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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.- Krysten Ritter, Angelique Cabral, Montserrat Oliver, Yaya Kosikova and Fernanda Familiar took some time off in Mexico’s Pacific Treasure.

Else Barth, a leading chef who had a restaurant in the USA for 48 years based in St Louis and named as the best chef in the USA has today announced she is bringing her culinary delights to Mexico with the opening of Villas Del Sol.

playafronttMexico’s first inclusive beach town of Cuastecomates has received the praise of disabled tourists and their families, but some locals feel not all are welcome.

Villa Azul

Nestled into Conchas Chinas, Vallartas most exclusive hillside neighborhood, the eight bedroom Villa Azul enchants visitors with it's stunning panoramic views that overlook the fabulous Banderas Bay with it's daily amazing sunsets upon the blue Pacific.

medicalmfrontOn Tuesday, Mexico’s Senate overwhelmingly approved an initiative that authorizes the use of medical marijuana, the latest in a series of legal changes and court rulings that have relaxed laws on cannabis use in Mexico.

ranchlandfrontLA YESCA, Mexico, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A udelina Villagrana has run her ranch in Mexico's Western Sierra Madre mountains on her own since the death of her husband 23 years ago, herding livestock, hiring local Huichol people and even raising a young Huichol boy like a son.

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colombiafrontAn honor guard played taps early Friday as members of Colombia’s military loaded five flight crew victims of an air crash that also killed most members of a soccer team onto a cargo plane for the trip back to their native Bolivia.

epnfrontPresident Enrique Peña Nieto will travel to Havana to attend the funeral of former Cuban President Fidel Castro.

flightfronttAfter already making huge strides in the Mexico market in the past two years, Southwest Airlines continued to open the market further Sunday by introducing the first flights to Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Los Cabos from Los Angeles International Airport.

weddingfrontRather than take off on a fantasy vacation, some travelers had their plans grounded when a number of Southwest Airlines flights from Los Angeles International Airport to Mexico were unexpectedly canceled due to government red tape.

swfrontttSouthwest Airlines is hoping to resume recently suspended flights between Los Angeles and three resort cities in Mexico beginning Sunday.

WalmartfrontMéxico maintains its position as a reliable destination for investment, according to President Enrique Peña Nieto.

aguinaldofrontA large Mexican chamber of commerce stated on Monday that the current unfavorable economic situation is not an excuse for companies to delay employees’ Christmas bonus.

gasolinazofrontThe “gasolinazo” or rise in gasoline prices, as well as tax increases set by the Mexico City government, will elevate the prices of several commodities between 5 and 8 percent.

xvfrontMillions of people have responded to an invitation to a coming of age party for a girl in rural northern Mexico after her parent’s video innocently asked “everybody” to attend ended up going viral.

mexicorubyfrontThe difference between setting a Facebook event to “public” rather than “private” can apparently be astronomical.

fbfrontFacebook might understand your romantic prospects better than you do.

meteorfrontIt's time for the biggest moment on the skywatching calendar until this August's mind-boggling total solar eclipse the peak of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

adrianfrontThe official start of the eastern Pacific hurricane season is May 15, but the first tropical system of the year has already formed.

stormjunefrontAs the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season officially gets underway, we have our eyes on an area of the Gulf of Mexico which may see a tropical depression or storm form by this weekend or early next week.

pt v old townfrontThe biggest question facing potential visitors to Puerto Vallarta is whether they’d prefer to stay in the city’s Old Town or its New Town.

weddingfrontModern Bride Magazine ranks Mexico in the TOP 5 most desireable marriage location away from home, and Puerto Vallarta has the Best of Mexico!

hollandamericafrontSometimes, a good cruise is like a visit from an old friend.

whalewatchingfrontNovember is here and the first humpback whale sightings of the season in the Riviera Nayarit are already pouring in.

Humpback Whale frontThough the killing of the whales is condemned in most of the nations, the venture of whale watching has become a most popular pastime worldwide and Whale Watching Puerto Vallarta is certainly not an exception.

