The Art of Summer - Colorado Youth Ballet

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The Art of Summer - Colorado Youth Ballet
The Art of Summer
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for having the world’s greatest string sound.
Pure delight, but at a cost. As beautiful and
comfortable as the amphitheatre is, it should
never have been built. What I first imagined
to be the sound of wind rustling through
pines prove be the unrelenting drone of
I-70 magnified by the surrounding mountains. Quiet musical passages were greatly
offended.
Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the
concert. The orchestra’s associate conductor, Bulgarian Rossen Milanov, provided a
lesson on how to engage 21st century audiences. His introductions were charming,
funny and fascinating. The historic perspective he laid out for Ravel’s La Valse took us
on a new journey through an old war horse.
The next evening, I went to Beaver
Creek Village’s Vilar Center for the Arts,
the setting for the Festival’s first of five
Chamber Classics. It was a good concert
featuring the Miami String Quartet, mother
Eugenia Zuckerman on flute and daughter Arianna’s crisp soprano, a fine pianist,
Lydia Artymiw and fresh from CC’s Music
Festival, violist Toby Appel. They played
in service to Schulhoff, Bridge, Schubert,
Thompson, Schumann and Bravo Vail’s
composer-in-residence Melinda Wagner.
But you know what? The combination of
quality, intimacy and especially the audience
energy of the CC Summer Music Festival
sets our local incarnation above anything
I’ve ever experienced!
It’s less than two hours from the Springs
to the Central City Opera House, a holy
shrine for summertime opera pilgrims. The
company’s artistic leadership set out to
make their 75th anniversary season one to
remember. It was a quadruple pay off (this
is a gambling town after all.) Verdi’s La Traviata has been an opera’s top ten since its
debut in 1853. A superb trio of principals,
a lavish production and spot-on stage direction made perhaps its 100,000th performance newly-born. The stars were Central
City veterans: Jennifer Casey Cabot, who
tore our hearts out in Hoiby’s Summer and
Smoke back in 2002, did more of the same
with her beautifully haunting and vocally
impeccable Violetta; Chad Shelton, whom
the company seems to own, three leads in
the past six years after being an apprentice,
but his Alfredo was his best yet, offering
urgent but expressive tenor ecstasy; Grant
Youngblood—no one has been featured
more in the last decade than and his glorious Germont has aged supremely.
Next came a world premiere—Poet Li
Bai by Guo Wenjing, featuring a tour-deforce performance from Chinese baritone
Hao Jiang Tian. More scenic cantata than
opera, Li Bai was sung in Chinese and
generated a surreal portrayal of China’s
seminal poet exposing the frailty of the
human condition. Wenjing’s brilliant use
of the orchestra walked a fine line ranging
from traditional Chinese to Romanticism to
Expressionism and would have been better
served in a concert hall. Massenet’s Cendrillon (Cinderella) is pure theatre and benefited from the kind of no holds barred creative
production that has been the signature
accomplishment of Central City during the
reign of Artistic Director Pat Pearce.
Menotti was again serendipitously
honored through another biographical
work. The company threw its collective
heart at The Saint of Bleeker Street and took
the audience along for a powerful, beautiful
and depressing ride. It was a fine production championed by operatic great and now
stage director Catherine Malfitano.
August was time for the Springs to
shine. I toured our new Fine Arts Center
a week after opening madness and the day
after the announcement that De Marsche
Decided to Deleave. So be it. Perhaps a new
director will actually embrace this community and find the means to use this glorious
new museum space to magnify the superb
work of our regional artists in ways not possible before. Let his legend live on.
Grafted on to our humble hamlet’s museum is now an elegant, spacious and versatile addition that feels a bit like we woke up
finding the Taj Mahal next door to a downtown McDonalds. This is no architectural
wonder like the new Hamilton Wing up at
the Denver Art Museum, but what it does
for the FAC’s permanent collection, both on
the walls of the first floor and with plenteous of on-site storage, and what it makes
possible for touring shows in the palatial
mezzanine is incredible. Oddly, there was
almost no one in the galleries on that Friday
afternoon. Although marketed as Pop and Illusion, the Weisman art exhibit, up through
Oct. 28, is an exceptional 20th century show
with much variety. Don’t miss it!
Speaking of hamlets, how about an
overload of Hamlet, made possible by Theatreworks and Tom McElroy’s Studio 802.
Murray Ross’s traditional production gave
us nothing new and although populated
by a talented cast, failed to create any real
theatrical magic. This became perfect fodder
for McElroy, who took Heiner Müller’s
Hamlet Machine far past its intended 20th
century reflective state into new territory
thanks to masterful video manipulations and
projections. His cast, Ashley Crockett, Beth
Clements, Lisa McElroy and Joe Forbeck
allowed McElroy’s and Mueller’s dismal
vision to produce 70 fascinating minutes of
small, black box, expressionist theatre.
But Ross laughed last, along with anyone who dared witness Antonio’s Revenge, a
pitch-black gruesome comedy from the pen
of Shakespeare’s contemporary Jon Madson.
It made this summer’s Shakespeare Festival
one to remember. I’ve never seen an effort
from Ross that was so thoroughly conceived
and executed. I wonder if the director’s and
cast’s attention to the possibilities here cost
them when time came to mount the one
millionth production of Hamlet.
Antonio’s performances were stellar. Best
were Michael Cobb’s deliciously twisted
portrayal of Duke Piero, Robert Rais’ side
spitting fop Bladuro and Khris Lewin’s
laughably relentless Antonio. But it was the
edgy work from each of the 16 cast members that made this production truly great.
The season’s exclamation point came
courtesy of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic in September. Under Maestro Smith’s intense and exacting baton,
Eisenstein’s silent film masterpiece, Battleship Potemkin, was elevated to even greater
revolutionary impact by our hard-working
Philharmonic through selected movements
from Shostakovich symphonies.
Autumn is upon us now. But the images
and sensations of this past summer’s artistic
journey will be with me forever. s
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