Houston Community News >> Experience the Splendor of Spring at Rienzi

2/27/2008 Houston—This spring season the house and grounds of Rienzi, the MFAH’s historic house museum nestled in the heart of the River Oaks community, will be teeming with activity. Former homeowners Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III were passionate about entertaining company in their elegantly decorated home, and Rienzi celebrates their legacy by inviting the public to a series of concerts, recitals, and special events throughout the spring. Azalea Trail takes place Friday through Sunday, March 7 through 9, and for the tenth consecutive year, Rienzi will be featured. To celebrate the publication and release of the first book to document Rienzi, a book release and signing party will take place on Saturday, April 19. A joint Family Day with Bayou Bend on Sunday, April 20, stages fun, free activities for the whole family, and Twilight Tours every Thursday in May offer adult visitors extended hours to explore Rienzi. Spring music concerts include 20th-century chamber music performed by staff members of public radio’s KUHF on Monday, April 7; a Houston Grand Opera (HGO) Studio recital on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 20 and 21; and an Early Music Southwest concert on Sunday, June 1. In addition, informative Gallery Talks are held one Thursday each month—on April 17 and May 15—to highlight particular works of art found in Rienzi’s extraordinary collection. Event details are below.

Azalea Trail
Rienzi will be one of seven stops featured on the Azalea Trail. Each spring, the River Oaks Garden Club organizes a tour to showcase sites in Houston where the various pink, purple, white, and red flowers can be seen in abundance. Azalea Trail occurs Friday through Sunday, March 7 through 9, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $20 for all seven sites; or $5 for a single site admission. Children 12 and under are admitted free of charge. For ticket locations and more information, visit the River Oaks Garden Club’s website: http://www.riveroaksgardenclub.org/AzaleaTrail.cfm .

Rienzi Book Release and Free Signing Party
Rienzi: European Decorative Arts and Paintings, published by Scala Publishers in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is the first book to document Rienzi, the collectors, and the collections. The illustrated 240-page, hardcover book retails for $45. Seven experts have contributed to the book: Rienzi’s director, Katherine Howe; Edgar Peters Bowron, the MFAH’s curator of European art; Christine Gervais, assistant curator of Rienzi; Cindi Strauss, curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts at the MFAH and a scholar of European ceramics; Stephen Fox, architectural historian; Suzanne Turner, Emerita professor of landscape architecture at Louisiana State University; and Marjorie E. Wieseman, curator of Dutch painting at the National Gallery, London.

On Saturday, April 19, Rienzi celebrates the release of the book with a drop-in signing party from 2 to 6 p.m.; admission is free. Contributing authors will make brief presentations, focusing on an object or topic related to the book. Books will be available for purchase, and authors will be on hand to sign them. Light refreshments will be served.

Free Family Day: “All Creatures Great and Small”
On Sunday, April 20, from 1 to 5 p.m., Rienzi teams up with its sister house museum, Bayou Bend, to present an annual Joint Family Day. A free shuttle bus conveniently runs between the two museums, and a variety of fun activities are offered at both locations in conjunction with this year’s theme, “All Creatures Great and Small.”

At Rienzi, families can participate in a number of animal-themed art workshops, including “Dogs in Art,” “Iridescent Insects,” “Birds of a Feather,” and “Nature Prints.” Toni Valle, project director at Dance Source Houston, will perform choreography based on images of birds in a dance titled For the Birds, and Steel Vibrations will perform on calypso drums. Families can also tour the historic home and participate in a scavenger hunt, as well as enter their names in a door-prize drawing. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.mfah.org/rienzi  and www.mfah.org/bayoubend .

Music at Rienzi
Throughout the months of April, May, and June, a variety of music performances will take place exclusively at Rienzi.

• Rienzi visitors can see some of their favorite KUHF Houston Public Radio personalities perform in a music concert on the evening of Monday, April 7. At 6 p.m., the doors of the house open for guests to tour the vast European decorative-arts collections and to enjoy hors d’oeuvres and wine. The KUHF performance of 20th-century chamber music begins an hour later, at 7 p.m. The event is free to the public, and valet parking service is provided.

• An HGO Studio Recital takes place at Rienzi on Tuesday, May 20, with a repeat performance on Wednesday, May 21. On both evenings, the doors of the house open at 6:30 p.m. for guests to tour the home, and the recital begins an hour later. Wine and hors d’oeuvres are served at intermission. Admission is $30 per person. Reservations are required in advance and can be made by calling 713-639-7800.

