Clive Barnes, former theater critic for the New York Times, once said, “Television is the first truly democratic culture—the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want.” Luckily, it seems what people in the Hudson Valley want are a variety of cultural options—music, food, theater, art—evident by the ongoing success of the following events.
Art on the Move
Kingston’s 13th Annual Artists’ Soapbox Derby on the Rondout is all about hybrids. No, not fuel-efficient soapboxes. The August 19 derby is a contest crossbreed born of the traditional soapbox derby and a sculpture exhibition. The point is not to develop the fastest creation, but the most imaginative and well engineered. Last year, 36 participants drew over 7,000 fans and brought an array of original ideas to fruition; broomsticks, giant tortoises, and prehistoric-looking skeletons all crossed the finish line. This year performances include the Energy Dance Group, which could present any combo of hip-hop, breakdance, reggae, and jazz moves, as well as the musical group Trio Loco, known for their unique spins on classic jazz which they dub “jazz unstandards.”
Italians—lovers of food, wine, and merrymaking—can be credited with the invention of the Vinarelli, an Umbrian harvest celebration and art festival. Not only are Vinarelli dinners composed of locally derived ingredients but they also include—attention, art-loving oenophiles—toasting with the latest vintage and watercolor painting with wine. If a trip to Torgiano, Italy is not in the budget for this year, savor flavors and unique pieces at the Woodstock School of Art’s second annual Vinarelli. This year they welcome the return of Gianni Scappin, former owner of Gigi’s Trattoria in Rhinebeck, as chef. Guests can look forward to sampling Scappin’s creations, whether the asparagus-parmesan cheese tartlet of cocktail hour or his summer vegetarian lasagna with smoked scamorza entree. Millbrook Vineyards wine will be decanted and bottles will feature commemorative labels designed by painters Eric Angleoch and Chris Debrosky. Twenty-five Hudson Valley artists will be attending the Vinarelli, including Staats Fasoldt, Janet Walsh, and Richard Segalman. The Vinarelli will close with a live auction of their work. www.woodstockschoolofart.org.
Phantasm of the Opera
Born in Africa in 1721, Angelo Soliman was a significant figure in black history—he was a close friend of Mozart (who based the Moorish character Monostatos, of the opera “The Magic Flute,” on Soliman), husband of a widow of one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s generals, and later grandfather to a Viennese aristocrat. Celebrated novelist, poet, playwright, and musician Carl Hancock Rux crafted the story of Soliman’s life, death, and ghastly postmortem display in the Imperial Library of Vienna into the opera “The Blackamoor Angel,” showing August 9, 10, 17, and 18 at Bard’s Spiegeltent. Rux, who combines elements of rap and slam poetry, enlisted jazz composer Deirdre Murray to create the music for the opera, which Bard commissioned through a Rockefeller grant. Rux uses a Weimar-era traveling circus set for the opera, primed to perform under the hand-hewn, mirror-lined pavilion that is the Bard Spiegeltent. www.fishercenter.bard.edu.
The New York Times has described renowned pianist Vladimir Feltsman’s style as offering “a ferocious brand of pianism and considerable interpretive audacity,” and the Seattle Times has called him “the iron fist in the velvet glove.” A Russian who debuted with the Moscow Philharmonic at age 11, he went on to play at such esteemed locations as Carnegie Hall. As SUNY New Paltz’s distinguished chair of professor of piano, he mentors a group of international students through a grueling piano boot-camp that culminates with the Jacob Flier Piano Competition. On August 3, the winning pianist will perform a yet-to-be-announced piano concerto and Feltsman will conduct the Hudson Valley Philharmonic for the conclusion of the PianoSummer Music Festival, the Symphony Gala. Performances include Elgar’s “Fragment from Enigma Variations, No.9 ‘Nimrod,’” and Prokofiev’s “Symphony No. 5 in B flat Major, Op. 100.” www.newpaltz.edu/piano.
Putting Artists on the Map
The Saugerties Studio Tour returns this year with over 20 artists opening their creative workspaces to the public on August 11 and 12. An artist’s reception and gallery show will be held August 10 at Opus 40, and allows tour-takers the opportunity to meet artists before stopping by their studios. The tour itself is self-designed and is not guided; a map highlighting participating artists’ studios is available at multiple locations listed on the event’s website. The studios encompass a range of mediums—mixed-media collages by Loel Barr, metal sculptures by Michael Ciccone, photography by Virginia Luppino, ceramics by Jemerick Art Pottery, and more. www.saugertiesarttour.com.
For the fifth year, the professional performing arts organization Woodstock Fringe is presenting their Festival of Theater and Song. The event runs August 5 to September 2, boasting 32 performances including plays, concerts of song, readings, and cabaret, many of which are first-time presentations. The festival will begin with a fundraiser for the Fringe, an encore of last year’s hit, Michael Fosberg’s one-man show “Incognito.” Wallace Norman, the producing artistic director of the organization, says one of their mainstage events will be the showing of Alice Austen’s play “Backwards,” which he says is certain to have a life beyond Woodstock theater. Norman himself penned “Oh Virgil! A Theatrical Portrait,” after receiving a grant from the Virgil Thomson Foundation to write a play based on the life of the great composer. Other theater pieces include the East Coast premiere of Debra Ehrhardt’s “Jamaica Farewell,” MAD Magazine editor Joe Raiola’s satirical “Almost Obscene,” and “Greetings from Yorkville,” a two-character musical by Anya Turner and Robert Grusecki. www.woodstockfringe.org.
- A ceramic bowl by Barbara Bravo, part of the Saugerties Studio Tour.
- Commemorative-label Vinarelli wine
- Debra Ehrhardt in â€œJamaica Farewell,â€ at the Woodstock Fringe Festival
- Kristoff Lalicki at the 2006 Artistsâ€™ Soapbox Derby
- Carl Hancock Rux performs "The Blackamoor Angel" at Bard's Spiegletent.