Photo by Dahlia Katz

Texas Performing Arts fans who've been waiting for the 2023-24 season announcement now have plenty to applaud: TPA’s upcoming season will feature highly anticipated bold projects, many Texas debuts, plus innovative productions with big artist and emerging-talent debuts, and the long-awaited return of some family favorites.

“I’m excited to share our 23/24 season filled with new sounds, global stories, adventurous premieres, and long-awaited returns," said Bob Bursey, TPA Executive and Artistic Director. “This season we’re presenting some of the most exciting new creations from around the world as well as bringing leading artists back to Austin.”

The 2022 Edinburgh International Festival’s crowd-pullerThe Book of Lifewill open the season in a sensational, reflective fashion for its Texas premiere, featuring Rwandan writer and activist Odile Gakire Katese and Ingoma Nshya, Rwanda's first-ever women's drumming group. The Book of Life will run September 7 and 9 at 7:30 pm at McCollough Theatre.

Following The Book of Life is Alice, a combined dance, acrobatics, and illusory performance by acclaimed contemporary dance company Momix. Alice is the newest work by artistic director and choreographer Moses Pendleton, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Alice will run September 20 at 7 pm at Bass Concert Hall.

In conjunction to the regular season, a six-event partnership between TPA and Fusebox will bring a more adventurous approach to TPA stages in Austin. The first of which, in its Texas debut and only appearance, is Love in Exileby Grammy Award-winning vocalist Arooj Aftab, accompanied by her two most-trusted collaborators polymath pianist Vijay Iyer, and renowned instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily. The trio will envelop the stage with a soundscape Aftab describes as "about self-exile, and the search for freedom and identity, and finding it through love and music." Love in Exile will run September 29 at 7:30 pm at McCullogh Theatre.

The second musical performance in partnership with Fusebox is the Texas premiere of Tremble Stavesby Pulitzer Prize-winning Navajo composer Raven Chacon and The Living Earth Show, comprised of guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson. Musicians from the University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music will also participate in the show that sheds light on climate change, specifically an approaching water shortage crisis. Tremble Staves will run on October 13 at 5:30 pm at Laguna Gloria in conjunction with This Land, an exhibition by The Contemporary Austin.

A special Dia de los Muertos celebration by esteemed Grammy Award-winning Mexican singer Lila Downs will bring a “unique interpretation of traditional Mexican and Mesoamerican music” to the ears of the audience at Bass Concert Hall. For this event, attendees are encouraged to dress in traditional, imaginative costumes to immerse themselves in the evening. The performance will be held on October 20 at 8 pm.

For the jazz and opera lovers, seven-time Grammy Award winner Terrence Blanchard will perform excerpts from his critically-acclaimed Fire Shut Up In My Bonesfeaturing his E-collective jazz band, and the Turtle Island String Quartet, and two secret guest singers. The Austin premiere of Fire Shut Up in My Bones will run on November 9 at 7:30 pm at McCullough Theatre.

The 2023 Grammy’s Best New Artist winner Samara Joy will bring holiday cheer and her velvety voice to Austin with a special gospel and jazz concert entitled A Joyful Holiday. The performance by “the first Gen Z jazz superstar” will also feature three generations of her McLendon family. A Joyful Holiday will run on December 3 at 6 pm at Bass Concert Hall.

The first TPA performance of 2024 will be an unforgettable evening of dance and comedy by all-male ballet troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. This will be the first time the troupe has pirouetted into Austin in eight years, and is just one stop on their 50th Anniversary Tour. Their signature ballet satire combined with their elegant movements leads to a stunning show. The performance will take place on January 19, 2024 at 7:30 pm at Bass Concert Hall.

In another show presented with Fusebox is the Texas premiere of Food(stylized FOOD) by Geoff Sobelle. Food will ask many food-related questions, prompting the audience to reflect on the way they perceive eating. Audience members will gather around a dining table to engage with each other and their empty plates during Sobelle’s performance. Food will run January 31 through February 3 at 7:30 pm with a special February 3 matinee at 1:30 pm.

For the first time in over a decade, the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will bring two dance performances to the stage as part of Ailey’s iconic ballet Revelations. Since the company’s founding in 1958, Ailey’s performers have excited over 25 million people around the world. The performances will take place at Bass Concert Hall on March 2 at 7:30 pm with a family matinee on March 3 at 2 pm.

