Entertaining ideas | AspenTimes.com

Entertaining ideas

Stewart Oksenhorn

Gold Medalist, 2005 International Van Cliburn Piano Competition, Fort Worth, Texas

Pianist Andrew Todd, who has played at Carnegie Hall and heads the Episcopal Church here, is giving a very generous concert (Jan. 19, Christ Episcopal Church). He’s playing major works by of Beethoven, Brahms and Prokofiev. And a piece, “Green,” by Aspen Music Festival president Alan Fletcher. That program offers an awful lot of diversity. He’s going to get a workout, and we’ll get a delightful concert.Also in that series, a 14-year-old precocious violinist, Caroline Goulding (Feb. 16), will give another varied program, including the sensuous violin sonata of César Franck. Goulding was the winner at the Music Festival’s violin competition last summer, as a 13-year-old, and wowed the audience with the Mendelssohn violin concerto. She’s a firebrand, such a freshness there, which is unique for a young artist.And the obvious two that stand out at the Music Festival’s Winter Music series are the debuts. Violinist Viktoria Mullova (Feb. 14, Harris Hall) will focus on some sublime Bach, accompanied by a harpist. And Alexander Kobrin (Feb. 23, Harris Hall) won the Van Cliburn Piano Competition; he beat out festival regular Joyce Yang. To beat her says a lot.

Although the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will be on the road a lot this winter, they still arrange to bring the best to the home folks. Pilobolus will be here Feb. 27-29 (Aspen District Theatre). Hold on tight; this one has it all.Dec. 16 there’s a book-signing at Explore Booksellers for “Finding Balance: Reconciling the Masculine/Feminine in Contemporary Art and Culture.” There are all artists from Aspen and Carbondale featured in this world-class publication. And most of the artists will be present for the signing. [Editor’s note: The book is published in conjunction with an exhibition in Texas curated by Surls, and features an essay by Surls and an introduction by his wife, artist Charmaine Locke.]

Rickie Lee Jones (Dec. 30, Wheeler Opera House). Jazzy with a streetwise vibe, Rickie Lee has a long career marked by a studied refusal to be firmly categorized. It’s hard not to smile and snap your fingers during her performances. Fans will eagerly devour her new release, scheduled for February 2007 on New West Records.Robert Earl Keen (Jan. 12, Wheeler). The road still goes on forever, and it leads to the Wheeler during Wintersköl for another night of musical storytelling, Texas-style. A fun mix of folk and country, Keen is touring behind his 2006 release, “Live at the Ryman,” which has received a lot of attention from KDNK DJs.The Asylum Street Spankers (April 15, Thunder River Theater, Carbondale). Acoustic, bluesy, old-time jazzy, but most of all just plain fun, the Spankers come to town to help celebrate KDNK’s 24th birthday. They may not bring yellow bumper stickers to slap on your SUV, but they will bring their inimitable sense of humor.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” (showing Dec. 29 in Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings, and opening nationally Dec. 29) is an unusual film by Guillermo del Toro, who did “Hellboy” and the first “Blade” film. He also did a real moody film set in Spain [“The Devil’s Backbone”]. He’s part of a real interesting crop of Mexican directors who all know one another.”The Pursuit of Happyness” (showing Dec. 19 in Academy Screenings, and opening nationally Dec. 15) is with Will Smith and Thandie Newton, who I really like. It looks like a really uplifting story. It’s based on the true story of a single father, African-American, who becomes homeless. The character sound like a remarkable person.”The Good Shepherd” (opening nationally Dec. 22), directed by Robert De Niro. He’s directed some things before, but not in quite a while. It’s got Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon, both of whom I like. It’s the story of the early days of the CIA.One mainstream film I’m curious about is “Blood Diamond” (opening nationally Friday, Dec. 8). It’s got another one of my favorite young actors, Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s set in the ’90s, in Sierra Leone.My guilt pleasure would be “Night at the Museum” (opening nationally Dec. 20), with Ben Stiller. It appeals to my love of museums, and my sense of fantasy.

The biggest thing I’m excited about is Bernadette Peters (Dec. 29, Wheeler Opera House). She’s devoted to Stephen Sondheim and so am I. She and I have shared the role of the Witch in his “Into the Woods.” I bet she’ll play something from that.Jane Monheit (Feb. 15, Wheeler), who I idolize. She can sing anything, has got tremendous range, beautiful tone. And she’s fun to watch. Great hair, Medusa-like.Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau (March 16, Wheeler). The first time I saw Brad Mehldau, in the Hotel Jerome, I was awestruck by how inventive he was in his musicianship. He was constantly inventive and innovative.And Linda Boylan (“Masterpiece,” Thursday, Dec. 7, Wheeler). I’m a big fan of Linda’s. I admire her vocal talent and her spirit.

Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau. Pianist Mehldau is jazz’s finest melody-maker; his 2003 Hotel Jerome show was outstanding. I hear this Metheny guy’s good too.Soupsköl (Jan. 12, downtown Aspen). Because you can’t get cheeseburger soup at Food & Wine.HBO Comedy Festival (Feb. 28-March 4, various venues in Aspen). Forget the big names; bring on Stand Up “B.”Some concert to be announced at Belly Up. There are no bad sightlines at one of the best-run music venues I’ve seen.”24” on Fox returns Jan. 14. Chloe’s the best female character since Nina Myers.

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“The Yacoubian Building,” by Alaa Al Aswany. I saw an interview with the author in National Geographic, and it just set all these things off. It’s set in modern-day Cairo, and it’s the story of this building, which in the heyday of Cairo was this great Art Deco building. It goes through all the complexities of modern-day Egypt – political corruption, sexual repression.”The Memory Keeper’s Daughter,” by Kim Edwards. It’s a surprise hit, at the top of the independent bookseller’s list since last summer. An editor at Aspen Summer Words told me, this is the thing to read. It’s a story of a couple, the woman is pregnant with twins, and they get caught in this freak snowstorm, so the man has to deliver the babies.And two films: “The Last King of Scotland” (showing Dec. 28 at Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings). It sounds fascinating, and I like Forest Whitaker. And “Tsotsi,” which is new on DVD. It won the Oscar for best foreign film. I don’t know if it’s so new of a story – kid grows up in slum, finds redemption, maybe. But it’s so well done.

I wouldn’t miss the beauty of Ferenc Berko’s photography, combined with the beauty of pre-independent India (Aspen Institute’s Paepcke Auditorium, Dec. 26-March 30).I can’t help myself from keeping up with the giants in town like the Baldwin Gallery and the David Floria Gallery, where there is always great and majorly important art – too many to list.At the Aspen Art Museum, I would recommend Like color in pictures (Feb. 16-April 15, with an opening reception Feb. 15). If you like color like I do, Like color in pictures is a sophisticated exploration of use of color in contemporary art to express aspects of emotion, decor, environment, persona and humor. I can’t wait.Finally, I will be curious to see newcomers Aspen Gallery at Highlands, next to the Ritz-Carlton, and One Aspen Gallery on Hyman Avenue.

When I casually asked Jean-Philippe Malaty, co-director of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, about the company’s program of mixed repertory (Feb. 16-17, Aspen District Theatre), his response was anything but casual. Malaty gushed that the ASFB had finally received permission to dance a piece, “Petit Mort,” by European Jiri Kylian, whom he called the best choreographer working today. The program features two more enticing works: “It’s Not About the Numbers,” in which choreographer Nicolo Fonte collaborated with local artist James Surls; and the return of the “Light Rain” pas de deux. It is also the only local appearance this winter, apart from the “Nutcracker,” for the ASFB dancers.On the music calendar, my top highlights are in the jazz and classical realm. The duo of guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Brad Mehldau should be outstanding. The concert, co-presented by Jazz Aspen Snowmass, follows the recent release of “Metheny Meldhau,” an intricate, contemplative recording.In addition to the fresh faces in classical music, the Aspen Music Festival’s Winter Music series brings together three Aspen veterans – violinist Robert McDuffie, cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, and violist Lawrence Dutton, of the Emerson String Quartet – to perform as a trio (March 1, Harris Hall). The three, who first assembled in Aspen, in 2003, will play works by Beethoven, Dohnányi and Mozart.On the popular music side, I, too, am intrigued by Rickie Lee Jones. Jones’ forthcoming CD, “The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard” is inspired, of all things, by her interest in the teachings of Jesus. How this squares with her last album, 2003’s “The Evening of My Best Day,” which included some nasty jabs at President Bush, will be interesting to see. And it’s always a question mark how Jones will come across: stumbling around the Wheeler stage (as she has done), or in command (as she was two years ago).On the screen, “Children of Men,” a sci-fi thriller about a future when people no longer procreate, has my attention. The director is Alfonso Cuarón (“Y Tu Mamá También”); starring are Clive Owen and Julianne Moore. (It is scheduled for a late December release.) “Little Children,” about young couples entering actual adulthood, is said to be disturbing, but director Todd Field demonstrated an ability to mate disturbing with intelligent in 2001’s “In the Bedroom.” And I won’t miss “Volver”; I’ll watch anything by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar or starring Penélope Cruz, and this has both. (Both show next month in Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings: “The Queen,” Dec. 20; “Volver,” Dec. 26.)Aspen Community Theatre got its 30th anniversary season off to a brilliant start with this fall’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The celebration continues Feb. 24-25 at the Aspen District Theatre, when ACT collaborates with Symphony in the Valley for a night of song-and-dance numbers that nods at their three-decade history.On the dining scene, don’t let winter pass without a visit to the Tavern, The Little Nell’s replacement for Ajax Tavern. The classic French bistro, in the hands of the Nell’s chef, Ryan Hardy, and wine director, Richard Betts, is divine – but may not have a long life.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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