August 21, 2009
The Aspen Music Festival’s final concert of the season will be held, as always, at the Benedict Music Tent – although an equally appropriate venue might be the Wheeler Opera House. The 2009 season closes with a performance of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, and the composer, who was known almost exclusively for his operas, seemed to be in operatic mode when he created his setting of the Catholic funeral Mass. Verdi’s Requiem is massive and dramatic; it was described, following its 1874 debut, as “Verdi’s latest opera, in church vestments.” In its final bow of the season, the Music Festival has Leonard Slatkin conducting the Aspen Festival Orchestra, vocal soloists Michelle DeYoung, Vinson Cole and Morris Robinson, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra Chorus on Sunday, Aug. 23.
In an arts scene heavy on polish and professionalism, the Hudson Reed Ensemble’s annual Shakespeare in the Park event is a refreshing example of the “Let’s put on a show!” spirit. (Though the 2007 episode when ensemble director Kent Reed stabbed himself during a performance of “Julius Caesar,” necessitating a mid-show trip to the hospital, took anti-professionalism to an extreme.) Mike Monroney adapted and directs the current production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and on the subject of whether his script updates – name changes, bicycles, contemporary pop music – would work, Monroney gave a cheery, “Maybe, hope so, let’s find out.” The actors are amateurs, some first-timers, and the setting – outdoors, next to the Pitkin County Jail – is even more of an improvisation. As it should be with community productions, the risk is low – admission is free. The show lasts an hour, and the rewards – seeing your neighbors pull off Shakespeare, spending a summer’s eve under the Colorado sky – are potentially huge. It runs Wednesdays and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. through Sept. 2.
Punk, disco and New Wave all originated in the mid-’70s. Just as significant a bond between them is how dated and disposable the three genres can seem. Perhaps unique among ’70s bands, Blondie combined elements of all three styles (and even gave an early shout-out to rap, in the hit “Rapture”). The minimalist, hard-edged “One Way or Another” fit the punk formula; “Heart of Glass” had a heart of disco; and the synthesizers of “Call Me” belonged in the New Wave mainstream. Perhaps that is why Blondie has endured better than, say, the Knack. An even better reason might be lead singer Deborah Harry, who demonstrated a desire to stay current – as well as a fine voice – when she performed with her own band last year in Aspen. Harry, along with fellow original members Chris Stein and Clem Burke, return under the Blondie banner to Belly Up on Wednesday, Aug. 26.