LaPenita3frontCADIP is running a crocodile conservation protection program in Rincon de Guayabitos on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

PARIS: At least 45 people died Wednesday and 44 others were injured when an airliner en route to the Canary Islands of Spain swerved off the end of a runway at Madrid's airport, Spanish officials said.

"There were 178 passengers on board, including the crew," said Valentin Narro, a government official at the Interior Ministry's office for Madrid. "There are 45 dead and 44 injured."

A Red Cross official at the airport said the aircraft, Spanair Flight JK5022, swerved off the runway during takeoff. Spanair said the accident happened at 2:45 p.m.

Narro could not confirm whether the aircraft had caught fire. Television footage of the accident showed clouds of white smoke billowing over the runway at Madrid Barajas International Airport.

Olivia Acosta, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross at Barajas airport, said 22 ambulances were at the scene and that a makeshift hospital had been set up.

"There are teams of psychosocial workers to help the victims," she said.

Spanair is a troubled low-cost carrier owned by SAS, Scandinavian Airlines System. SAS confirmed that an accident had taken place at the Madrid airport involving Spanair Flight JK5022 from Madrid to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. The plane model was a Boeing MD-82, a type of MD-80.

The MD-80 is a long, narrow plane with engines mounted to the rear of the fuselage and the tail high in the air.

In April, the Federal Aviation Administration inspected American Airline MD-80s and found a maintenance problem: wiring bundles that had been improperly wrapped and attached inside wheel wells. The airline canceled 3,300 flights.

The wiring is required to be stowed in a way to avoid chafing by moving parts in the wheel well, which otherwise could result in an electric short.

Spanair, founded in 1986, has hubs in Madrid and Barcelona and flies within Spain and the rest of Europe, as well as West Africa.

The airline, which carried 11.2 million passengers last year, is part of the Star Alliance, which also includes United Airlines, Air Canada, SAS and Lufthansa of Germany.

SAS tried to sell the money-losing airline last year, only to drop the effort in June after it could not find a buyer. Spain's largest airline, Iberia, pulled out of discussions, and later initiated separate merger talks with British Airways.

On Wednesday, before word of the crash, Spanair pilots had threatened to go on strike, saying management did not have a plan to fix the carrier's problems.

Spanair lost $81 million in the first half of the year, and SAS has said that it plans to cut a quarter of Spanair's flights and eliminate about 1,000 jobs, or about a third of its employees.

A majority of Spanair's fleet is from the MD-80 family, although it also includes Boeing and Airbus jets.

SAS said that it was doing "everything possible to help passengers and next of kin and to assist Spanish authorities at this difficult time."

Spanair said that the flight was a code-share flight with Lufthansa LH 2554, and that it had set up an emergency number for relatives of passengers.

The plane had been headed to Gran Canaria in Spain's Canary Islands, which are a popular vacation destination off the West African coast.

John von Rhein Classical music critic

10:40 a.m. CDT, June 5, 2012

As the young daughter of an internationally celebrated composer, Yvonne Kalman delighted in eavesdropping on conversations her father, Emmerich Kalman, had with other famed European emigres as they gathered around plates of freshly prepared Hungarian delicacies in the kitchen of the Kalmans' New York home, before the platters of food were brought out to the other party guests.

"I recall my mother dragging him away from Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Erich Maria Remarque to meet the other guests," Kalman says today. "My father would sneak back to the kitchen as soon as he could to rejoin his illustrious cohorts and his little girl."

Much of the cosmopolitan sophistication the Hungarian-born Emmerich Kalman and his colleagues brought with them to America during the 1930s and '40s permeates his more than 15 operettas. These tuneful confections sealed his reputation as the leading composer of Viennese operetta – rivaling that of Franz Lehar – in the period following World War I.

