July 17, 2006
“Our Town,” Thornton Wilder’s 1938 classic of small-town American values, would seem to make for enviable material for an American opera composer. Copland, an obvious choice, tried, but was unable to persuade Wilder, who died in 1975. Tappan Wilder, a nephew of the playwright and executor of his estate, however, was presented with a suitable proposition: The librettist would be J.D. McClatchy, founding president of the Thornton Wilder Society. Composer would be Ned Rorem, not only the foremost American composer of vocal music, but a noted writer as well. Five organizations co-commissioned the piece; Indiana University, whose opera program is among the most prestigious, won out, and presented the world premiere to excellent reviews last winter. The Aspen Opera Theatre Center gets the Western states premiere, with Aspen Music Festival music director David Zinman conducting and Edward Berkeley, director of the opera program, directing. “Our Town” plays Saturday, July 29, and July 31 and Aug. 2 at the Wheeler Opera House; at $20, it could be the bargain of the summer.
Over the last 35 years, the Roaring Fork Valley has added some noteworthy parties to its social calendar: the Food & Wine Classic, Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ June and Labor Day festivals, X Games. Still, none matches the Carbondale Mountain Fair for creating the all-are-invited atmosphere of a community party. The 35th edition of Mountain Fair features the usual blend of the familiar and the exotic: fly-casting competition and trance-rock band SeePeopleS, local singer-songwriter Frank Martin and a demonstration of the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira, pie-tastings and Middle Eastern dancing. Topping this year’s entertainment is the Wise Fool Aerial Circus; providing high-flying adventures of a musical kind are Colorado banjoist Pete Wernick’s Flexiglass, New Mexico Latin rockers Nosotros and acoustic quartet Crooked Still. Mountain Fair is in Sopris Park Friday through Sunday, July 28-30.
In the mid-’90s, a three-vote margin saved the Red Brick Building from being sold for residential development and becoming an extension of Aspen’s largely lifeless West End. Instead, the Red Brick – now the Red Brick Center for the Arts – is a hive of activity, home to numerous arts and civic organizations. Running the place is the Red Brick Council for the Arts, which has even bigger things planned. A current modest construction project will add meeting space; beyond that, the Council seeks to expand the Red Brick’s gallery and offer expanded community programs, including artist workshops and a kids art show to replace the Aspen Art Museum’s Valley Kids. The Council kicks off its initiative with An Art Affair! a benefit exhibit and silent auction that demonstrates the level of support the facility has earned. Some 100 pieces of art are being donated, including works by featured artists ceramists Paul Soldner and Doug Casebeer and painter Judy Haas. A preview exhibit is currently on view; the silent auction is set for Thursday, July 27, at 5 p.m.