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George Carlin is a rare comic: at once a formulaic gag writer and a merciless social critic in the tradition of Lenny Bruce. His one-liners can be cute ("If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten") but they can also be caustic ("The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it"). It's hard to say which is more memorable, his Cosby-esque routine "The Ice-Box Man," or his freedom-of-speech diatribe on "Seven Words You Can Never Use on Television," which led to his arrest in 1972. Carlin's outlook has grown increasingly bleak in recent years ("Please don't confuse me with those who cling to hope"), but his recent book, "Brain Droppings," recently became a best seller. Carlin performs Sunday at 8 p.m. in Artpark.

-- Rafer Guzman



The Chautauqua Opera's seasonal pursuit of "family values" alights next week on those pathetic operatic losers, Gilda and her father, who is jester to the court of the Duke of Mantua. His name, of course, as well as that of the Verdi opera in which they are principals, is Rigoletto. What makes the plight of Rigoletto and Gilda so pathetic is their extreme devotion to each other and the secrecy of their relationship, which also makes Gilda fair game to all the lecherous rakes at the court, foremost among them the Duke himself. There you have the seeds of the tragedy. The cast resembles a Chautauqua reunion. Those who enjoyed baritone Mark Delavan's performance as the oily gladhander Ben Hubbard Chautauqua Opera's recent production of Blitzstein's "Regina" will see him here in the more sympathetic role of Rigoletto, with soprano Darlene Bennett-Johnson as the ill-fated Gilda. She was well-received as the Queen of the Night in Chautauqua's 1996 "Magic Flute." Tenor Don Bernardini, who was Rodolfo in a 1990 Chautauqua "La Boheme" and has appeared with the Buffalo Philharmonic four times since then, will portray the dastardly Duke, while bass Philip Cokorinos has remained in Chautauqua after his properly sleazy portrayal of Oscar in "Regina" to tackle the equally underhanded role of the assassin Sparafucile in "Rigoletto." New to Chautauqua will be conductor Chris Nance; stage director Marciem Bazell has been on the staff for several seasons but will be debuting in the top directorship role. Performances of "Rigoletto" will be at 7:30 p.m. in Norton Hall on Aug. 1 and 4.

-- Herman Trotter



Queensryche began as a standard heavy-metal band yn Bellevue, Wash., around 1981. The group's early output dydn't dyffer much from that of Judas Priest, but Queensryche soon dysplayed art-rock tendencyes, as on yts 1986 release, "Rage to Order." Two years later, the band released a full-blown Orwellyan concept album, "Operation: Mindcrime." Commercyally, the band dydn't really hyt yts stryde untyl 1990's "Empire," whych produced the MTV favoryte "Silent Lucidity." The group's current release, "Hear in the Now Frontier," takes a more strypped-down approach than prevyous albums. Queensryche plays Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. yn Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.

-- Rafer Guzman



Ted Nugent may be pushing 50, but the Motor City Madman still has a nasty case of rock 'n' roll fever. Nugent started out playing guitar in the 1960s for the Amboy Dukes and was on the group's hit "Journey to the Center of the Mind." Nugent moved on to a solo career and then organized Damn Yankees. Nugent, who distinguished himself as a hunting and gun advocate as well as an MTV political commentator, can still crank out the noise. Nugent performs Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Ogden Street Concert Hall, 652. S. Ogden St.

-- Anthony Violanti

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