Baby, It's Bright Outside: Fiesta of Light; Ahwatukee-Foothills Festival of Lights; ZooLights; "Wild Winter Nights": The City of Phoenix's free Fiesta continues nightly, through Thursday, January 1, 1998, in the area surrounding Symphony Hall Terrace, Second Street and Adams (534-3378). Phoenix's other major display, Ahwatukee's bounteous, white-lights-only bonanza, can be viewed from 5:30 to 11 each evening, through January 1. Related horse-drawn hay rides and "luminary" hikes to South Mountain's Telegraph Pass are scheduled Saturday, December 20. The fest is centered on Chandler Boulevard about three and a half miles west of I-10 (460-6169). The Phoenix Zoo, 455 North Galvin Parkway, in Papago Park, is garbed in a Technicolor dreamcoat of lights during its sixth annual ZooLights display; this year's version features new exhibits and an hour's extra viewing time per evening. It continues from 6 to 10 nightly (except Christmas Eve), through Sunday, January 11, 1998. Special admission is $4.50, free for kids age 2 and under (273-1341, extension 7810). Wildlife World Zoo's "Wild Winter Nights" features thousands of lights placed strategically around the grounds of the west-side menagerie, 165th Avenue and Northern in Litchfield Park, plus a special exhibit of black-footed penguins from South Africa. The "WWN" display continues from 5:30 to 9 each evening, through Sunday, January 4, 1998; admission is $5, free for kids 2 and under (935-9453). For info about other significant Yuletide doings this week, see below.
"Africa! A Sense of Wonder": The exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central, promises "new ways of looking at the art of Africa" and includes about 80 sub-Saharan objects that date from the 16th to early 20th centuries and range from the sociocultural to the fanciful. Drawn from the extensive collection of Valley resident Richard Faletti and family, "Africa!" was co-curated by Mary Nooter Roberts and Allen F. Roberts; it continues through Sunday, February 8, 1998, in the Steele Gallery. Various related in-gallery presentations and performances are scheduled. This week: "Collecting African Art" by the aforementioned Faletti at noon and 7 p.m. Thursday, December 18; and "A Journey to Africa" by C.K. Ganyo and the ADZIDO West African Folkloric Company at 2 p.m. Sunday, December 21. Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays (to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays). Admission is $6, $4 for students and seniors, $2 for children ages 6 to 18, free for younger kids and members; entry is free to all on Thursdays. 257-1880, 257-1222.
Phoenix Symphony Chamber Orchestra: Guest conductor Jobst Liebrecht leads the PSCO, the Phoenix Bach Choir and vocalists Christine Abraham (mezzo-soprano) and Peter Yoder (baritone) in an excellent program that includes selections from Bach's Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248; Handel's Concerto Grosso in B-flat major, Opus 6, No. 7; Stamitz's Viola Concerto in D major, Opus 1; and Ives' terrific The Unanswered Question. Violist Peter Rosato solos on the Stamitz piece. Shows are scheduled Thursday, December 18, at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street; Friday, December 19, at Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 North Arizona Avenue; and Saturday, December 20, at the First Baptist Church, 7000 North Central. All start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $13 to $20, available via the symphony box office, Ticketmaster and/or Dillard's (495-1999, 784-4444, 503-5555).
The Nutcracker: Ballet Arizona's annual staging of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker has a different vibe this year, with new sets (by Thomas Munn of the San Francisco Opera), costumes and choreography. The Phoenix Symphony--conducted by its former music director, James Sedares--provides the accompaniment. This week's performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 18; 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 19; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 20; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, December 21; 7:30 p.m. Monday, December 22; and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 23, at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. More shows are scheduled Friday, December 26; and Saturday, December 27. Tickets range from $9 to $36, available via the ballet or Dillard's (381-1096, 503-5555).
Fred Stonehouse/Steve Gompf: Stonehouse is a Milwaukee-born painter who operates in his own fever-pitched realm of imagination; says Fred of the startlingly original pieces in his exhibit "Thirteen Devils & El Libro de los Suenos": "I break the rules of symbolism internationally. . . . I don't have any qualms about it." Valley-based Gompf is a multimedia junkie who transforms his passion for old junk--and faded visuals--into glorious pseudohistory via sometimes disturbing, nickelodeon-style loops "broadcast" on lovingly rehabilitated, oddly threatening machines named televisors. His installation is titled "Steve Gompf & Eadweard Muybridge: Persistent Visions: Televisors and Early Motion-Picture Technologies." The dual exhibits are up through Saturday, January 3, 1998, at the Lisa Sette Gallery, 4142 North Marshall Way in Scottsdale. Viewing is free; hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays (and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays), noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. 990-7342.
A Christmas Carol: Actors Theatre of Phoenix's perennial production of Charles Dickens' ghost story was adapted by Richard Hellesen and features music by David de Barry; Matthew Wiener directed. Final performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday, December 18; 8 p.m. Friday, December 19; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, December 20; and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, December 21, in Center Stage at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Tickets range from $10.50 to $32, available at Herberger and Dillard's (252-8497, 503-5555).
Nils Lofgren: Nils truly cranks on the guitar, and he's brushed up against success via separate gigs with Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, but solo fame and fortune continue to shun the cult fave with the slashing style and the deft songwriting touch. Too bad; he's one of the best most have never heard of. Lofgren's one of the contributors to United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona's Merry Arizona '97 seasonal sampler, and he returns to host his second fund-raising concert for the nonprofit in a month. The benefit's scheduled Thursday, December 18, at the Cajun House, 7117 East Third Avenue in Scottsdale. 945-5150, 943-5472.