One of the most highly anticipated returns of the 2023-24 season is a captivating one-night only performance by world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, his first in Austin in 12 years. Audience members can expect to hear some of his favorite pieces, as well as a few tales about his life and his dedication to music. An Evening with Yo-Yo Mawill take place on March 7 at 7:30 pm at Bass Concert Hall.

Artist Tania El Khoury will bring an interactive, live art performance to Austin with Cultural Exchange Rate, based on Khoury’s recorded interviews with her grandmother, detailing what it was like to live between Lebanon and Syria. The interactive portion of the show will incorporate "secret boxes to explore sounds, images, and textures" that add context to over a century's worth of border crossings. Cultural Exchange Rate will run April 10-14 at the Bass Concert Hall Rehearsal Room.

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green will delight the audience’s eyes and ears with his immersive documentary 32 Sounds, exploring sound through a sensory experience and meditation. Green will narrate the film while original music is performed by electro band Le Tigre’s JD Samson. 32 Sounds will run on April 10 at 7:30 pm at Bass Concert Hall.

In a collaboration between award-winning choreographer Abby Zbikowski and her crew The New Utility is the Texas premiere of one of the “Best Dance Performances” of 2022 as deemed by the New York Times. Radioactive Practicemelds gender-bending work with dance while performers “labor their way through complex, demanding, and often perplexing physicality to confront expectations and dive into the unknown head on.” Radioactive Practice will run at B. Iden Payne Theatre on April 12 and 13 at 7:30 pm with a matinee at 2 pm on April 14.

TPA and Fusebox are additionally partnering to provide a residency for Austin-based artist Lisa B. Thompson for the 2023-24 season. She is currently the Patton Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at UT Austin. While at her residency, Thompson will develop The Black Feminist Guide to the Human Body, which explores the disparities in Black women’s health in the United States. The show will premiere at the 2024 Fusebox Festival at The Vortex (stylized VORTEX).

Tickets for Texas Performing Arts 2023-24 season go on sale on May 12 at 10 am. More information can be found on texasperformingarts.org.

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Austin 'Top Chef' winner emerges after controversy to open upscale Mexican restaurant, plus more top stories

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From cross-country tours to best-in-state colleges and snacks, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Austin 'Top Chef' winner emerges after controversy to open upscale Mexican restaurant. Bacalar has opened after years of preparation and controversy surrounding the chef's departure from his last role.

2. Nebraska Furniture Mart to bring massive new store and 700 jobs to Austin suburb. NFM will anchor a development that will include a 250-room hotel and 30,000-square-foot convention center.

3. Hello Kitty Cafe Truck says hi to Austin on cross-country tour. Among the new items is a bright pink tote bag with rainbow straps and desserts decorating the front, and an assortment of Hello Kitty baked goods.

4. UT Austin rises to the top in new list of best Texas schools for 2024. UT Austin claimed No. 2 in Texas, and ranked No. 32 nationally. It fared similarly in Niche's list of top public universities.

5. How to get every possible discount at the 2023 State Fair of Texas. The fair starts its 24-day run at Fair Park in Dallas on September 29, bringing with it music, games, food, and more.

R&B singer Mélat epitomizes the independent Austin music experience in new album

local releases

Even though Mélat is always busy — appearing in seemingly every major community showcase — she hasn't released a new album in four years. That is, until today.

Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal Men — with an appropriately grandiose title for the R&B singer's prodigal return — is out on September 29, with 14 gooey tracks incorporating everything from trap beats to gospel harmonies. It follows up 2019's After All: Episode One, with similarly spacious orchestrations and a little more confidence this time around on the songwriter's part.

"I feel like [after] going through COVID and all the things that have happened in the past four years ... it's the dawning of a new era for me," says Mélat. "I feel like I've shed a significant amount of fear, and doubt, and all these things that as humans we have to work to get off of ourselves. It feels like a new beginning for me."

The title of this "foundational" album, in Mélat's words, reaches back to two EPs that the singer has since grown out of, but represented a similar feeling of self-definition as her first-ever releases. First was Canon Aphaea, then Canon Ourania; Both referenced Greek goddesses. This time, Metis — Zeus' first wife, a Titan goddess, and the embodiment of wisdom — was the inspiration.

