Saturday, October 4, 2008

Of weather, running and opera

After 18 years of living in the Houston area, I've come to terms with the summer heat. It doesn't bother me as much now as it used to when I first lived in the city for a spell in the late 70's and early 80's. Even so, I still miss a real sense of season, which is largely absent here. Fall is often reduced to literally one night in November, when a fierce 'blue Norther' would whip through the plains, dropping temperatures here from balmy to near-freezing, sometimes in just a few hours. Winter in Houston is really just something which exists on a calendar. Other than the occasional cold spell, winters are mild and comfortable. Native Houstonians may disagree - I sometimes see them donning earmuffs when the mercury drops below 50F...

So what's with the weather report? All this adds up to lots of good running weather. From October through the end of April, running conditions in Houston are good to great. No worries about extreme cold, and forget about snow. Thoughts about the superb running weather of the fall and winter are what keeps us going during those long, sweat-soaked summer runs.

Well, this is it. The nice running weather is here; minimum temperatures dipped into the mid-fifties last week! With my goal race, the San Antonio half marathon in mid November, just 5 weeks away, I had better take advantage of it. Now that my knee is fine, I'm starting to log some decent mileage; a total of 33 for the week. On Saturday morning I logged my longest run in more than 3 weeks - a solid 10 miles at just slightly under my long run goal pace of 9:17. Our Saturday morning running group did 15 miles; that would have been pushing it for me. I'm looking forward to re-joining them this week.

Kathleen and I took some friends to a performance of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, presented by Opera in the Heights, last night. Opera in the Heights is a small local opera company, now in its 11th season. We love the intimacy of their 300-seat auditorium, Lambert Hall, on Heights Boulevard. In the tiny confines of Lambert Hall, opera becomes even more powerful than it might be in a larger venue. The proximity to the stage amplifies the impact of voice, music, story and setting. It is easy to find oneself being swept away by the experience, which is what opera does better than any other art form.

Last night's performance was staged in a much larger hall at Reagan High School, due to lingering Hurricane Ike issues at Lambert Hall. It didn't bother us, and it clearly did not bother the cast. They were stellar. Tenor Adam Flowers was so good as Pinkerton, that he received quite a few lusty boos mixed in with applause at the curtain call. That goes to show how well he succeeded in portraying the despicable Pinkerton, the American naval officer who marries and then abandons the young Cio-Cio San. Flowers has a sweet Italianate-style voice with plenty of power and nice clean high notes, and some good acting chops as well. Madama Butterfly belongs to Cio-Cio San and soprano Eleni Calenos did not disappoint in this role. In fact she was terrific, with a strong clear voice making the most of Puccini's stirring arias. She exhibited beautiful control and of all the performers, she was definitely the most impressive. The supporting roles of Sharpless (Yoon-Sang Lee) Suzuki (Dawn Padula) and Goro (George Williams) were all sung with conviction and great style by a trio of young performers who are clearly ready for bigger things as well. All round I would rate this as amongst the two best Opera in the Heighs productions we have attended, the other being a La Boheme a couple of years ago.


She Who Makes Waves said...

Good to hear you are on the road to running again. Our views for running in the coming months are so opposite! I may take a few weeks off after my half this coming weekend, then it will be time to bring out the many long layers of cloths along with mitts and hats. It might even be better to plan enjoying my time indoors like going to the opera.

Happy running!

Amy said...

I love Madam Butterfly, my husband and I saw it in Berlin last year and I cried, it was so beautiful and sad.

Enjoy your nice weather!

She Who Makes Waves said...

I have tagged you! If you care to play along, check out my blog post titled "You'it, I've been tagged!"

Fishmagic said...

Lucky you, having that nice stretch of running weather. It's nice here now, but winter is knocking on the door. Soon I'll be back on the bike trainer and probably on the treadmill, although I managed to avoid it last year.

Trail half for me next weekend, then I have to give a bout of sciatica a rest.

Go Annie said...

Isn't it nice to have cool running weather again? I don't think we have a Fall season in Phoenix. It's like someone turns a switch one day and the weather flips from 100+ degrees to the 80's. Although, it's getting warm again!

Glad to hear you're doing well with your running and that you are on target for the half. Madame Butterfly sounds beautiful. I've only seen Miss Saigon and I think it's kind of based on the same plot.

Enjoy your weather Bert!

Melissa Evergreen said...

Running seems to have a serious toll on the body.