The pandemic has inspired some wildly creative moves from Colorado’s cultural purveyors, many of whom have upended their business models to stay afloat through difficult times. The upside: There’s so much stimulating fare headed into our living rooms right now.
Here are six offerings that show what’s possible — for both makers and stay-at-homers — over the next few weeks.
Classical remade: “SEE/HEAR,” presented by Opera on Tap, Dec. 13
While many arts presenters have met the pandemic’s live-performance obstacles by posting video versions of their usual offerings on the web, Opera on Tap has seized the opportunity to reimagine what is sings and how it sends that out to audiences. The result is “SEE/HEAR,” which the group describes as “a visual album of four song cycles.”
Opera on Tap rounded up five Colorado singers — Nnamdi Nwankwo, Asha Romeo, Jerome Síbulo, Luisa Marie Rodriguez and Julie Silver Campbell — to record selections from a diverse group of composers, dead and alive, ranging from Richard Strauss’ “Four Last Songs” to Nkeiru Okoye’s “Brooklyn Cinderella.”
It then put out a national call to video artists seeking original works to accompany each piece of music.
The sights and sounds come together for “SEE/HEAR,” which was designed to be presented simultaneously online and in a live, socially distanced concert setting. As fate would have it in the coronavirus age, only the virtual version will make it to the public. Still, it’s one of the most adventurous classical events to come along in months. The live-stream, which is supported by Creative Broomfield, will be available via facebook.com/creativebroomfield/live.
Info: The video concert, with live singers, streams at 4 p.m. Dec 13 on operontap.org.
Listen to this: “Of Spacious Skies,” an audio play anthology presented by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, through Dec. 17
The FAC’s theater company is meeting the current stay-at-home moment by going back in time, putting together a series of original radio plays that are being released weekly. The fare is short, family-friendly and local with all of the stories taking place in Colorado.
In all, there will be 12 episodes, mostly fictionalized accounts of real events past and present, which has allowed the company’s playwrights and actors considerable creative freedom. There are historical dramas like “Beautiful,” recounting Katharine Lee Bates’ penning of “America the Beautiful,” and the comedy “Expedition Log,” which has serious fun with Zebulon Pike’s trek up his famous peak. There’s a somber story about current Black Lives Matter protests titled “Just Keep Breathing,” and “Leonidas,” a contemporary take on Springs-born actor Lon Chaney’s early days. It’s all free and downloadable with some video elements available on the website.
Info: 719-634-5581 or fac.coloradocollege.edu. All episodes, also available through popular streaming apps, will remain online indefinitely.
Sit and shop: Cultural gift shops go online
Museums and galleries rely heavily on revenues from their gift shops to balance the bottom line, and the closures and crowd restrictions brought on by the pandemic threaten a major source of their annual earned income. But they’re not sitting around waiting for bad things to happen. Instead, many organizations have moved their offerings online for the first time or ramped up their websites to make at-home shopping more attractive.
Among the best: the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, which now has a huge selection of exhibit-inspired goods on its website, all arranged by category to make shopping for curious kids and adults easy. There’s even a curbside pickup option available at checkout. (shop.dmns.org)
Another good option: The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, which has put together a “Makers” shop featuring hand-made fare from artists near and far. The MCA also has some clever gifts guides broken down into such pandemic-themed categories as “Gifts For Your Friend Who Still Gets Dressed Everyday” and “Gifts For Your Friend Who Is Thriving In Their Introvertedness.” Totally fun. (store.mcadenver.org)
One more: the Denver Art Museum, which has added to its selection of jewelry and books a whopping 13 pages of products related to its current “Mexican Modernism” exhibit. Frida Kahlo lip balm, anyone? (shop.denverartmuseum.org)
A deep doc: “The Bowmakers,” presented by Friends of Chamber Music, through Dec. 6
Friends of Chamber music, the nonprofit that has brought the world’s best classical musicians to Denver since 1954, switches it up for stay-at-homers, presenting a compelling, and surprising, documentary in place of its live concerts. Director Ward Serrill’s “The Bowmakers” is available online until Dec. 6.
The doc is part story, part performance, focusing on master bowmaker Charles Espey as he practices his unusual craft, and then following the finished product out into the stage where it is put to use by top players. That’s an excuse to include members of popular ensembles like Brooklyn Rider, the Miró Quartet and (the amazing) Dover Quartet in the picture.
The stream costs $15 and is available on the website where you can see the Friends’ other offerings.
Info: 303-388-9839 or friendsofchambermusic.com
A play saved: “Until the Flood,” presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts
The DCPA was one week away from bringing playwright Dael Orlandersmith’s one-person “Until the Flood” to its stages when the pandemic hit in March, forcing a halt to all live performances in Colorado. This free, video presentation of the play, a collaboration with six regional theater companies across the country, aims to be a solid substitute for the real thing.
Orlandersmith’s script involves eight fictional characters developed through real-life interviews conducted in the wake of the 2014 protests that took place in Ferguson, Mo., after a Black man, 18-year-old Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a white police officer. Orlandersmith inhabits all of them over the course of one hour.
“Until the Flood” has toured to several locales, including Manhattan, where New York Times critic Jesse Green wrote that it “brings the questions, the pain and even the unspeakable thoughts of hundreds, if not millions, to life.”
Make your own art: Studio Create kits, presented by Cherry Arts
Cherry Arts took a big hit this year when its main event, the massive Cherry Creek Arts Festival, was canceled in July. The organization has rethought its mission for 2020, presenting a series of smaller events, real and virtual, meant to support artists, and by handing out free, art-making supplies to school kids across the region.
The new Studio Create kits take that up a notch, combining packages of top-quality art supplies with access to online instructional videos.
Studio Create is designed as an art course for all ages, with three kits shipped out over three months. They include starter equipment for drawing, painting with watercolors and printmaking. All three together cost $150, about the same as you’d pay for a local, professional art class, but with all of the paints, brushes, sketchbooks, linoleum blocks and carving tools included. Cherry Arts notes, enthusiastically, that the kits arrive just in time for holiday gift-giving as well.
A few more quick, but promising possibilities worth checking out:
- Pro Musica Colorado’s Dec. 5 concert, “Vivaldi The Four Seasons; Fall & Winter,” with violinist Yumi Hwang-Williams (promusicacolorado.org)
- The DCPA’s Dec. 5 presentation of a concert by actress and singer Vanessa Williams (denvercenter.org)
- The Newman Center’s Dec. 9 presentation of the Boston Brass (newmancenterpresents.com); and
- Rocky Mountain PBS’ presentation of Colorado Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” now through Dec. 25. (coloradoballet.org)
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