M\u00e9lat Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal MenThe album cover ties in "Easter Eggs" from Black woman-owned brands: fashion by Savage X Fenty, Black Girl Magic wine by McBride Sisters Wine Company, and an Ethiopian necklace referencing the singer's heritage.Shot by Marshall Tidrick

The subtitle comes from humbler origins than it sounds; probably something she read on Wikipedia, Mélat says, but definitely borrowed nonetheless. The quote also gives a name to a track in which the singer speaks semi-candidly about false idols and the wisdom to duck away from the judgment of "mere mortals."

"I'm like a lot of people in that I can be my worst my own worst critic," she says. "I hate my speaking voice, but I put it on the album [because] my gut was telling me, no, this needs to be said. There are songs that were cut from the album [that were part of] the plan the whole time."

Much of Mélat's local pull comes from her transparency about being an independent artist, which she discusses often on social media and will surely expound upon more when the Austin chapter of Women in Music launches later this year, with her on the leadership team. Nothing about working without a label is foreign to Austin musicians (although the landscape is slowly growing), and the singer confirms that she doesn't "know any other way to do it," but hints of that freedom shine through some tracks.

"Canon Metis," the opening track, pieces together a sort of trailer for the rest of the album with atmospheric synths and spoken announcements by disembodied femme voices — a softly futuristic approach. But "Lambs to Lions" and "The Now" deliver nostalgia via backup vocals and instrumental stylings, while "I.D.M.T.L.Y. (Freestyle)" pares things down to a simple phone recording that the songwriter and her close collaborator, sound engineer, and manager, Pha The Phenom, chose not to develop any further.

No through-lines were questioned. Nothing needed to be justified, except to each other. Both have gotten into meditating, anyway, so it's all about feel.

"I feel like I've gathered all this wisdom," Mélat says. "You can't really trust the quote-unquote gods, which are the shiny things that will distract you ... and you can't really worry too much about the judgment of others, because everybody's just human. I need to do what feels right for me."

There is no tour planned to promote the album yet, but given the singer's track record, it won't be long until something is on the books. A music video for "So Help Me God," incorporates AI technology via Kaiber AI, will be released on October 4.

Listen to Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal Men on your favorite streaming platform.

Unique art sale champions thousands of works by Austin artists who may not have homes

art everywhere

The streets of Austin reveal a vibrant artistic spirit if you know where to look. Art From the Streets (AFTS), a nonprofit uplifting unhoused artists, invites art lovers to discover this local creativity at the annual Art Show & Sale on October 21-22.

Art from the Streets sale

Photo courtesy of Art From The Streets

Onlookers look through hundreds of unique art pieces by unhoused Austinites.

Art From the Streets has announced its 31st Annual Art Show & Sale at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, best known for its holiday market. This two-day event will showcase thousands of original artworks from unhoused and at-risk artists in the Austin area, from compelling portraits to vibrant abstracts, all while supporting an amazing creative community.

Attending this event gives the Austin community the special opportunity to meet these artists, hear their stories, and purchase their one-of-a-kind creations, with 95 percent of the art sale proceeds going directly to the artists themselves.

In turn, it provides platform for the artists to proudly display their works, coming into the arts scene in an official, marketable capacity. It brings visibility to their skills and lets them earn income from their passion.

"We believe that these artistic endeavors form a pathway to self-determination, and we invite the Austin community to join us this October in supporting these artists by making connections and purchasing some amazing art," said AFTS executive director Kelley Worden in a press release.

Volunteers form the backbone of AFTS by assisting with a wide range of tasks, from facilitating art creation sessions to helping with exhibition setup and more; the funds that AFTS collects through donations and art sales are directly funneled back into supporting these volunteers' efforts, providing art supplies, covering exhibition costs, and supplying other resources needed to uplift the unhoused artists in the Austin community.

The 31st Annual Art From the Streets Show & Sale will be held at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar from October 21-22. Attendance is free and open to the public, with a suggested $5 donation at the door to help support AFTS' mission of empowering unhoused artists. RSVP on Eventbrite.