If you're an opera lover, you must be into the costumes, pageantry, and glass-shattering voices as much as the stories themselves. After all, with the lyrics being sung in German or Italian, how do you really know what's going on? At least the story behind Die Zauberflste (The Magic Flute) is simple. In their search for truth and love, a handsome prince and a funny bird-catcher battle the evil Queen of the Night. Actually, the Florida Grand Opera's presentation of Mozart's final opera comes equipped with a German-to-English translation. But now that you know the plot, you can just kick back and enjoy the intricate sets, lavish costumes, and vocal acrobatics. The show will be performed today and Saturday at the Broward Center For the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Showtime is 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $21 to $133. Call 800-741-1010 for more information.
Singer-songwriter Neil Diamond was panned for his role as the Jewish cantor-cum-rock star in the 1980 remake of the film The Jazz Singer. But the soundtrack sold millions. Diamond must have learned his lesson, because he hasn't starred in another flick since, and he's continued to sell albums and to sell out live shows. His most recent albums are the country-tinged Tennessee Moon (1996) and this year's As Time Goes By: The Movie Album, on which he covers classic movie tunes such as "Unchained Melody," "Puttin' On the Ritz," and "Moon River." Diamond's work in the '90s and his '60s hits "Cherry, Cherry" and "Sweet Caroline" may seem a world apart, but the fact is the "Solitary Man" has always done a good job of adapting to the ever-changing pop landscape. Just ask one of his legion of fans. He performs tonight at 8 p.m. at the National Car Rental Center, 1 Panthers Pkwy., Sunrise. Tickets cost $31 and $43.50. Call 954-835-8000 for details.
Listen to South Florida radio personality Neil Rogers for just a few minutes, and it's easy to see why people either love him or hate him. Following last week's news of Joe DiMaggio's medical ups and downs, the talk show host railed against media overkill, quipping: "He was a ball player. Did he do anything to change the course of history?" "No!" came the quick response in the form of one of his trademark prerecorded sound effects. Rogers, whose show airs Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on WQAM-AM (560), went on to slam the former New York Yankee slugger for being an ugly guy who hooked up with Marilyn Monroe because of his fame. Rogers' fans appreciate such cutting comments. Detractors find his brand of humor mean-spirited. Either way, someone's listening to the highly rated show, and Rogers, who is openly gay, will use that cachet to lure listeners into Borders (12171 W. Sunrise Blvd., Plantation) today from noon to 2 p.m. He'll mingle with the crowd and sign copies of his CDs The Best of Neil '98 Vols. I and II, which feature moments from his show. Sales of the $20 discs will benefit Center One, the Fort Lauderdale organization that helps those with HIV and AIDS. Admission is free. Call 954-723-9595.
Some describe the holiday season as a "magical" time, and one man in particular has taken that concept to heart. Illusionist-comedian Adam Steinfeld's 60-minute show is called Magic of Christmas, but during his performance, he incorporates bits on Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. The show features three female dancer-assistants who help Steinfeld perform signature tricks, such as levitating himself while surrounded by reindeer and making a brightly lit Christmas tree appear out of thin air. Also in the Christmas spirit, another helper, nine-year-old Magique Dominique -- Steinfeld's protege and winner of the 1998 Florida State Magical Jubilee Award -- will perform her silk-scarf and rabbit manipulations in the guise of an elf. Steinfeld and cast will perform two shows today at Sunrise Civic Center Theatre, 10610 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise. Showtimes are 2 and 4:30 p.m. Tickets cost $5. Call 954-747-4646.
As a kid in school, you squashed a blob of clay flat on your desk, bent up the edges, fired the thing up in a kiln, and called it an ashtray. Whether your folks smoked or not, that's what they got for Christmas from their aspiring little artist. These days one can only hope you've moved beyond pinched-edge ashtrays. If not, the folks at Pug Dog Pottery (134 NE First Ave., Hallandale) can show you just how to use a potter's wheel. And with only a few days left before Christmas, you might even be able to squeak out some last-minute gifts, be they simple cups, bowls, vases, or other nonsmoking items. A six-week course costs $130, and wheel-throwing classes meet Monday through Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Call 954-455-3099.
"The tango is known as a music of passionate love," says Argentine philosopher Ricardo Gomez. "But it's actually the music of loneliness and lust." Indeed, the passionate music and accompanying dance style were born in the bordellos of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay, in the late 19th Century. At the time, immigrant dock workers who'd fled Europe were patronizing brothels, where prostitutes danced with their partners. The tango came to represent the relationship between customer and client: Look closely at a couple doing a tango, and you'll see legs intertwined and hips making contact; but the torsos are stiff and separated, and the eye contact, while intense, is distant. With his musical Forever Tango, Luis Bravo has distilled the dance and its history into a writhing, passionate play. The show opens at 8 p.m. today for a run through January 3 at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse (70 Royal Poinciana Plaza, Palm Beach). Tickets range in price from $35 to $65. Call 561-659-3309. See "Stage" listings for a complete schedule.
Swing is the thing these days, with retro bands such as the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and the Brian Setzer Orchestra updating the wildly popular '30s and '40s jazz style and pushing its hip quotient back up the scale. But swing music was tied to the dance sensation of the same name, and if you don't know the steps, daddy-o, you can't step out in style. Not to fear. Every Wednesday is Swing Night at the Monkeyclub (219 Clematis St., West Palm Beach), and free lessons are given from 4 to 8 p.m. The $3 cover goes into effect when local swing combo Jump n' Jive takes the stage at 9 p.m. Call 561-833-6500.