Wednesday January 24 Photo synthesis: A twentieth-century genius who created groundbreaking work in both commercial photography and revealing portraiture is the subject of Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light, a visually superb public-TV documentary focusing on Avedon's celebrated fifty-year career. The program, a clean-edged insider's portrayal as striking as a modern-day Avedon New Yorker pic, will air this evening at 9 on KRMA-TV/Channel 6. Closer to home, yet representative of an exotic, free-spirited and slowly disappearing culture still existing thousands of miles from here, is Builder Levy: Mongolia, Land of Chinggis Khan, a photography show now on display at the Camera Obscura Gallery, 1309 Bannock St. Levy, best known for his socially conscious depictions of Appalachian coal miners, spent the summer of 1992 traveling vast Mongolian expanses and, along the way, photographing the country's nomadic horsemen. Anyone visiting the Mongolian exhibit hanging across the street at the Denver Art Museum will find this show a fine companion excursion; call 623-4059 for gallery hours and information.
Thursday January 25 Ghost story: A simple story by Yiddish author S. Ansky based on folklore he culled from Eastern Europe early in the century, A Dybbuk tells the tale of a once-betrothed woman possessed by the wandering ghost of her dead fiance on the eve of her marriage to another. A new adaptation by Pulitzer winner Tony Kushner opens tonight at 8 at the Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. The production preserves the play's folkloric and poetic qualities and enhances the plot with traditional Jewish dances and klezmer music performed by a live ensemble--making it a fascinating experience for Jewish and non-Jewish viewers alike. A Dybbuk continues daily except Sunday, through February 24; to reserve tickets, $23 to $30, call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS.
Malt rats: When Scots raise their glasses and declare slainte (a traditional toast to one's health), there's a good chance that's a rare, single-malt uisge beatha, or "water of life," (aka Scotch whiskey) sloshing around in those cups. The barley-based elixir will be flowing--well, perhaps just dripping--at A Celebration of Scotch & Scots, a tribute at the Wynkoop Brewing Company to Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns, who was born on this day back in 1759. Trust us on this one: Burns and the spirits, they all age well. The event, also featuring Scottish pipe music, a light buffet and a brief history, courtesy of the Single Malt Scotch Society, begins at 7. Kilts are optional; haggis will not be served. Admission is $30; for reservations, call the Wynkoop, 1634 18th St., at 297-2700.
Friday January 26 Bach to the future: A triple-harpsichord concerto, a pair of Brandenburg Concertos, a second harpsichord work performed by award-winning keyboardist Christopher Taylor and a full-blown run-through of the Christmas Oratorio are only the highlights: This year's three-day Boulder Bach Festival is coming out of the chute looking like a winner. The all-Bach gala begins tonight at 8 in Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building, CU-Boulder campus, then moves to First United Methodist Church, 14th and Spruce, Boulder, tomorrow night at 8, and concludes Sunday at 2, back at Grusin Hall. To purchase festival tickets, $22 to $50 each night ($11-$12.50 students; three-day series tickets, $59-$95), call 494-3159. In addition, Denverites can enjoy festival highlights at 8 p.m. Monday, January 29, at St. John's Cathedral, 14th Ave. and Washington St. Admission to the St. John's concert is $15 ($10 seniors and students); call 831-7115, ext. 17, for reservations.
Sold! To the bookworm in the back row... The collectors will be out en masse. But don't be daunted by the discriminating company at this year's Rare and Not-So-Rare Book Auction, the annual fundraiser sponsored by the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation. Go and you'll at least get to take a look at 130 one-of-a-kind items from the collection of Denverite Arthur Rippey, who was known worldwide as a patron of hand-binders. Over 200 books and objects in all will be on the block tonight from 6 to 9:30 in the Denver Central Library's Gates Western History Reading Room--including clay pipes puffed on by Samuel Johnson, a nineteenth-century Grimm's Fairy Tales with lush Arthur Rackham illustrations, an inscribed volume by Carl Sandburg and much more. Admission is $35 ($30 Library Friends members); call 640-6375 for details. The library is located at 13th and Broadway, adjacent to Civic Center Park and the Denver Art Museum.
Saturday January 27 Popular mechanics: This time you can't claim that you have two left feet and no sense of rhythm. If all those fancy Latin dance steps confuse your gringo brain, tonight's Let's Dance Together: Fiesta Latino offers a solution. Boulder instructor Carmen Amalia Reina de Nelson, an expert on all forms of baile popular--Latin-American and Caribbean dances including salsa, samba, cha-cha and merengue--will oversee this dance party, which takes place from 9 to 1 at the Space for Dance, 2590 Walnut, Boulder. Reina de Nelson will offer impromptu lessons throughout the evening and give tips on which hip to swivel when. Tickets are $5 to $10 (proceeds benefit the Colorado Dance Festival); call 442-7666.
Lone ranger: Comic George Carlin has been around long enough to work his way through several incarnations--suit-and-tie satirist, rebellious counterculture hero, drug humorist, burnout and comeback kid. But Carlin's always been funny strictly on his own terms. More than thirty years after cracking his first joke on stage, the unique and socially principled Carlin, who shows no signs of slowing down, will appear tonight at 8 at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Admission ranges from $20 to $30; call 830-TIXS to reserve seats.