The autumn of Denver’s fine arts rebirth: seven must-see shows this fall

The fine arts come back live and in full-force this month, after some pandemic-induced down time and with the kind of pent-up energy that seems guaranteed to produce golden moments.

There’s so much to choose from in this autumn of rebirth: classic offerings from enduring players such as the Colorado Symphony and the Denver Art Museum, or contemporary performances from adventurous companies like Wonderbound dance and the international stars booked into the Newman Center.

Whatever your favorites are, they’re likely putting on promising shows in the next few months.

Here are some hand-picked standouts:

A power-packed combo at the MCA

Sept. 10-Jan. 30

The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver brings together two complementary exhibitions that offer deep dives into the worlds of their creators: Jason Moran’s “Bathing the Room With Blues” and Deborah Roberts’ “I’m.”

Moran brings some celebrity to the mix. He’s a well-known musician and live-concert performer whose other talents include the mixed-media works in this show. Featured is a new series, made during the pandemic, that Moran created by “placing a sheet of Japanese Gampi paper on a piano and then using saturated pigment to track the ‘attack’ of his fingers upon the keys.”

Roberts is known for her collages that combine found images with hand-painted details to form figurative works on paper exploring the experiences of Black children in America. The MCA describes them as “simultaneously brave and insecure, playful and serious, powerful and vulnerable.”

The museum is located at 1485 Delganey St. Info at 303-298-7554 or mcadenver.org.

A classical-and-bluegrass combo

Sept. 22

Friends of Chamber Music has been importing the world’s best musicians to Denver for six-plus decades now, and the dependable presenter keeps it fresh by showcasing new talents who bring unique perspectives on the world of classical.

This month it’s violinist Tessa Lark, who flavors familiar European compositions with the fiddling traditions of her native Kentucky. In 2020, she received both a Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists and a Grammy nomination in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category.

For this program, she’ll combine a bit of Beethoven, a piece written for her by American composer Michael Torke, and a few of her own bluegrass creations. Pianist Andrew Armstrong, a notable talent himself, accompanies.

Friends of Chamber Music presents at Gates Hall in the Newman Center for the Performing Arts on the DU campus. Info at 303-871-7720 or newmantix.com.

A major dance and jazz collaboration

Sept. 25-26

Dancer Cleo Parker Robinson and jazz singer Dianne Reeves are no-doubt Denver legends, each performing for decades before local, national and international audiences, sharing their skills and upping the region’s cultural profile far and wide.

But they’ve never worked together, something they plan to change this month when Reeves takes the stage to sing while Robinson’s troupe of dancers premieres a piece she is choreographing titled “Freedom Dance.”

It’s part of an attractive program that also includes another premiere, “The Four Journeys,” created by Amalia Viviana Basanta Hernandez, who is a legend in her own town due to her work with Mexico City’s revered Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández.

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance presents the program at Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Info at 303-295-1759 or cleoparkerdance.org.

The world’s favorite ballet

Oct. 8-17

It can be easy to pass on a ballet if the title is something you have already sat through a half-dozen times. Truth is, it’s hard to work up enthusiasm for “Cinderella” or “The Nutcracker” or even “Swan Lake” if you’ve already spent years enjoying the art form.

But hard-core dance fans rarely miss “Giselle.” The story, the music, the drama and the movement, choreographed by the legendary Marius Petipa, get them to the theater every time. No ballet showcases a talented “ballerina” better.

It’s also a good match for the dancers at the Colorado Ballet who know how to deliver a tried-and-true classic with verve and youthful spirit, and who know that familiar titles draw the box office bucks that allow them to stretch their talents for the more contemporary material they present later in the season.

“Giselle” will be performed at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House with live music from the Colorado Ballet Orchestra. Info at 303-837-8888 or coloradoballet.org.

Meet the new Denver Art Museum

Oct. 24

A new chapter in the story of one of Denver’s most enduring cultural institutions begins Oct. 24 when the Denver Art Museum unveils its long-awaited makeover to the public. DAM spent $150 million on the years-long endeavor, culled from a combination of private and public funding.

Included in the project is a head-to-toe renovation of the museum’s half-century old, seven-story signature structure, designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti, which has been renamed the Martin Building. There’s also a new elliptical-shaped welcome center, designed to unify the campus and make space for new restaurants.

DAM has taken the opportunity to redesign the galleries holding all of its important collections. Expect a new, updated perspective in exhibitions showcasing Asian, Latin American and Ingenious art, photography, textiles and more.

DAM reopens its updated facilities Oct. 24 with a free day for the public. 100 W 14th Ave. Parkway. Info: 720-865-5000 or denverartmuseum.org

An artist’s perspective on sports

Oct. 1-Dec. 5

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center presents the first regional exhibition of work by multimedia artist Ronny Quevedo, who explores the ways that communal histories shape the cultural present. He does that though a variety of methods that play on familiar schematics, such as maps, playing field diagrams, architectural plans and dressmaker’s patterns.

For this show, titled “At the Line,” Quevedo will unveil a site-specific piece made from wood that is reclaimed from a professional basketball court and which he breaks apart and reconfigures, overlaying with new markings. The aim is to connect the dots between organized sports, from ancient times to the present, and better understand how these group activities contribute to individual identities over the centuries.

The Fine Arts Center is now part of the Colorado College campus, 30 W. Dale St, Colorado Springs. Info: 719-634-5581 or fac.coloradocollege.edu

Opera’s grand return

Nov. 9-14

There was a lot talk in the classical world about how companies should program the reopening of opera houses after the long, pandemic shut-down. Should they go soft and welcome back customers with gentle works that ease them back into their seats or should they go big with warhorses that loudly celebrate the return of a great art form?

Opera Colorado chose the latter, and with one of the biggest, loudest titles of them all: the beloved “Tosca.”

Music fans who missed intrigue, betrayal, lust and, most of all, those high-flying Puccini arias, should get all they were craving with this production, directed by Louisa Muller and starring Melissa Citro in the title role.

It’s the beginning of a flashy season for Opera Colorado, which is set to stage the long-awaited musical version of Stephen King’s “The Shining” in February. (Get your tix for that now.)

Opera Colorado performs at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Info at 303-468-2030  or operacolorado.org.

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