If you've been itching for some dramatic romance but can't quite bring yourself to watch Days of Our Lives or As the World Turns, Samuel Barber's Vanessa could be just what you need.
The work, which won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1958, gets its regional premiere at 8 p.m. tonight at Central City Opera. It focuses on the Baroness, her daughter Vanessa and Vanessa's niece, Erika. These three rich, lonely women live together in a barren mansion in an unidentified northern country. As the story unfolds, listeners learn that Vanessa closed the villa after her lover, Anatol, left to marry another woman; she vows to wait there until the lover returns. Instead, Anatol's son, who's also named Anatol (which is very convenient for those of us who can't remember too many names), comes to find the woman his father loved so many years ago, and his arrival causes the household to erupt in jealousy, deceit and -- as with any juicy romance -- a love triangle.
Central City's season also includes Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly, running until July 30 and directed by Catherine Malfitano, who's making her directorial debut at the same venue where she first sang professionally in 1972. Benjamin Britten's Paul Bunyan rounds out the season; it opens July 16 and continues through August 6.
Vanessa runs through August 7; tickets are $34-$89. All Central City productions are in the vintage 1878 opera house at 124 Eureka Street in Central City; for information call 303-292-6700 or log on to www.centralcityopera.org. -- Amelia Langer
The CSO hits patriotic notes at City Park.
Blankets and beer. That's all I need for a near-perfect Fourth of July celebration. Add the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the experience moves into the sublime. As a prelude to the Fourth, the CSO will be performing in the City Park meadow tonight, one in a series of Evenings in the Park sponsored by the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs. It's an All-American musical lineup featuring pieces by patriot composers Aaron Copland and John Philip Sousa.
Donna Smith, performing arts coordinator for the city, promises that the orchestra will sound great. "They treat it most professionally," she says. "It will be a wonderful evening."
The first 1,000 people who arrive at the park before the 7 p.m. start time will receive a free seat cushion -- but no booze: Last week, Denver City Council stalled a proposal to allow the sale of beer and wine in Denver parks. The night should still prove intoxicating, however. For information, call 303-640-6952 or visit www.denvergov.org/doca. -- Amy Haimerl