• The last opportunity to enjoy music at Rienzi this spring is on Sunday, June 1. At 3 p.m., Early Music Southwest presents a concert of music from Restoration England in honor of the 300th anniversary of the death of John Blow, the English organist and composer who wrote a small number of services, over 35 odes, over 100 anthems, and pieces for string ensemble, organ, and harpsichord. Music by Henry Purcell, Daniel Purcell, and Thomas Arne are also included on the program. Concert performers are David Stevens, tenor; Laurie Stevens, Baroque violin; and Christina Edelen, harpsichord. Following the concert will be a wine reception and an opportunity to tour the house and gardens. Admission is $20 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 713-639-7800.

Twilight Tours Every Thursday in May
Take advantage of Rienzi’s later hours with Twilight Tours, which take place every Thursday in May, from 5 to 8 p.m., offering extended hours for adult visitors to explore Rienzi’s house and gardens at their own pace. Pink azaleas and large white magnolia blossoms are typically in full bloom at this time of year. There are ten distinct gardens on Rienzi’s property for guests to enjoy: The Woods-with-Ferns Garden, Lady Gandes Garden, Crane Garden, Mrs. Turner’s Fountain, White Garden, Camellia Garden, Folly Garden, and Pool Gardens. Wine and light hors d’oeuvres will be offered. Admission is $15 and can be purchased at the door.

April and May Gallery Talks
Rienzi is home to the Southwest’s most important public collection of European decorative arts, and monthly Gallery Talks with museum curators and educators spotlight Rienzi’s treasures. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 713-639-7800. Admission is free.

On Thursday, April 17 at 1 p.m., Kaylin Weber, curatorial assistant at the MFAH, presents a Gallery Talk about one of the gems of Rienzi’s collection, Mrs. Elisha Mathew. The 1777 masterwork by Sir Joshua Reynolds, first president of the Royal Academy of the Arts and the leading society portraitist of the day, portrays Mrs. Matthew, a celebrated 18th-century beauty.

On May 15 at 1 p.m., Cindi Strauss, MFAH curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts and design, focuses on Rienzi’s Möllendorff Service by the Meissen Porcelain Factory, c. 1761. The lavish service was one of six ordered from the Meissen Porcelain Factory by Frederick the Great of Prussia during the Seven Years War. Strauss discusses the decorative and manufacturing techniques of the famous 18th-century porcelain factory at Meissen, Germany, using this service to illustrate.

Rienzi’s Spring 2008 Schedule
Friday, March 7 , 11 a.m. Azalea Trail (Single site admission is $5)
Saturday, March 8, 11 a.m. Azalea Trail (Single site admission is $5)
Sunday, March 9, 11 a.m. Azalea Trail (Single site admission is $5)
Monday, April 7, 6 p.m. KUHF music concert (free)
Thursday, April 17, 1 p.m. Gallery Talk with Kaylin Weber (free)
Saturday, April 19, 2 p.m. Rienzi Collection book release and signing party (free)
Sunday, April 20, 1 p.m. Joint Family Day with Bayou Bend (free)
Thursdays through May, 5 p.m. Twilight Tours ($15 admission)
Thursday, May 15, 1 p.m. Gallery Talk with Cindi Strauss (free)
Tuesday, May 20, 7:30 p.m. HGO Studio Recital ($30 admission)
Wednesday, May 21, 7:30 p.m. HGO Studio Recital ($30 admission)
Sunday, June 1, 3 p.m. Early Music Southwest concert ($20 admission)

Rienzi Background Information
Rienzi, the European decorative arts collection and gardens of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, was a gift of the noted Houston philanthropists Carroll Sterling Masterson and her husband, Harris Masterson III. Designed by John Staub, Rienzi was completed in 1954 and expanded in 1972 with the assistance of architect Hugo Neuhaus. Rienzi’s many collections include European paintings, English furniture, exceptional examples of Worcester porcelain, English silver, and small objects of art by Fabergé and David Webb. Rienzi, located at 1406 Kirby Drive, in the heart of River Oaks, opened to the public in March 1999 and has been featured on the annual Azalea Trail for ten consecutive years.