Insiders pick the hot summer events in Aspen
June 8, 2008
ASPEN, Colorado Everybody and their brother knows what goes on in Aspen during the summertime. Theater, dance, gallery and museum shows, movies, talks on literature and politics. And music, of almost every variety. It doesnt take an expert to find great cultural events in the Aspen summer; poke your nose around any corner and theres a concert, an opening, a lecture right in front of you.But which among them are the truly outstanding events, with potential strong enough to pique the interest of the people whose job it is to pay attention to this stuff? Below, Aspens arts insiders programmers, writers, artists and the like select what looks most interesting to them.I asked them to stick to their areas of expertise, to focus on events in the Roaring Fork Valley, and to limit it to three or four events. But you try getting these creative types to stay within the boundaries.
Michael Goldberg, owner of Belly Up AspenStephen Marley [Friday, June 6, Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brew Fest]. I have an affinity for all the Marley kids, especially Stephen and Damian. Stephens played the club at least three times since weve opened. Im excited to see him play for a couple of thousand people, and to have people see him in that setting. And for me to see him in that setting.Vladimir Feltsman [Aug. 7, Harris Hall, in the Aspen Music Festival]. Every time he plays, Ill go see him. Hes a great interpreter, especially of Bach, so I really like this program [featuring concertos by Bach and Shostakovich, and a symphony by Mozart]. And I know hes been conducting a lot, though Ive never seen him do that. So Ill be looking forward to seeing him conduct.Bob Dylan [Aug. 30, Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival]. I saw Dylan twice last year, at Austin City Limits. People say, why do you want to see him again? But hes so good, hes a legend, and they were helluva shows. Hes gone through so many changes in the last six years, and become so accessible and opened up.Tom Ressel, local singer-songwriterAmos Lee [Aug. 17, Belly Up]. Love Amos. I was playing at Belly Up [in December, 2006], the night before Amos Lee. I forget who I was opening for, but I had to get back to my other job, at the liquor store, to close. Goldberg, the owner of the club, grabbed me and said there was someone who wanted to meet me Amos Lee. I had listened to his album, and knew who he was, so I thought that was pretty cool.Im going to be a little more diligent about seeing local music. This guy, Mike Waters, I see him every now and again. And every time I hear him, hes coming up with great lyrics. I saw him at Steves Guitars, and hes definitely getting good.Stevie Wonder [July 1, Fiddlers Green Amphitheatre, Englewood]. I know its not in the valley. But this reminds me of, as a toddler, seeing Sesame Street, and Stevie Wonder came on and that was cool. He was up there, sitting with all the kids on Sesame Street, playing his keyboards.
Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator magazine critic-at-large and longtime classical music critic (Steimans reviews of the Aspen Music Festival have been appearing in The Aspen Times since 2003.)Im looking forward with relish to experiencing what happens when Vladimir Feltsman plays and conducts Bach and Shostakovich concertos and a Mozart symphony on Aug. 7.The Bronfman-Shaham-Harrell Trio brings together three of Aspens greatest regulars on July 15 to play my favorite 20th-century chamber work, the Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2, and a new piece by Marc-Andr Dalbavie, a Music Festival co-commission.The powerful soprano Jane Eaglen sings Strauss Four Last Songs, some of the most gorgeous and moving autumnal music ever written, with Ingo Metzmacher conducting the Aspen Festival Orchestra, on Aug. 10.The bassist Edgar Meyers seat-of-the-pants music-making with other performers always earns a spot on my highlights list. On Aug. 13, he shares the stage with mandolinist Chris Thile. Quiet wonders will certainly ensue.When Schoenbergs lavish, ultra-Romantic Gurre-Lieder closes the festival in Aug. 17, the massed orchestra, choruses and soloists might outnumber the audience. But the day cant help but be glorious, especially with voices like Jon Villars, Measha Brueggergosman, Anthony Dean Griffey and John Relyea on hand, and David Zinman conducting.Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, director and chief curator, Aspen Art MuseumTom Sachs, who has an exhibit opening July 25 at the Baldwin Gallery. He is an artist Ive admired a long time, and hes a good friend. He has a major project at Lever House, in New York City, a real tour de force.On Sunday, June 8, theres an Evening with the Artists at Anderson Ranch. One of them is Willie Birch, an artist whos a native of New Orleans. And a total firecracker, both in the work he makes and in his politics. I had the chance to have a dialogue with him in New Orleans, in October, when he was giving a talk. His life and art come together to make a strong statement. He doesnt mince words.Bob Dylan: How awesome is that?The Dalai Lama [appearing July 26 at the Aspen Institutes Celebration of Tibetan Culture]. Id be honored to be in his presence at any time. But on the occasion of the Olympics being in Beijing how forward-thinking of Aspen to have him here then?
