Tom Stoppard in Ouray
In 1964, theatre critic Tom Stoppard was awarded a grant from the Ford Foundation, and holed up in a Berlin mansion to write a play. He emerged five months later with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Meet King Lear, which he later reworked to become Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead – the play that would make him famous. Rosencrantz is written from the perspective of two relatively hapless, ancillary characters in Shakesepeare’s Hamlet; they are childhood friends of Hamlet’s, enlisted by Hamlet’s uncle, King Claudius, in an attempt to plot against him, but ultimately exposed and mocked by Hamlet – and they are extremely confused about the goings-on. The play is often described as an absurdist, existentialist tragicomedy. It tussles with some very big themes: the randomness of the world, the nature of art vs. reality, the insignificance of one man’s actions. It’s being given a staged reading at the Wright Opera House this weekend under the direction of Jake Abell, a Ouray High School graduate studying French, philosophy and theatre at Baylor University (he graduates in May). Abell is used to big themes, having directed a reading of T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral at the Wright last year. (In an earlier interview, Abell and I had bonded over our love of The Waste Land. On Tuesday when I called, he greeted me this way: “Fellow Eliot aficionado! Rock on!”). With Murder, “we packed the Opera House,” he said. “I received a lot of great, very humbling feedback. We decided to stage another enriching, intellectually challenging drama, for the community, by the community with the help of the Ouray County Players. But after Eliot, we needed some laughs.” Abell is aware that there was interest in Murder – and, he hopes, in Rosencrantz – not just in Ouray, but from as far away as Telluride and Grand Junction. “We would like to broaden the meaning of that word ‘community,’” he said. “The goal is to pick excellent, canonical plays that don’t get a lot of exposure away from the major metropolitan areas. If you’re in New York, San Francisco or L.A., you can pick up a paper and go see Aeschylus’ Oresteia. But if you live in southwestern Colorado, you might have to wait 10 years.” Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead will be read on Friday, Mar. 15 at 7 p.m., and again on Saturday, Mar. 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 (students admitted free). To purchase seats, visit thewrightoperahouse.org.
Spring Concert in Telluride and Ouray
The Telluride Choral Society presents its annual SpringSing concert this week in Ouray and Telluride. This spring’s theme is “A River Runs Through It: Songs of the American Waters.” The chorus consists of more than 75 singers ranging in age from 8 to 70 under the direction of Rhonda Muckerman. Muckerman has both a bachelors’ degree in music and a masters degree in conducting, and has taught instrumental and choral music for more than 24 years. Which is to say, she does her research thoroughly when she selects a concert theme – and is scrupulous about attribution. “The title ‘A River Runs Through It’ has nothing to do with the book or the movie” of the same name, she was quick to say. Indeed, last year’s spring concert was Up on the Roof: Music of the Sun, Moon and Stars. “I was thinking about the elements – earth, sun, moon – and decided to use water as a theme,” she said. “And as soon as I did, I realized some of the very best songs about water are by Americans.”
The songs the chorus will sing are not only by Americans – they all have a distinctly “American” sound. Aaron Copland was a master of this sound; Copland’s melodies made use of, among other musical techniques, the interval of a fourth or fifth to create the feeling of wide open spaces. “Our ears recognize this sound, even when it’s not explained to us,” Muckerman said. “We hear it as being completely different from Western European music – say, the music of Beethoven.” Musical works will range from traditional American songs, to songs by contemporary composers in the style of American folk music, including Eric Whitacre (“Water Night”), Eric Barnum (“The Lady in the Water”), Seth Houston (“Emerald Stream”) and Billy Joel (“River of Dreams”). There’ll even be a song by the Doobie Brothers. “We have a dynamite arrangement of ‘Black Water,” Muckerman said.
“Well, if it rains, I don’t care
Don’t’ make no difference to me…
Old Black Water, keep on rollin’
Mississippi moon, won’t you keep on shinin’ on me…”
The chorus will perform Sunday, March 17 at the Wright Opera House at 2 p.m., and on Friday, March 22 at 7 p.m. at Christ Church in Telluride. Tickets are $15 for adults, and $8 for students.
Chamber Music Trio Concert in Montrose
Finally, the Mientka family returns to the region this weekend with three Spring concerts of chamber music. Cellist Gabe Mientka and pianist Anca Lupu, who have flown in from their home in Germany, will perform a sonata by Beethoven and Prokofiev’s great Sonata in C Major – the only one the composer ever wrote for the cello. Mientka and Lupu will take a break, and then return with C.U. music teacher and guest violinist Marcin Arendt for Dvorak’s F Minor Trio. Gabe Mientka called it a “very dramatic, intensely emotional” work, every bit the masterpiece that Dvorark’s “Dumky Trio” is, though less well-known. “The slow movement is extremely lyrical and beautiful,” he said. “We will moderate this concert,” he added. “We’ll explain quite a bit, to give the audience a more in-depth understanding of what to listen for. We’ve started doing this, and people have come up afterwards and said, ‘Yeah, it’s amazing, I was right there with you the whole time.’ They’re so glad we’ve talked about what they were hearing.”
One piece they will play that means more in context is Beethoven’s Fourth Cello Sonata in C Major. The sonata is “humorous, bright in character, and very optimistic” in sound, Mientka said. All the more amazing when you consider that Beethoven wrote it shortly after going deaf. Humorous and optimistic was likely the very opposite of what he was feeling at the time, yet he managed to not only summon these feelings, but infuse them into his music. The result “is joyous and profound.”
The Lupu-Mientka piano-cello duo and guest violinist Marcin Arendt will play Friday, March 15 at the First United Methodist Church in Grand Junction; Saturday, March 16 at the Lamborn Concert Hall in Paonia; and Sunday, March 17 at 3 p.m. at the Montrose Pavilion. Tickets are $9 in advance, and $12 at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit junctionconcerts.com.
Tom Stoppard in Ouray