While the Aspen Music Festival and School has experienced recent turmoil on the administrative side, the musical front has been rock-solid since 1997. That’s when David Zinman was persuaded by Robert Harth, the late president of the Aspen Music Festival, to take over the position of music director here. Zinman said he came for the opportunity to teach and lead a school, but as a top international conductor, he has given the festival vitality and authority. Witness last week’s first Sunday afternoon concert, a sold-out affair featuring Yo-Yo Ma playing a world premiere cello concerto – with Zinman conducting, of course. It was the start of an immensely high-profile summer, as Zinman will also conduct the new Ned Rorem opera “Our Town,” and, in the final concert of the season, Britten’s War Requiem. Zinman receives appropriate recognition with the benefit event Music for the Maestro, featuring a horde of distinguished friends and musicians. He also conducts the Aspen Festival Orchestra Sunday, July 9, in a performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto.
Fans of the Crystal Palace – and many of them have accumulated over the last 50 years – will have to claw their way into the anniversary gathering taking place this week. The main event, a reunion of several dozen former cast members and a special show, is a private affair. Still, regular patrons have plenty of reason to attend the Palace – not the least of which is that the musical satire is as sharp and fun as ever, and the meal is more fine dining than standard dinner theater grub. New to this summer’s show is a send-up of the citizen militia guarding the Mexican border; holdovers include a way over-the-top number that lays the blame for Hurricane Katrina at the feet of … Thomas Jefferson, who arranged the Louisiana Purchase. For those who want to reminisce, the show includes a tribute to the late Joan Metcalf. Also, the Aspen Historical Society has an exhibit, Crystal Memories: 50 Years of Palace Shenanigans, featuring photos, costumes and albums, that has a grand opening Saturday, July 8, at noon.
New Orleans invades both ends of the valley this summer, as Jazz Aspen and the Glenwood Springs Summer of Jazz have offered gigs to the beleaguered musicians of the Crescent City. The southern Louisiana theme hits a high note this week as Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience and the Wild Magnolias appear as a double bill Wednesday, July 5, in the Summer of Jazz series, in Glenwood’s Two Rivers Park. Simien – who actually lives in Lafayette, some miles west of New Orleans – is a zydeco player par excellence, with a soulful voice and spirit that transcends genre. The Wild Magnolias, led by Big Chief Bo Dollis and Monk Boudreaux, re-create in dress and sound the unique experience of a Mardi Gras Indian parade. Other New Orleans acts coming up: trumpeter Irving Mayfield and the Soul Rebels Brass Band (July 12 and 26, respectively, at the Summer of Jazz); and Papa Grows Funk and Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen (July 13 and Aug. 10, in the Snowmass Free Concert Series). Capping it all is the Jazz Aspen benefit Crescent City Swing (July 22 at Aspen Highlands), featuring pianist Allen Toussaint, fresh off his gig with Elvis Costello at the June Festival.
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U.S. Ski & Snowboard on Tuesday made the official announcement that World Cup Alpine skiing is returning to Aspen Mountain in March with men’s super-G and downhill racing, part of a revamped schedule by the International Ski Federation for the 2022-23 season.