Composer Tan Dun unites sounds from Western classical music, nature and the East in Water Passion After St. Matthew. The acclaimed composer's composition will fill Gates Concert Hall at the University of Denver at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Dun, who won multiple awards for the score of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, will conduct seventy musicians, including violinist Cho-Liang Lin, cellist Kristina Cooper and two vocal soloists, soprano Elizabeth Keusch and bass Hao Jiang Tian. The addition of percussionists -- who play rocks -- and electronically processed sounds of ancient stringed instruments and ancient Chinese flutes, demonstrate Dun's ability to fuse different styles of music.
Not only is it an auditory blend, but Water Passion mixes elements of Dun's cultural heritage, which is deeply rooted in the Buddhism of his native China, with the Christian drama of St. Matthew. "I find it fascinating to use one cultural tradition to celebrate another," explains Dun. "When I consider this story about Jesus Christ or that story about Buddha, I'm not fussy about language or culture, I'm fascinated by the ideas behind them."
Using water as a symbol of unity of the eternal, the performance employs seventeen illuminated water-filled installations, which also act as multipurpose musical instruments. The combination of visual aesthetics and multicultural music evokes powerful performances from those on stage.
"I had tears in my eyes when the last note was played and the lights went off at the Brooklyn Academy of Music," says Tian, who has been acquainted with Tan Dun since the early 1990s. The soloist performs the roles of Jesus, Judas, Peter and John; he notes that "there is something about this piece that makes it one of the most powerful contemporary pieces. It is something between a concert and an opera and mixes drama with music. You hear chanting mixed with melodies from the far East and sound designs of nature."
Tan Dun's Water Passion After St. Matthew is at the Gates Concert Hall in the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 East Iliff Avenue. Tickets, $35 to $85, can be purchased at the Newman Center box office, 303-357-ARTS, www.ticketmaster.com or any Ticketmaster outlet. All proceeds from the event benefit Asian Performing Arts of Colorado; for information, call 303-871-7720. -- Richard Kellerhals
Cleo Parker Robinson honors jazz influences
Cleo Parker Robinson, born into a racially mixed family and a racially charged Denver back in the '40s, grew up in Five Points with her white mother and black father, one of the first African-American actors in Denver. The artist remembers the era as a time of "change, rage and riots," yet it was also a period of great happiness for her. "She lived above the Rossonian Hotel and saw Duke Ellington, Etta James and Nina Simone all play there, she says. In her newest show, Jazz Your Soul, Parker Robinson pays tribute to those artists who helped create the person she is today. The music is from the jazz greats she saw as a young girl, and the dances are those of legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey and others. "We have been touched by the extraordinarily rich history of jazz. We celebrate the great American artists whose music has soothed our souls, ignited our spirits and given us a reason to dance." It will be, she notes, an expression of her great joys in life.
Jazz Your Soul starts at 7 p.m. tonight at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 East Iliff Avenue. Performances continue though October 3; tickets are $18 to $35. For details, call 303-871-7720 or visit www.cleoparkerdance.org. -- Jerri Theil
Expect the Unexpected
Since hitting the air in 1995, The Drew Carey Show has stretched the boundaries of the stereotypical sitcom. The show once featured a VH-1 Pop-Up video format, has aired live multiple times, and even flew the entire cast and crew to China to shoot a short fantasy sequence for a single episode. Creativity and innovation are the hallmarks of those involved, particularly Carey; one need look no further than his role as host of Whose Line Is It Anyway? to see that. Beginning in October, Carey will expand his hosting duties with Green Screen, a new show on the WB that combines improv and animation. Drew Carey and the Improv All-Stars, a group that includes performers from both programs, have been touring the country all summer to get ready for the show; the Union Colony Civic Center, 701 10th Avenue in Greeley, was lucky enough to snag a performance.
Today Carey and improv virtuosos Greg Proops, Charles Esten, Jeff B. Davis, Sean Masterson and Kathy Kinney -- better known as Carey's arch-nemesis "Mimi" -- will lay it all on the line for audiences at 5 and 8 p.m. Tickets, $33 to $40, are available at www.ucstars.com.
And, as Proops is fond of saying, "Remember, if it's not funny, it's art." -- Adam Cayton-Holland
The Dead Sinatras start rockin'
The year's been rife with revivals. In July, the Little Steven Underground Garage Festival in New York City celebrated a bygone era with a marathon of more than fifty artists, including Nancy Sinatra, who shimmied before a human backdrop of twenty boot-heeled go-go dancers. Denver gets its own garage-era flashback starting at 9 p.m. tonight, when the Dead Sinatras reunite for an evening of high camp, comedy and live music at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 2637 Welton Street. Born as the Leaping Lesbian Follies in 1989, the seven-piece band comes out of an eight-year hiatus to bang out a loving amalgam of '60s pop culture and mod fashion. Think beehives, micro-minis and FM nostalgia: Dead Sinatras signature tunes include "To Her With Love," a gender-bent variation of the Don Black/Martin London classic, as well as songs by the Turtles, Frankie Avalon and Roy Orbison. The ladies also pay tongue-in-cheek tribute to Miss Blue Eyes herself with a retrofit rendition of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." Tickets for the 21-and-over event are $15. For details, call 303-237-1772 or visit www.cervantesmasterpiece.com. -- Laura Bond