Das Rheingold: The first act in Wagner's tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen, isn't over 'til the vicious dwarf sings. Arizona Opera continues its season with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. All shows are sung in German, with English surtitles; Phoenix Symphony provides the score. Tickets range from $19 to $61, available at Dillard's. Call 262-7272.
Arizona Contemporary Dance Festival: Southwest Dance presents the second annual showcase of Arizona companies at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday in Stage West at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. A.Ludwig Dance Theatre, Canyon Movement Company, the Movement Source Dance Company, and Tenth Street Danceworks perform Thursday. Center Dance Ensemble, Desert Dance Theatre, and ORTS Theatre of Dance are scheduled Friday. Saturday's finale features all seven troupes. Single-performance tickets range from $7 to $15; a three-night pass is available for $20. They're available at Herberger and Dillard's. For details call 252-8497 or 678-2222.
Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction: The display and sale of classic autos is scheduled for 9a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, 9a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at WestWorld, 16601 North Pima Road in Scottsdale. Admission is $10, $5 for seniors and children older than 12, free for younger kids. For details call 273-0791.
ASU Sun Devils Basketball: Bill Frieder's Arizona State University cagers host the UCLA Bruins at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and the USC Trojans at 4 p.m. Saturday at ASU Activity Center in Tempe. For details call 965-3434.
The Phantom of the Opera: Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular musical, based on the novel by Gaston LeRoux, stars Rick Hilsabeck as a spiteful composer who haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House and loves young soprano Christine (Teri Bibb and understudy Rita Harvey alternate performances). Broadway vet Harold Prince directed the touring production, which continues with shows at 8p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 and 8p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday and 8p.m. Monday through Wednesday at Gammage Auditorium, Mill and Apache in Tempe. Tickets range from $15 to $65, available at Gammage and Dillard's. Call 965-3434.
The NFL Experience: The 20-acre interactive pigskin-themed park features more than 60 exhibits and attractions, including "QB1," "Sudden Death," "Halfback Option" and "Measure Up to the Pros." About 50 NFL stars are scheduled to appear. "Super Bowl Card Show" features approximately 75,000 square feet of collectibles, and NFL Team Shop sells licensed merchandise. Hours are 2to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, 2 to 9 p.m. January 25 through 27 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. January 28 on Tempe's Rio Salado Parkway between Priest and Rural, near the north end of Sun Devil Stadium. Advance tickets are $10, $6 for kids 12 and under, available at Dillard's and Ticketmaster; call 678-2222 or 784-4444. Tickets are $12 and $6 at the gate. Proceeds benefit NFL's Youth Education Town program for at risk youngsters. For general information, call 838-0660.
MLK Breakfast featuring Coretta Scott King: Thewife of the late Martin Luther King Jr. is the keynote speaker at this tenth annual event. Entertainment is provided by Patti Williams and Delirious, Carl Gales and Carmen Montano, Dennis Rowland, Renee Morgan Brooks, First New Life Missionary Baptist Church Choir, and Desert Dance Theatre. Sean Boone and Mary Hurtado sing the national anthem, and Precious Morris recites MLK's "I See the Promised Land" speech. The commemoration starts at 7 a.m. Friday in the Grand Ballroom and adjacent Tucson Room at Phoenix Civic Plaza, Second Street and Adams. Tickets are $20, available at Dillard's. For details call 262-7272 or 678-2222. (Note: For information about other MLK-related events this week, see the Events listing.)
Henry Gray: The Louisiana-born pianist isn't nearly as well-known as Otis Spann or Sunnyland Slim, competitors and compatriots from the golden age of Chicago blues in the '50s, but he should be. Gray recorded with Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Billy Boy Arnold and many others before accepting a 12-year gig backing Howlin' Wolf. He hasn't recorded with any regularity since the '60s, and ain't that a shame. His new Blind Pig album, Lucky Man, is great. Gray celebrates his 71st birthday on Friday with a weekend gig at the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School. Chico Chism's Chicago Blues Band opens at9p.m. Friday and Saturday. Cover is $4. For details call 265-4842.
Slam Fest: The crowning of the "king of slam" is the climax of this dunking competition. Minnesota Vikings receiver Cris Carter returns to defend his title; the field includes Carter's fellow NFL pros Jeff Blake and Warren Sapp, baseball star Kenny Lofton, beach-volleyball player Adam Johnson, boxer Roy Jones Jr. and triple-jumper Mike Conley. The bone- and rim-rattling fun starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday at America West Arena, First Street and Jefferson. Tickets are $5 and $9, available at the arena and Dillard's. For details call 379-7800 or 678-2222.
"First Artist of the West: Paintings and Watercolors by George Catlin From Gilcrease Museum": The Pennsylvania-born artist created a lasting vision of Native American culture between 1830 and 1836, simultaneously humanizing and romanticizing it. Many of the works from that era, including 25 rare watercolors, are displayed in this touring exhibition, which opens Friday and continues through March 17 in Mezzanine Gallery at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street. Also opening Friday at the center: "Selections From the Collection: The Desert Caballeros Western Museum." Admission is free. For details call 994-2301.