in Argentine folk dancing and drumming, including the malambo tradition of the Pampas. But when she turns up the heat on the tango, watch out.
Rene Casarsa’s TangoTime, April 22, 3:30 pm, H-E-B Cultural Stage; April 28, 2:30 and 5 pm, KHOU Center Stage – Pianist Rene Casarsa, an Argentine native who has lived and performed all over the world, is Houston’s most respected tango musician. His group Tango Time includes the best tango players and dancers in Houston, including Mauro and Elizabeth, Susana Collins and Pablo Fernandez. He has recorded several albums of solo piano, and on April 22, he’ll be demonstrating the art of solo tango piano on the H-E-B Cultural Stage.
Barandua, April 28, 6:30 pm, April 29, 4:30 pm, H-E-B Cultural Stage – This Houston-based, nationally-known South American folk group is managed by Argentine native Patricia Gras. The April 28 set will be a tribute to the late, great Argentinian folk singer Mercedes Sosa. The April 29 set is a workshop on nueva cancion, the form of politically-conscious folk singing and songwriting popularized by Sosa that emerged in Latin America in the 1970s.
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