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Barbie exhibition: no pinker place on the planet; ‘Tristan & Yseult’ opening

ALSO: A promising Jazz Festival lineup; Feb. 23 will be “Maestro Skrowaczewski Day”; and more.

The shoe fountain at the Mall of America's "Barbie: The Dreamhouse Experience"
Photo by John Whiting

Think pink; it’s Valentine’s Day. And there’s no pinker place on the planet than an exhibition opening today at the Mall of America. “Barbie: The Dreamhouse Experience” is 30,000 square feet of interactivity: buttons to push, videos to watch, virtual cupcakes to make, virtual elevators to ride, a make-up studio, an endless closet and shoe room for virtually trying on Barbie’s outfits, a fashion runway, a Pop Star Stage for young performers, a bedroom, a library, a living room, a bathroom with a dolphin in the toilet (all is explained), a sleigh to ride, a shoe fountain, a freezer, a fireplace, glitter, photo ops, more than 350 collector Barbies on display (including many in couture), a café with pink drinks, and the obligatory boutique with Barbie-themed merch.

It all left us a bit breathless and dizzy, and it’s a lot of territory to cover – many rooms plus a beach and Paris, France. (You get there via virtual airplane, with virtual Barbie as your pilot.) What it needs is a fleet of pink scooters, or a Barbie light rail. Where is the exhibition exactly? On the third floor of what was once Bloomingdale’s, now a permanent exhibition space run by global exhibition company, EMS Entertainment. And if you’ve forgotten how big the Mall is, “Barbie” doesn’t fill what was formerly one floor of one anchor store. Already on the schedule of coming attractions: “CSI: The Experience” and “Star Trek: The Exhibition.” “Barbie” will be here for at least two years, maybe longer. FMI and tickets ($23.99). Wow, it’s pink.

Photo by Jerris Madison
Dianne Reeves

The Twin Cities Jazz Festival is becoming a destination event, one worth traveling to if you don’t already live here. This year’s headliners have just been announced, and we plan to stick around. Majestic Grammy-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves is one of the great jazz singers, a diva and a musical descendant of Sarah Vaughan. We can’t wait to see her live. Brilliant, outspoken saxophonist Branford Marsalis would be famous even if he weren’t a member of the First Family of Jazz. The festival will also feature Melissa Aldana, winner of the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition, and Joe Krown, long-time keyboardist for Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and a three-time winner of New Orleans’ Big Easy Award. Plus many local artists performing on multiple outdoor stages in and around Mears Park and indoors at nearby restaurants and clubs. Festival dates: June 26-28.

Photo by Eric Ryan Anderson
Branford Marsalis

More good news for jazz fans: there’s a new jazz label in town. Called Shifting Paradigm Records, it has a roster, a website, seven albums available for download, and a launch concert set for Saturday at Studio Z. “The music industry has changed a lot over the last 15 years,” co-founder Zacc Harris told MinnPost earlier this week. “The days of guys like us being able to pick up a record deal and put out a couple of records are gone. The question then becomes, how do we make an impact when we’re not affiliated with a label? The answer: we make ourselves a label.” The “ourselves” Harris refers to include (so far) the Atlantis Quartet, Bryan Nichols Quintet, Fat Kid Wednesdays, Graydon Peterson Quartet and Zacc Harris Group, names well-known to jazz lovers in the Twin Cities and beyond. They all know each other, they play in each other’s bands, and they share a similar aesthetic, although they make very different music. In the wake of the closing of the Artists’ Quarter jazz club in St. Paul, which put a lot of people into a funk, Shifting Paradigm is a shot of energy. Saturday’s event is a must. All five bands will perform. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., music starts at 5, and tickets are $10 for the whole night. Studio Z is at 275 East Fourth Street in St. Paul’s Lowertown, on the second floor. Tickets here or at the door (cash or check only).

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Gov. Mark Dayton has declared Sunday, Feb. 23 “Maestro Skrowaczewski Day” in honor of Stanislav Skrowaczewski’s enduring contributions to decades of classical music. That’s the day of the “Happy 90th, Maestro Stan!” concert in honor of his birthday. The concert was originally scheduled for Feb. 22 at Concordia’s Benson Hall but was moved from there to Orchestra Hall when the lockout ended. Unfortunately, that means the governor can’t attend – he’ll be out of town – but Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges will be there to make glowing remarks about the maestro. FMI and tickets.

