Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Rio de Janeiro's Carnival, known as one of the best spectacles in the world, has been derailed by the coronavirus.

Event organizers announced Thursday evening that the colorful, rhythmic parades of 2021 are postponed indefinitely. It's the first time Carnival has been postponed in more than a century, according to The Associated Press.

Over the past six months, the halls of Lincoln Center's various performance venues have stood mostly silent, as its partners have sought virtual ways to reach audiences and share music. But one day in August, 15 brass players representing the Metropolitan Opera Musicians, Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York Philharmonic, Mostly Mozart Festival, The Juilliard School and New York City Ballet Orchestra arranged themselves - socially distanced - around the plaza to perform and record a new work, "Invictus," by composer Anthony Barfield.

No state escapes unscathed in Colin Quinn's new book: Vermont is "The Old Hippie"; Florida is "The Hot Mess"; in Wisconsin, "The Diet Starts Tomorrow." Even Quinn's beloved home state of New York is "The quiet state with the city that never shuts up."

As a veteran stand-up comedian, Quinn has spent more than a couple of decades on the road, performing in 47 out of the 50 states he now affectionately eviscerates in Overstated: A Coast-to-Coast Roast of the 50 States.

Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater in New York, knows firsthand about the coronavirus. Eustis was hospitalized with COVID on March 10, and by the time he was released five days later, everything was shut down. "I came out into a world that had no theater, and it's a different world," he says.

Photo courtesy Olney Theatre Center


As Houston Grand Opera reimagined its Fall season for a virtual platform, it transformed its Cullen Theater at the Wortham Theater Center into a production studio, recording three opera productions for digital distribution and presenting a recital series. The opera company also invited other arts organizations in the area to use the studio as a possible venue. In addition, HGO is partnering with other opera companies to create a virtual audition process for its Young Artists Program.

Playbill, the program magazine given out at theaters, has been around for 136 years. It's not just a program, it's a cherished souvenir. "It has become kind of the best memento of your night out at the theater," says Alex Birsh, the company's vice president.

But with theaters on Broadway and across the country shut down since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Playbill is just one of the many companies servicing the performing arts that has had to adapt.


As with the rest of the performing arts world, youth ensembles have had to re-imagine their Fall seasons to find ways to continue bringing their students opportunities for rehearsals and instruction. This Saturday on A Tempo (9/12 at 7), host Rachel Katz checks in with Westrick Music Academy (home of the Princeton Girlchoir and Princeton Boychoir) and the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey, which in partnering with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra in an arrangement that brings PSO Assistant Conductor Nell Flanders to the YOCJ as its conductor.

In January 2019, NPR reported on a Mongolian heavy metal band whose epic music videos were racking up millions of views on YouTube. Eight months later The Hu released their first album, which blends the screaming guitars of heavy metal and traditional Mongolian guttural singing. We caught up with two band members on a video call to Mongolia, where they have been waiting out the pandemic.

Photo by Paul Kolnik


V Unbeatable is a Mumbai-based acrobatic dance troupe whose members range in age from 12 to 28 and come from the city's slums. NPR wrote about them after they won America's Got Talent: The Champions this February. They'd hoped the win would help improve the financial situation of their families and open doors to new opportunities.

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.


A visitor to the Beijing People's Art Theatre this past August would have been treated to an unexpected sight on its wooden stage: Chinese actors, rehearsing A Raisin in the Sun, a play that tells the story of an African American family's struggle against racism in 1950s Chicago.

Beijing actor and director Ying Da is mounting the first-ever Chinese-language production of Lorraine Hansberry's play. The thorniest issue at hand: how to convey to a mostly Chinese audience that an all-Chinese cast is portraying an African American family.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's pretty obvious by now what it takes for workplaces to open safely - obvious, even if it's hard. Can desks be spread out, surfaces kept clean? Can you avoid big crowds at the elevator? How's the ventilation? Well, if you work as a dancer, the questions get harder. WFPL's Stephanie Wolf reports on how Louisville Ballet is preparing for the fall.

Updated Saturday at 4:50 a.m. ET

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When colleges sent their students home in the Spring because of Covid-19, most expected to be able to return in the Fall, a hope that faded as it became clear that the virus will continue to pose a risk throughout the upcoming semester. Music schools and conservatories have spent the past several months weighing the risks and coming up with plans to adapt their classes and instruction to continue providing training to their students within current guidelines - including the ever-changing research about the risks that singing and wind instruments can pose in spreading the disease.

Photo by Chris Lee


The NEA Jazz Masters fellowship, America's highest honor reserved for jazz musicians, is typically bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts in grand fashion with a gala and all-star tribute concert. This year it was set to take place at San Francisco's SFJAZZ Center in April, but it had to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. And so, like the artists being honored, the NEA opted to improvise, transforming the event into a virtual presentation with musicians beaming in from locales across the country.

With Covid-19 restrictions here to stay for the near future, performing arts organizations have had to revise their Fall plans, with some ensembles reimagining what a performance season could look. This Saturday (8/22 at 7 pm) on A Tempo, host Rachel Katz speaks with Matías Tarnopolsky, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and David Devan, president and general director of Opera Philadelphia, about their respective plans for the upcoming season.

A World Champion Slam Poet Pivots To Medicine

Aug 15, 2020

"Memories of my childhood live/between the rings of sand around my ankles/ and the desert heat in my lungs.

I still believe that nothing washes/worry from tired skin better than the Nile/and my grandma's hands.

Every day I go to school/with the weight of dead neighbors/on my shoulders."

 


In 1933, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed the Symphony in E Minor by Florence Price, making her the first African-American woman to have a large-scale composition performed by a major U.S. symphony orchestra. In the past decade, her music, which includes art songs and piano, organ, chamber and orchestral works, has been receiving renewed attention, spurred by the discovery of dozens of scores in an abandoned Illinois house and efforts to recognize the contributions of musicians and composers of color.

NPR Music / YouTube

There haven't been any live public performances at America's biggest arts center since mid-March.

Back in the days before the coronavirus pandemic, lots of people found community and comfort in singing together, whether at school, as a form of worship, in amateur groups or performing as professionals. Last year, Chorus America reported that some 54 million Americans — that is, more than 15% of the entire country's population — participated in some kind of organized group singing. And that study revealed that nearly three-quarters of those polled felt less lonely.

Editor's note: This story was reported and photographed from February 2019 to March 2020. The text has been updated to reflect the activities of the circus during the pandemic.

Phelelani Ndakrokra prefers not to talk about his past. But what the 23-year-old acrobat will say is that if he hadn't joined the circus ten years ago, he'd probably either be dead or in prison by now.

Photo by Carol Rosegg


Social protests and calls for increased attention to diversity, representation and equity within organizations has radiated throughout many fields, including the performing arts. A Tempo this Saturday (8/8 at 7 pm) features an interview with Afa Dworkin, President and Artistic Director of The Sphinx Organization, which has spent more than two decades partnering with orchestras and other organizations and launching its own programs to provide opportunities for Black and Latinx musicians, including its Sphinx Venture Fund grants. 

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