John von Rhein
John von Rhein
Bio | E-mail | Recent columns
Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60642, USA

Alas, Kalman's celebrity was not to last: Almost all of his once wildly popular light operas fell out of the repertory, except in German-speaking countries, following his death, in Paris, in 1953. Undaunted, Yvonne Kalman has been actively promoting her father's works throughout the world. Once again, her crusade has taken her to Chicago.

Beginning this weekend, Chicago Folks Operetta is presenting the local premiere of Kalman's 1926 operetta, "The Circus Princess" ("Die Zirkusprinzessin"), a work not staged in the U.S. for more than 80 years. The show will run in repertory with another rarity, also a Chicago premiere – Eduard Kunneke's 1921 "The Cousin from Nowhere" ("Der Vetter aus dingsda"). Both works play through June at the Chopin Theatre.

"The Circus Princess" is the second Kalman operetta Chicago Folks Operetta has ventured, following "Arizona Lady" in 2010. Although not as well known as the composer's "The Gypsy Princess" and "Countess Maritza," "Zirkusprinzessin" is awash with the Hungarian melodies, Viennese waltz rhythms and romantic intrigues that are hallmarks of the Kalman style. There's even a circus act or two thrown in.

The Folks Operetta performances will employ a 19-piece orchestra under Anthony Barrese's direction, stage direction by Bill Walters and a new English translation by artistic director Gerald Frantzen and dramaturge Hersh Glagov.

This year marks Emmerich Kalman's 130th birthday anniversary, a milestone that is being honored in such unlikely places as Russia, where his music is rivaled in popularity only by Tchaikovsky's, his daughter says.

She remembers Kalman as "the sweetest, kindest of men" and "a very loving husband and father." She recalls walking the family dachshund with her father, who often would stop abruptly and exclaim, 'Yvonneka [his nickname for her], I have a melody in my head and I must go back home and write it down!"

Emmerich Kalman was born in a provincial town in Hungary in 1882, studied music at the Budapest Conservatory alongside Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly, and turned to composition after painful neuritis forced him to abandon all hope of a career as a concert pianist.

Although his most successful operettas made him the toast of Vienna and were produced to great acclaim in London and New York during the first decades of the 20th century, Kalman really wanted to be known as a serious composer of operas and orchestral works. "But he just had those great melodies getting in the way," Yvonne observes.

His cheerful demeanor masked a deep depression that resulted from the terror and privations the Jewish composer and his family suffered following Adolf Hitler'sannexation of Austria in 1938. Soon after Yvonne's birth that same year they fled to Switzerland, later Paris. So popular were Kalman's works in Germany that Hitler, a great admirer of his music, sent an agent to Paris promising to make the composer "an honorary Aryan" if he would return to the fatherland.

Kalman not only adamantly refused but moved his family to America on one of the last ships to leave Europe before World War II escalated. His relatives were not so fortunate: All perished in Nazi concentration camps. Their fate would haunt him the rest of his life.

Life in the U.S. was no easier for Kalman and his family than some other European emigres. Hollywood fame beckoned briefly after Louis B. Mayer, the studio chief of MGM, bought the movie rights to several of his operettas. But after America declared war on Germany, the studios shied away from films with Hungarian and European subjects, and plans were dropped.

Deeply disappointed, Kalman uprooted the family once again, settling in New York. Their home became a meeting place for numerous war-displaced European cultural and literary figures.

Yvonne was all of 3 when she first became aware of her father's fame. Emmerich Kalman had been invited to conduct Arturo Toscanini's orchestra, the NBC Symphony, and the music wafting from the radio in the Kalman living room sounded strangely familiar. Her older brother, Charles, told her it was composed by their father.

"I was far too young at the time to understand even what conducting meant," she recalls. "I only knew this music touched my heart and put me on cloud nine. It has had the same effect on me to this day."

No surprise, then, that Yvonne Kalman will be sitting in the first row for the opening performances of "Circus Princess" here this weekend.

She takes heart in the fact that such marquee singers as Renee Fleming have expressed a desire to investigate the many musical gems by her father that remain largely unknown.

