Aria Ready?

FRI, 5/21

Opera usually brings to mind a grand spectacle with lavish sets and costumes, supertitles and glass-breaking arias. But in these parts, if you take away all the grandeur, you're left with a rich pool of vocal talent aching to be heard. Colorado boasts far more fine voices, in fact, than it does operatic stages, which is why local lyric soprano Amy Stuemky, who's sung with the Opera Colorado chorus and various small regional troupes, formed the new Passaggio Opera Company. The group aims to provide a performance forum for artists struggling to bridge their amateur and professional careers. "There are so many singers who are so talented around here," Stuemky says, "but it's very hard to get in with Opera Colorado, a big company that tends to hire talents from New York and around the world. A lot of people here are trying to get their careers going, but unless you want to move to the coast for performing opera opportunities, there's really nothing to do here."

So Stuemky's Passaggio troupe is starting small. Its first staged performance with piano accompaniment, tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Margery Reed Building on the University of Denver campus, won't be grand, but Stuemky does promise it will be fun. The two one-act, English-language pieces on the bill, Gian-Carlo Menotti's The Old Maid and the Thief and the first act of Edwin Penhorwood's Too Many Sopranos, which pokes fun at opera stereotypes, aren't run-of-the-mill fare, and the cash-only ticket price of $10 ($5 for seniors and students with ID) helps render the opera experience quite affordable.

For advance reservations, call 303-594-6649 or go to -- Susan Froyd

Tapas, Tequila and Twister benefits cancer fund
THURS, 5/20

You'd think the Generations Cancer Foundation would stick with a proven good thing -- but every year, the nonprofit tampers with its alliterative fundraiser formula, going from Sushi, Sake and Sumo to Blues, Booze and Boxing in years past. This year, it's Tapas, Tequila and Twister, a volatile mixture melding food, drink and a ridiculous sport into one hell of a party. The benefit will also move to a new location -- Rise, at 1909 Blake Street. A modish brigade of local restaurants, including Aix, Mezcal, Piscos and the Tom Tom Room, will provide an international take on the tapas concept of "little dishes" while tequila drinks flow and Twister boards, including a life-sized one in the main dance area, are set up for adult-style play.

So what do you wear to a party where you'll tie yourself into a pretzel? "Some people are planning to wear primary colors to go with the Twister theme," says spokeswoman Lara Salazar. But anything goes, and casual attire is fair game. "The theme is different and the venue's changed," Salazar adds, "but our mission remains the same: to raise money for kids and research."

Tickets to the 7 p.m. event are $40 in advance ($50 at the door); call 303-592-7660 or log on to -- Susan Froyd

Less Is More at City Park Fest
SAT, 5/22

When the heck did they take the "people" part out of the Capitol Hill People's Fair and turn the whole thing into a gargantuan corporate tent city? Though it's not without its supersized charms, it's hard to recall when the early-June tradition was kept on a more human level. The little City Park Festival of the Arts, now in its fourth year, recalls the huge People's Fair in its formative years, with live music and performances, vintage Caddies, an off-leash dog park, kids' activities, artist booths and more, all on an intimate scale, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at the City Park Pavilion, 17th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. Call 720-205-6506 or log on to -- Susan Froyd

Twinkle Time
Faux stars come to Black Hawk Casino
FRI, 5/21

The Riviera Black Hawk Casino is stepping it up a notch with this weekend's "Night of Stars," a show featuring performances by Tina Turner, Cher and the Blues Brothers. Okay, okay -- the event actually features four celebrity impersonators: Eric Martin and Carmen Romano as the Blues Brothers; Cookie Watkins as Tina Turner; and Heidi Thompson as Cher.

"They're straight from the Las Vegas strip, so they're all really good," says Riviera spokeswoman Christina Martinez. "They're going to perform all of the singers' top hits with decked-out Las Vegas showgirls dancing behind them."

The hour-long "Night of Stars" will shine tonight at 7 and 9 p.m. and at 2 p.m. tomorrow in the Riviera Black Hawk's showroom at Mill and Main streets. Tickets are $14.95 and can be purchased in advance by calling 720-406-3710.

For more information on the casino, check out -- Julie Dunn