Aspen winter arts scene abounds with choices |

Aspen winter arts scene abounds with choices

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Contributed photo An Evening with Lily Tomlin takes place March 18 at Aspen's Wheeler Opera House.

ASPEN ” Downhillers in Aspen are forced to make choices: On a sick powder day, do you go for an epic round or two on Highland Bowl, thereby killing maybe an hour on the hike? Or do you opt for lap after lap doing the Bell Mountain-to-the Dumps on Aspen Mountain?

Tough call. And in Aspen, such hard decisions aren’t limited to the slopes. Even a non-skier spending a winter in Aspen will eventually have to make some choices between concerts and art openings, readings and dance performances.

Aspen’s cultural calendar”even in the winter, which in years gone by was the cultural offseason”has become so crowded that the truism, “you can’t do it all,” does apply.

Once upon a time, the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s schedule of events began and ended with its summer Writers’ Conference. Then they added a cold-season component, Winter Words, which brought poets, memoirists and novelists to town for readings and talks. This year, the Winter Words series becomes must-see-anti-TV. All five events in the series are the kind that will bring out not just hardcore literature lovers, but more casual book fans as well.

The series opens Jan. 29 with Scott Turow at Paepcke Auditorium in Aspen. As the author of seven best-selling novel including “Presumed Innocent,” “Burden of Proof “and “Pleading Guilty” and a novella, “Limitations,” Turow has also written works of non-fiction including “One L” and “Ultimate Punishment” and frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post and The New Yorker. His books have been translated into more than 25 languages, sold more than 25 million copies world-wide and have been adapted into one full length film and two television miniseries.

Winter Words continues with Jane Hirshfield on Feb. 5 at Aspen’s Hotel Lenado. The author of six collections of poetry, Hirshfield’s works encompass the key issues of humanity including desire and loss, impermanence and beauty, the many dimensions of our connection to others and to the creatures and objects with which we share our lives.

On March 5 Sara Gruen takes the stage at the Wheeler Opera House. Gruen is the author of three novels including, the New York Times #1 bestseller sensation, “Water for Elephants,” which has sold over 2.5 million copies and has been translated into over 38 different languages. Along with its nomination as Entertainment Weekly’s Best Novel of the Year in 2006, “Water for Elephants” was nominated for two Quill Awards in 2006 and won the Book Sense of the Year Award in 2007. Her much anticipated fourth novel, “Ape House,” is due out this summer.

Winter Words returns to Paepcke Auditorium on March 18 with its presentation of Jeffrey Eugenides, author of “The Virgin Suicides” and the mega-bestseller, “Middlesex.” Published to acclaim in 1993, The Virgin Suicides has been translated into fifteen languages and made into a feature film. After nine years of research, Eugenides published Middlesex, which received the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, France’s Prix Medici, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Andrew Sean Greer, the author of the national bestseller “The Confessions of Max Tivoli” appears at the Given Institute on March 26. “The Confessions of Max Tivoli” was named a best book of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune, and was a Today Show Book Club Selection. His other works include “How It Was For Me” and “The Path of Minor Planets.” His most recent novel, “The Story of a Marriage,” was chosen as a summer reading pick by both The Today Show and NPR, and has been called one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2008.

Winter Words closes its season on April 2 with its presentation of Augusten Burroughs at Paepcke Auditorium. Burroughs’ renowned memoir “Running with Scissors” spent over four consecutive years on the New York Times bestseller list, including eight months at No. 1. He has since published four additional bestselling autobiographical volumes: “Dry,” “Possible Side Effects,” “Magical Thinking” and “A Wolf at the Table.”

Classical music lovers in the winter won’t find as much activity as when the Aspen Music Festival’s summer season is in session. But they will find the same elite artists. The Music Festival’s Winter Recital series brings four concerts to cozy Harris Concert Hall. All programs begin at 7:30 p.m.

Opening the series on Feb. 12 is the renowned violinist Joshua Bell. Lauded for his exquisite artistry, Bell will be accompanied by pianist Jeremy Denk in a program that includes sonatas by Brahms and Franck. The pianist and well-regarded conductor Jeffrey Kahane, music director of the Colorado Symphony, brings his engagingly effervescent playing to Aspen for a solo piano recital on Feb. 16. The evening will feature a number of preludes by Rachmaninoff.

On Feb. 25, elegant Swiss pianist Andreas Haefliger will present a joint recital with flutist Marina Piccinini in a performance that includes the Prokofiev Flute Sonata. The Winter Music series closes March 14, with the return of pianist Simone Dinnerstein. Dinnerstein’s debut at the Aspen Music Festival was a great success and this will be her first Winter Music performance. Her program includes selections by Schubert, J.S. Bach and Schumann.

Go to for ticket information.

Thanks to Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, dance happens in Aspen during the winter.

The Lar Lubovitch Dance Company performs Jan. 18. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the company is in the midst of its first U.S. tour in more than 13 years. One of the company’s signature pieces, the haunting “Men’s Stories,” will be performed in this special one-night only performance.

Jan. 31 brings the Peking Acrobats to Aspen. The Acrobats perform a “hair-raising display of artistry, acrobatics, and athleticism. With an endless display of improbable feats and mind-boggling stunts, the Peking Acrobats are a wonderful treat sure to enthrall the whole family.”

On Feb. 13-14 the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet returns home to present “…Up Close and Personal” with a fresh program by ASFB’s newest discovery, Spanish choreographer Cayetano Soto and the Aspen premiere of Twyla Tharp’s masterpiece, “Sue’s Leg.”

The ASFB’s final winter presentation will be on March 28. The program offers a new company called Complexions. Known for its unique blend of virtuosity, athleticism, sensual beauty and passion, Complexions presents works by some of the leading voices in the dance world and is a full melange of people, dance and music united to create beautiful harmony.

All Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performances are at the Aspen District Theatre. Go to for ticket information.

The Aspen Art Museum should satisfy the tastes of the most discriminating viewer. The season kicked off in December with Now You See It, which brings together a number of historically significant and emerging artists. This show runs through Feb. 1.

American conceptual artist Jim Hodges is showcased beginning Feb. 13, in an exhibition entitled Give More Than You Take, which runs until April 12.

Also on display Feb. 13 through April 12, is the work of mixed-media artist Mai-Thu Perret. This exhibition is part of her ongoing literary project, The Crystal Frontier, and will be comprised of existing and commissioned work that, reconfigured, allows new literary and aesthetic associations to arise.

Still to come this winter are: Lyle Lovett (Jan. 17), a trio show by Chris Hillman, John McEuen and Herb Pedersen (Jan. 31), Second City National Touring Company (Feb. 13), Tom Rush (Feb. 19), Vusi Mahlasela (Feb. 20), Jerry Jeff Walker (Feb. 21), Guitar Blues (Feb. 25), best-selling author Sara Gruen (March 5), Cherry Holmes (March 13), An Evening with Lily Tomlin (March 18), Arlo Guthrie (March 24) and 1964…The Tribute (March 28). Whew!

Go to for ticket information for Wheeler performances.

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