David Ledingham, local actor/directorI think its important to do new works. Thats interesting to me. So Im excited the Aspen Institute is bringing Tyne Daly, Anna Deavere Smith and Sarah Jones [to the Aspen Ideas Festival, June 30-July 6]. Smith and Jones are doing new work, creative work, that comes out of their lives, that comes out of the culture of our times. Theyre creating new theater.Ive always been a big fan of Ed Berkeley [director of the Aspen Opera Theater Center at the Aspen Music Festival and School]. Im interested in the two versions of Cinderella [Rossinis La Cenerentola, conducted by Bruno Cinquegrani, July 8, 10 and 13; and Massenets Cendrillon, conducted by Patrick Summers, Aug. 12, 14 and 16], and [Humperdincks] Hansel and Gretel [conducted by Richard Bado, July 24, 27 and 28]. Ed comes from a theater background; he was my text analysis teacher at Circle in the Square, in New York, in 1986. He has a theater company, Willow Cabin. Opera usually has horrible acting values, but Ed has taught his opera students to act, and thats something taking off all over in opera. Thats exciting to me, because the story is just as powerful as the music.And I love the simulcast in the park [Hansel and Gretel, July 28, Wagner Park]. I saw last years Carmen, and it was great.Im very interested to see how Jay Sandrich, a big Hollywood sitcom director, handles the stage, with Rounding Third [July 10-Aug. 21, at Theatre Aspen]. And Seussical [July 11-Aug. 16, at Theatre Aspen], directed by Marisa Post, should be a great show for kids.Finally, Im interested in seeing what Ruth Leons impact is on Kent Reeds Much Ado About Nothing, [to be presented on the Pitkin County Courthouse Plaza, in mid-August, with dates to be confirmed]. She has quite a background with Shakespeare; shes from London, a critic and director.
Laura Thielen, Aspen Film executive directorOne film I saw at Sundance which I just love is Frozen River [released nationally Aug. 1]. Its a small film, really well done. Its about a woman who lives in a trailer with two kids, on the edge of an Indian reservation. And its about smuggling. Everything you look for in a film that gets the indie moniker locales, characters, the story arc it delivers.The Dark Knight, the new Batman movie [July 18]. I cant say Im a devotee of the Batman serial. But its Christopher Nolen directing, and its Heath Ledgers final role. He was a great actor, and died too young.The Edge of Heaven, by the director of Head-On [German-Turk director Fatih Akins award-winning 2004 film]. That was such an amazing film, so Im looking forward to this one.I keep hearing great things about Roman de Gare, the new film by Claude Lelouch, with Fanny Ardant. I dont know if its going to be any good.And a slew of documentaries: Gonzo [July 4], which I already saw and liked; American Teen [July 25], the new Nanette Burstein film which won an award at Sundance; and Standard Operating Procedure, the new Errol Morris film.
Gram Slaton, executive director of the Wheeler Opera HouseSalman Rushdie at Aspen Summer Words. [The festival, presented by the Aspen Writers Foundation, runs June 22-26. Rushdie gives the Keynote Address on June 22.] Hes been a great author, and a controversial author. He has been through a hell of a storm, and I want to see how it influences his work.Little Shop of Horrors [June 26-Aug. 16, at Theatre Aspen]. Its just fun. You dont have to think too hard.And whatever ballet the Aspen Music Festival is partnering on with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. [Portions of Mozarts Symphony No. 25 in G minor and Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, with choreography by David Parsons; and Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor, with choreography by Jorma Elo, on Aug. 6 at the Benedict Music Tent]. I love seeing two of our great arts groups working together like that. And its great to see dance with live music.
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Stewart Oksenhorn, Aspen Times arts & entertainment editorWell, since our outside mavens left a little room at the bottom here, I guess Ill let loose with an opinion or 12 of my own.The middle day, Saturday, June 7, of the Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brew Fest features the two icons of New Orleans popular music, the Neville Brothers and Dr. John. The Nevilles made a bunch of appearances in the early days of Jazz Aspen Snowmass, but havent been here in a decade. Brother Aaron Neville is probably my favorite singer ever. The very retro soul band Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings have played a few gigs at Belly Up; they get more exposure as an opening act at Jazz Aspens June Festival [June 21] The headliner that night is the Brian Setzer Orchestra, a rockabilly big band led by the former Stray Cats singer-guitarist. John Fogerty was phenomenal in his Jazz Aspen debut three years ago; his return to the Labor Day Fest [Aug. 31] comes on the heels of a sensational 2007 album, Revival.As for popular music in the great indoors thats our incomparable Belly Up make mine the Raconteurs [June 20], the latest project by the White Stripes Jack White; and Steve Earle [July 6], the opinionated singer-songwriter who also makes an appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival.In the classical field, Ive got my eye on David Finckel. In a mad dash through the Aspen Music Festival [June 24-28], the cellist and his wife, pianist Wu Han, lead a master class and perform a duo concert, before he turns his attention to the magnificent Emerson String Quartet, which plays a pair of concerts, in Harris Hall and the Benedict Music Tent.The local childrens theater troupe Gottlieb Bartley Productions put itself on the local map three years ago with an al fresco production, in Basalt, of The Wizard of Oz. Now they make their upvalley, outdoors debut, performing A Chorus Line [July 20] and Fame [Aug. 3] on Snowmass Fanny Hill.After last winters Neil Young-focused Marlon Brando, Pocahontas, and Me exhibition, the Aspen Art Museum takes another trip into the sonic world with Unknown Pleasures [opening Aug. 9], a group show that focuses on the connections between music and visual art.Terry Kinney is giving me two reasons to step into the movie theater. Hes featured in Turn the River, about a pool hustler (Famke Janssen) who needs to win $50,000 to get her son back, and he directs Diminished Capacity [July 18], an indie comedy starring Matthew Broderick and Alan Alda as his Alzheimers afflicted uncle.I think my biggest kick of the summer, though, wont be sitting in an audience. It will be running into comedy writer George Meyer on the streets of Aspen.Finally, let me commend my contributors above for their good taste and insights. Dylan, Gonzo, Meyer & Thile, Little Shop of Horrors, the Dalai Lama, Salman Rushdie Id have picked them if someone hadnt gotten there first.