For better or worse, nineteenth-century composer Richard Wagner regarded himself as the most German of men. Classified as an anarchist, socialist, proto-fascist, nationalist, vegetarian and anti-Semite, among other things, Wagner was a stern man whose name has appeared in connection with almost every major trend in German history since the mid-1800s. One can only imagine how he might have responded to the classic Looney Toons spoof of his four-opera masterpiece Der Ring des Nibelungen, in which Bugs Bunny takes on the role of conductor: Sputtering indignation followed by sauerkraut and beer seems a logical guess. But were the composer to take in Das BarbecŁ, opening tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, it's doubtful that an entire Oktoberfest would pacify him.
Whittling Wagner's twenty-hour multi-opera into a two-hour musical comedy, the irreverent Barbecü bills itself as "an evening of musical comedy and melodrama set in the heart of modern-day Texas." A tale of love and avarice, the musical follows two groups of not-so-ideally suited lovers and three generations of sparring families on a quest for a ring. No hobbits or orcs enter the picture, but more than thirty other characters do, including cowboys, giants, dwarfs and synchronized-swimming rivermaids. Five actors tackle the enormous production, and the music ranges from Tex-Broadway to jazz to swing, with song titles like "Rodeo Romeo," "Hog-Tie Your Man" and "Makin' Guacamole." Supertitles appear above the action throughout the performance, and an on-stage band accompanies the show. A passel of pyrotechnics tops off the fun.
"It's definitely not your typical opera," says the Arvada Center's Valerie Hamlin. "It's incredibly funny, and great for people of any age."
Music is by Scott Warrender, who has composed tunes for January Book and The Texas Chainsaw Manicurist. Theater director and playwright Jim Luigs, whose most recent play, Barbara Cooks Broadway, just wrapped in New York, penned the book and lyrics. Arvada Center artistic producer Rod Lansberry takes on directing duties.
Das Barbecü plays through July 25. Showtime information and tickets, $32 to $42, are available through the Arvada Center box office, 720-898-7200, or at www.arvadacenter.org. -- Adam Cayton-Holland
Street Treats and Feats
Buskerfest kicks out the jams
"If Ringling Brothers has the greatest, then we have the craziest show on earth," says Performance International producer Al Kraizer. He's talking about the Denver International Buskerfest, the tumbling, juggling, unicycling and just plain strange street-performance extravaganza unwinding on the 16th Street Mall this weekend. "Busker" is an Old World term that refers to the shoes entertainers wore as they traveled from city to city. Denver's buskers will perform in alleyways and plazas and on temporary stages set up between the Denver Pavilions and Writer Square. More than thirty performers from around the world will bend their bodies, manipulate magic and breathe fire -- all for a little pocket change. "There are no bad clarinet players at Buskerfest," says Kraizer. "These people make a living doing this. They are the crème de la crème of street performers from around the globe."
In fact, Kraizer says, "This festival is the largest and longest-running celebration of street performance in America." Now in its twelfth year, the fest will also present "Late Night Lunacy," a performance with a slightly more adult flair, on Friday and Saturday night, from 8 p.m. until midnight in front of the Denver Pavilions.
Buskerfest runs from noon to midnight today and tomorrow and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit www.buskerfest.com. "We don't have enough of this type of entertainment in Denver," Kraizer adds. "We like to call it comic relief for summer, a big seasonal smorgasbord of crazy people." -- Kity Ironton
Pack a picnic and enjoy a free evening of magical music at tonight's Opera on the Rocks, a performance by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. "Everyone knows that it's absolutely breathtaking up there," says CSO spokeswoman Jayce Keane. "Combine that with the opera music, and it's just a fabulous experience that will stay with you for a long time."
Part of the city's free-concert series, the show will be conducted by Adam Flatt and feature music from The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen and La Traviata.
"I think that we get an audience out to these shows that doesn't necessarily come into Boettcher Hall, because it's a little more relaxed, more casual" at Red Rocks, says Keane. "Any time you can introduce new people to the music, it's a great opportunity."
Opera on the Rocks strikes its opening chord at 7:30 p.m. at the amphitheater in Morrison. In case of rain, the concert will take place Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at Boettcher Concert Hall, in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. For more information, visit www.coloradosymphony.org. -- Julie Dunn
Copper Circus springs into another world
Forget ferocious lions and clowns being shot out of cannons. Today's Copper Circus Arts hullabaloo, the first in a series of free circuses held this summer at Copper Mountain Resort, is of the more artistic variety. "I think a lot of people have a preconceived notion about what the word 'circus' implies," says juggler Sven Jorgensen, one of the performers. "This is much more of a modern circus."