"It will take an artist of stature to put them back on the map – that's the only way," she says. "With such a huge repertory of standard works opera companies are committed to doing, they are not necessarily going to do anything Viennese that isn't 'Die Fledermaus' or "The Merry Widow.' ''

Chicago Folks Operetta's production of "The Circus Princess" opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday and runs through July 1 at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St. Kunneke's "The Cousin from Nowhere" runs June 15-30. $35-$40 adults, $30 seniors and students; 708-383-2742, chicagofolksoperetta.org.

Met 'Ring' on PBS

The Metropolitan Opera's controversial new Robert Lepage production of Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen" is coming to public television this fall. PBS stations, including WTTW-Ch. 11 in Chicago, will air the four music dramas on successive nights in primetime on Sept. 11-14 as part of the "Great Performances at the Met" series. "Wagner's Dream," a companion documentary chronicling the challenges of creating the high-tech production, will be broadcast on Sept. 10. This will mark only the third time a complete "Ring" cycle will have aired on PBS.

The operas and documentary will be screened in movie theaters throughout the U.S. this spring and summer.

Easily accessible from the US and Canada, Puerto Vallarta is a perfect summer destination providing a host of activities that all can enjoy. From strolling along Puerto Vallarta's lively Malecón while enjoying free outdoor entertainment, to riding zip lines across tree tops or swimming with dolphins and sea lions, children and adults of all ages can share memorable moments in a fun-filled summer vacation.

Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico's most popular destinations and Thomas Dale & Associates (TDA), a leading global investigative and security firm, found that the international destination is one of the safest for American and Canadian travelers.

This is a sentiment agreed by travelers as this year the destination has received numerous consumer-awarded titles, among them "Most Romantic Mexican Destination" and "Favorite Mexican Beach" from the readers of About.com and "Trip Advisor's Traveler's Choice awards have chosen Puerto Vallarta as the #9 Beach Destination and the number one overall destination in Mexico.

Following is a list of some of the more popular activities to be enjoyed in Puerto Vallarta.

A Day in a Traditional Mexican Ranch: Ranches offer tours on horseback, by motorbike or hikes through surrounding ecosystems.

Sea Turtle Release Program Every night throughout turtle season, May to September, staff members from various hotels located along the beach gather the turtle eggs from the shore and take them for incubation. Once the hatchlings are born and are ready to be released into their natural habitat, the various hotels invite their guests to aid in the release of the newborn hatchlings on the beaches so they find their way into the water.

Las Caletas Islands Las Caletas is a secluded paradise, with a spectacular backdrop of the Sierra Madre Mountains, beautiful beaches, and even a tropical reef.

Los Arcos National Marine Park Famous for its 1600 foot underwater cliff "Devil's Drop", this protected park consists of towering rock arches, caves, tunnels, and reefs full of marine animals.

Yelapa & Majahuitas The small fishing villages of Yelapa and Majahuitas are two relaxing and unspoiled paradises that allow visitors to come in close contact with wildlife inhabiting the hills of the jungle.

Corbeteña Considered to be one of the best diving sites in Mexico. Its remote location is a benefit for those visitors desiring a secluded diving site, away from the typical diving tour destinations.

El Salado Mangrove Estuary The Estero del Salado lagoon is a paradise for birdwatchers; a beautiful expanse of white mangle, palm trees, mosses, ferns, and fauna.

San Sebastian This remote village has retained the charm of colonial Mexico while offering an impressive array of modern amenities and expansive views.

Canopy Tours: Canopy tours are an exciting way to see and learn about the varied tropical flora and fauna of the rainforest surrounding Puerto Vallarta. The adrenaline mounts as one rides from treetop to treetop, hovering over the canopy of the lush vegetation of the Sierra Madre Mountains.

Water Parks Numerous water parks feature swimming pools, slides, toboggans, tube and thrill rides. Some water parks also offer dolphin, seal and sea lion shows as well.