When Mozart penned the music for Les Petits Riens (The Little Nothings) in 1778, he was working on commission for Jean-Georges Noverre, then-ballet master of the Paris Opera, which performed both operas and ballets at the time. The "little nothings" of the title refer to the group's students, underlings to the established dancers and singers. Just as the ballet was choreographed for couples, Mozart paired up instruments for the piece: two violins, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets. Les Petits is one of three works that will be performed by Ballet Florida as it opens its season tonight at the Eissey Theatre (Palm Beach Community College, 4200 Congress Ave., Lake Worth). The other two works on the triple bill are Strauss' Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), and Vicente Nebrada's Our Waltzes. The show, which will run through the weekend, begins at 8 p.m. tonight, with additional performances at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices range from $18 to $25. Call 561-439-8141.
The populations of more than half the American bat species are in severe decline or already listed as endangered. So who cares? Anyone who enjoys a good margarita, and farmers battling rootworm, that's who. The margarita's main ingredient, tequila, is produced from agave plants, which depend heavily on bat pollination. And one colony of big brown bats -- about 150 or so -- gobbles in excess of 33 million rootworms every summer. "Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats" reveals such beneficial bat activities and debunks the vampire myth. On view today through January 10 at the Museum of Discovery and Science (401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale), the exhibit includes bat models; a simulated rain forest featuring hands-on activities related to bats' sonar abilities, pollination, diet, and flight; and a cave filled with live bats. Elsewhere, an entire gallery of artifacts and displays is viewed from a bat's-eye perspective -- upside down. Admission prices are $5 and $6. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Call 954-467-6637.
If you thought the saga of a deaf, dumb, and blind kid was strange fare for a rock opera (the Who's Tommy), get a load of Mike Watt and the Black Gang. Watt, who helped blaze the trail for today's alternative scene as the bassist for genre-crunching punk bands the Minutemen and fIREHOSE, is on the road with a backup trio performing his own opera, Contemplating the Engine Room. In the tradition of the most avant-garde stuff by Captain Beefheart, Watt uses punk vignettes to tell the story of three guys in the engine room of a boat. (In maritime parlance, such a crew is called a "black gang.") Because he was never a navy man himself, Watt borrowed from his dad's stories of sea life for lyric fodder. But the song cycle also hints at Watt's own life: Like three boat-mates, he and his band members in the Minutemen worked together through calm and stormy seas -- and tragedy. Minutemen lead singer and guitarist D. Boon died in 1985. "What I really wanted to do," Watt says of the opera, which was released in album form in 1997, "was make one whole piece that celebrates three people playing together." The rock opera will be performed today at Ray's Downtown Blues, 519 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $8. Doors open at 9 pm. Call 561-835-1577.
Aircraft carriers are often compared to floating cities, complete with their own barber shops and other typical onshore amenities. But during Fleet Week '98, when landlubbers get to hop aboard giant Navy ships at Port Everglades, visitors might feel like they're at the airport. In response to recent acts of terrorism, folks will go through security checkpoints before walking the gangplank, so event promoters suggest allowing a little extra time. Once they've gotten security clearance, though, crowds will cruise the hallways, crew quarters, and work areas of numerous ships, including the U.S.S. Harry Truman, the newest aircraft carrier in the nation's fleet. The event, which includes concerts by the U.S. Navy Band Jacksonville runs through October 13. Admission is free; parking costs $1 per hour at the Northport parking garage, next to the Broward County Convention Center (1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale). Also, for security reasons, the ship-viewing schedule will be updated daily on hotlines in lieu of an advanced printed schedule. Call 954-468-3539 or 954-767-6289.