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The Tender Land

He may have begun his composing career with a jazz-influenced period, and ended it writing atonal works, but the bulk of Aaron Copland’s creative life was dedicated to a straightforward musical style that was one 20th-century idea of “American.” This New York City-born kid developed an intense fascination for the folk music of rural America; the farm and the West were his muse.

A prime example of this is his 1950s opera The Tender Land, being revived this weekend (in its chamber arrangement) at Bard College. Set during the Depression, and inspired by the words of James Agee and Walker Evens’ photographs, The Tender Land is a portrait of farm life, and the tensions between family tradition and the quintessential American yearning to keep moving. Anne Jennifer Nash (pictured) is Laurie, a young woman who wonders if loyalty to home and hearth is more important than the lure of the great wide world.

Bard Summerscape will present The Tender Land beginning tonight (Thursday, Aug. 4) at 8 PM in Theater Two (Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson). There will also be performances Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 6-7) at 3 PM; Wednesday (Aug. 10) at 8 PM; and Aug. 11-12. Tickets are $35. For tickets and info, call (845) 758-7900.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

‘Lord, what fools these mortals be.” Sure, the mischievous spirit Puck gets a good laugh with this line, but Shakespeare does an equally fine job of making comic sport of the denizens of the spirit world, too, in the perennially enchanting A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This is a play in which all of the principal characters, bemused by love, act like fools for our enjoyment (and empathy): Helena loves Demetrius; Demetrius loves Hermia; and Hermia loves Lysander. Meanwhile nature, personified by the king and queen of the spirit world, is at war with itself, and there’s a mortal so in love—with himself—that he happily adjusts to being cursed with the head of an ass. (Shakespeare must have enjoyed writing this very much.)

Not surprisingly, this play gets more, well, play in the summer than winter, so don’t tarry; the Classic Theater Guild is performing it this weekend and next at Albany’s Hilton Center.

Classic Theater Guild will present A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hilton Center for the Performing Arts (40 Russell Road, Albany) beginning tonight (Thursday, Aug. 4) at 8 PM, with a benefit performance for To Life!, a breast cancer education and support group. Performances will continue tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday (Aug. 5-6) at 8 PM, and there will be a matinee Sunday (Aug. 7) at 2 PM. Additional performances will be held Aug. 12-14. Tickets are $12, $10. For more information, call 453-1048.

Utah Phillips and the Rose Tatoo

When Utah Phillips played the Old Songs Festival a few years ago, he requested a stage setup that included a helicopter landing pad, various wild beasts, a “shouter” for the visually impaired, and couple dozen other oddities. The festival organizers responded by printing his drawing in the program and attempting to approximate the request while Utah laughed himself silly in the audience.

That kind of thing tends to crop up when Utah, an irrepressible storyteller, collector of hobo and labor songs, proud Wobbly, and all-around rabble rouser comes to town. Not surprising for a guy who describes the men’s movement as a bunch of guys “dragging their scrotums through the underbrush” and has promised if elected president to “scratch my ass, play pool, and not do a damn thing.” Unlike most curmudgeonly singers of 1930s folk music, however, Utah has built up a following in the younger generation thanks to a couple CD collaborations and tours with his adoring fan Ani DiFranco.

Utah Phillips and the Rose Tattoo will perform at Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs on Tuesday (Aug. 9) at 7 PM. Tickets are $25. Call for reservations, 583-0022, or visit www.caffelena.com.


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