The Cedar Cultural Center and Augsburg College will share a $200,000 grant to build awareness, knowledge and understanding of Somali culture through music. One of only six such grants awarded nationwide, the money will be used for a two-year project called Midnimo: Music for Unity, Campus and Community.” “Midnimo” is the Somali word for unity. The project will bring Somali musicians from around the world to Minnesota for weeklong residencies that include public performances, lectures, dialogue and interaction. The grant was awarded by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

It’s not $200,000, but it’s more money than poets usually get. The second annual Common Good Books Poetry Contest has been announced, and there will be prizes:  $1000 for the winner, $250 each for four runners-up. The judges are Garrison Keillor, poet Tom Hennen, and poet and memoirist Patricia Hampl. The rules: Anyone living within the United States may enter. One entry per person, and only one poem. Entries must be unpublished and the author must have full rights to the material. The poem must be a declaration of love for a specific person, being, object, or place (“i.e. something tangible”). Mail to Common Good Books, 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105, postmarked no later than April 15, 2014. Include a signed release available here. Finalists will be announced April 20, winners at a celebration of poetry at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at the Macalester College chapel. Now excuse us while we go write a love poem.

TPT is trying something new. Starting Friday, May 30, it will hand over the station to five “curators” from the Twin Cities arts scene: Springboard for the Arts, Northern, MPLS.TV, Works Progress Studio, and the St. Paul Almanac. Each will be given an hour-long show to do whatever they want – tell stories, perform skits, share poems or films – before a live audience at the TPT studios. The five-part series is the first major broadcast undertaking of TPT’s Rewire, a new initiative that’s reaching out to an audience of what TPT calls “digital natives.” And yes, it will stream on the web.

Our picks for the weekend

It’s all about love.

Tonight (Friday, Feb. 14) at St. Agnes Catholic Church in St. Paul: Music by candlelight. The Rose Ensemble presents “Martin’s Cloak,” a concert of chant, poetry and prose from medieval Tours, France. Come an hour early for a pre-concert presentation by Israeli musicologist Yossi Maurey. 7:30 p.m. Also Saturday at the Basilica of St. Mary, 8 p.m., and Sunday at the Church of the Holy Cross, 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($37-$10).

Photo by Steve Tanner
Andrew Durand (Tristan) and Carly Bawden (Whitehands) in Kneehigh’s production of “Tristan & Yseult.”

Tonight at the Guthrie: Opening night for “Tristan & Yseult.” Cornwall’s Kneehigh Theatre, which brought Noël Coward’s “Brief Encounter” to the Guthrie in 2010 to rave reviews, returns with the play that made it famous: the old story of a star-crossed love, told in music, dance, acrobatics and comedy. Tonight is sold out, but take a chance and call the box office at 612-377-2224. Or get tickets today for a future performance; the show runs through Sunday, March 23.

Saturday at Keller Golf Course in Maplewood: Scott Hansen Valentine Farewell Show. A founding father of the Minnesota comedy scene, seen nationally on HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central, Hansen became known as the comedian for lovers. More than a dozen couples got engaged at his shows, five got married, and one gave birth. At least, that’s what the press release says. Beyond that, we don’t want to know. He’ll present his show, “Love Takes Getting Used To,” on Saturday evening. Tickets available to the show only, also as dinner and show for two. FMI and tickets.

Sunday morning at the Edina Theater: A special screening of “Romeo and Juliet” starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad. Bloom (“Pirates of the Caribbean,” “The Lord of the Rings”) and two-time Tony nominee Rashad (“Stick Fly,” “The Trip to Bountiful”) were “Broadway’s hottest couple” in this contemporary telling of Shakespeare’s tragedy. He’s white, she’s black, so it’s not just about feuding families. 11 a.m. – a strange time to go to a movie, but worth skipping brunch for. Here’s the trailerFMI and tickets ($20).

Sunday at Macalester’s Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. The Frederic Chopin Society presents the award-winning French pianist known for balancing ardor with restraint. The program includes works by Haydn (Sonata No. 33 in C minor; Bavouzet is currently in the process of recording all of Haydn’s sonatas), Beethoven (“Waldstein”), Debussy (Etudes, Book 1), and Bartok (Piano Sonata). 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).

Sunday at the Como Park Conservatory: Stroll hand-in-hand through flowers and greenery to the sounds of the Café Accordion Orchestra led by Dan Newton. Beer and wine available to purchase. 4:30-6:30 p.m. Free.

Photo by Shawn Peters
Gregory Porter

Sunday at the Dakota: Gregory Porter. A former football player and Broadway actor, singer/songwriter Porter recently won his first Grammy award. Chances are it won’t be his last. He has one foot in jazz, the other in soul, natural charisma and a powerful baritone voice. Here’s his lilting and lovely “Be Good (Lion’s Song).” Look for this writer’s preview in the Star Tribune sometime this weekend. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($42-$35).