Expect plenty of beautiful flash and fanfare this weekend when the Colorado Symphony Orchestra teams up with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble to present three performances of Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird, a rich, colorful sound painting based on a Russian fairy tale. The story, which whirls around handsome Prince Ivan, a bevy of captive princesses, an ogre and--natch--the magnificent firebird herself, is prime fodder for costumers, dancers and musicians alike; the orchestra, in the meantime, will pique the audience's interest in the concert's first half by running through versions of Leonard Bernstein's Facsimile and George Gershwin's ever-popular An American in Paris. Performances are at 7:30 nightly, today through Saturday in Boettcher Concert Hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex; to reserve tickets, $10 to $40, call 830-TIXS.
Organist Jimmy McGriff sidesteps the issue of whether or not his funky instrument belongs in jazz by insisting he's strictly a bluesman, but along with Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff, he's considered one of the greats of the genre--whatever it is--and no one will argue with his heaven-sent ability on the keyboards. The great McGriff purrs alongside similarly bluesy saxophonist Hank Crawford, a veteran of Ray Charles's band of the early Sixties, tonight at the Casino Cabaret, 2633 Welton St. For tickets, $20, call 292-2626.
An opulent, fantastic seventeenth-century Spanish court setting provides the backdrop for Life Is a Dream, a mysterious fable written by Pedro Calderon de la Barca during Spain's long-gone Golden Age. The Denver Center Theatre Company's new adaptation, which retains the period's jewel-toned splendor but updates the work for a twentieth-century audience, opens tonight at 8 at the Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. The play continues daily except Sundays through June 13; admission is $27 to $33. For showtimes and reservations, call 893-4100.
In preparation for summer vacation, when all your little wild animals are set loose until fall, the Denver Zoo celebrates Memorial Day weekend by debuting a bunch of special seasonal programs scheduled to run through Labor Day. Wild Encounters, presented daily in the zoo's new Gates Wildlife Conservation Education Center by zoo staff, will bring folks up-close and personal with all manner of beasts, from a fuzzy baby camel to a green-winged macaw who's learning to speak. In addition, interactive Zoo Habitat Theater and Safari Artists programs will provide cultural experiences for all ages. On the display front, the African Kraal exhibit, which features pygmy goats and other animals domesticated on the dark continent, and Penguin Discovery, which features new Humboldt penguins, both open for business today. And beginning in June, a pair of golden lion tamarins outfitted with radio collars will be set loose in a special Primate Panorama habitat for Monkey Boot Camp, a program designed to prepare the little critters for release in the wild. So swing on over; zoo hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Call 376-4800.
It's not exactly vaudeville, but at the cusp of the 21st century, it'll do. Neon Renaissance, a daylong conglomeration of music, theater, poetry, performance and visual arts, will keep the Bug Performance & Media Art Center hopping today from 10 in the morning to 11 at night. What's promised? How about avant jazz, experimental Japanese noise music, Edward Albee's Zoo Story, live painting and "complex music presented with theatrical antics"? That's just a portion of what you'll see inside the cozy counterculture theater, located at 3654 Navajo St. Admission is $7 ($5 after 6 p.m.); for details, call 477-5977.
The best legends are the quiet ones, and Sam Bush is one of those. The extraordinary fiddler and mandolinist has never had to do anything but play the heck out of either instrument in order to make a name for himself. Though Bush is associated with bluegrass, he's really one of the seminal figures in new-grass, blending a little bit of everything, including a classical tinge, into his lightning-fast licks. Bush guests at tonight's E-Town radio taping, taking place at 8 at Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder; for tickets, $11, call 440-7666 or 786-7030.
When's the last time you strolled through Manitou Springs? It may be a tourist trap, but it's a nice kind of tourist trap, mixing Victorian charm, artsy gewgaws and mountain-town bravado in a somewhat hokey but delightful way. Here's a chance to see for yourself--finish off your three-day holiday weekend at the Manitou Springs Celebration of the Arts, wrapping up from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today with a juried art fair in Memorial Park and a funkier, unjuried crafts fair in Soda Springs Park. Both locations are easy to find on Manitou's main drag: Just drive south on I-25 and follow the crowds. Admission is free.
Be nice. Give the trombone a chance. The unwieldy horn, known for its elephantine slowness, its tendency to get in the way and its sometimes sloppy sound, doesn't necessarily have to be like that, especially when played by the likes of New York Philharmonic principal Joe Alessi, jazz virtuoso Steve Turre or Cuban jazzer Juan Pablo Torres. Those are just three of approximately 25 artists who'll be on hand for the CU-Boulder College of Music's International Trombone Festival, a week-long symposium/performance vehicle highlighting all facets of the trombone, starting today and continuing through May 30. The event kicks off tonight at 8 with a classical concert by the Spanish Brass Quintet in Macky Auditorium; other events include free evening jazz jams at the Walnut Brewery, 1123 Walnut St., Boulder, and a May 29 performance of W.M. Chambers's Mass for Mass Trombones, an awe-inspiring work requiring 77 student trombonists. Admission to all concerts at Macky are $8 to $12; for a complete schedule and reservations call 492-8008.