Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

Pianist Jeremy Denk's latest album is a musical odyssey. Starting with the austere tones of medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut, Denk travels in time across the keyboard all the way to the 20th Century landing on the atonality of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the minimalism of Philip Glass.

Photo by Maria Barnova


Photo by Rui-Dias Aidos

The New World Symphony has been a pioneer in the fields of musician training and innovation in programming and community outreach since its founding 31 years ago. A recent $500,000 donation has now enabled it to create a Fund for New Ventures, designed to support further efforts to explore new opportunities and possibilities in re-imagining the learning, concert and performance experiences. A Tempo this Saturday (3/16 at 7 pm) starts a two-week look at the Miami Beach, Florida-based orchestra, its history and its plans for the future.

In Chicago, musicians have gone on strike. The players in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the country's top orchestras, let their contract expire on Sunday, March 10, and performances scheduled for this week have already been canceled.

Fans of Hector Berlioz — and record companies, it appears — need no excuse to celebrate the music of the pioneering French composer and quick-witted music critic. The sesquicentennial of Berlioz's death falls on March 8, and to mark the occasion, Warner Classics has released a 27-CD box containing, purportedly, every forward-thinking note the composer ever wrote.

Irvine, California-based Pacific Symphony is exploring an Iranian musical tradition that it hopes to make an annual part of its season, part of its on-going efforts to offer engaging programs for audiences in its diverse community.

Perhaps you have read a book or seen a play or movie set in a prep school: say, The Catcher in the Rye, or The History Boys, or The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

The playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, who co-wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for the film Moonlight, has made his Broadway debut with his own take on the setting, called Choir Boy. But instead of the WASP elite, the school in Choir Boy has an all-black student body. The Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys says it wants to raise strong, ethical black men.

Award-winning playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney has a fresh take on the prep school experience in his new play, Choir Boy. He tells NPR's Michel Martin about making his Broadway debut. Read a Web version of this interview.

For 11-year-old Olivia Mongelli, the bad news came during rehearsal.

"Everyone onstage was just in shock," the Ohio girl, cast as Scout in the dramatic production of the classic Harper Lee novel, told The New York Times. "I just sat there for a second and said, 'Is this a joke?' "

André Previn, a celebrated musical polymath, died Thursday morning; he was a composer of Oscar-winning film music, conductor, pianist and music director of major orchestras. His manager, Linda Petrikova, confirmed to NPR that he died at his home in Manhattan.

A Tempo this Saturday (3/2) features a conversation with conductor and musicologist Jane Glover, author of the new book Handel in London: The Making of a Genius. Rachel Katz is your host Saturday at 7 pm.

When it comes to niche programming, there is everything else, and then there is Documentary Now!

Photo by Maria Baranova


Carnegie Hall's 2019-2020 season includes a celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, including a multi-continent Ode to Joy project, and this Saturday (2/23 at 7 pm) A Tempo previews some of the highlights. Host Rachel Katz will speak with Executive and Artistic Director Clive Gillinson about the season, and also about the upcoming Migrations Festival, which kicks off next month and is devoted to exploring the impact and influence of immigrants on American culture.

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Veteran comedians know all about the funny side of anger.

The late George Carlin wrote an entire bit called "Free-Floating Hostility." Jerry Seinfeld once declared in the Los Angeles Times that "All comedy starts with anger."

After dance pioneer Alvin Ailey died in 1989, the future of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was uncertain. It's difficult to keep a dance company profitable after its founder is long gone – many have tried and failed. But 30 years later, the group is thriving, and decided to celebrate its 60th anniversary and founder by commissioning a new work titled Lazarus.

A scientist just scored honors for a musical adaptation of his research on Friday.

Pramodh Senarath Yapa, a physicist currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, has been named the 2018 winner of the "Dance Your Ph.D." contest.

The competition, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Science magazine, invites doctoral students and Ph.D. recipients to translate their research into an interpretive dance. The winner takes home $1000.


Orchestras and opera companies have been seeking out ways to bolster diversity and inclusion in their ranks, and A Tempo this Saturday (2/16 at 7 pm) looks at two new initiatives. Host Rachel Katz will speak with Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, which recently announced its Catalyst Fund, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, that will provide grants to youth and adult orchestras to work with a consultant to create programs and strategies that promote equity, inclusion and diversity.

Sounds Like Titanic, Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman's debut, is a memoir with bite.

From the Appalachian student desperate to support herself at Columbia, to the panic (sounds like Titanic) such anxiety triggers, to her travels with a con man, Hindman's story enthralls.

She narrates in second person — "I become 'you,' and in faking you, I am finally able to say what I want to say" — and profiles the challenges of the 99 percent with humor, sarcasm, and wit.

A group of guys from around the country all named Josh Cohen recently got together to watch a matinee of The Other Josh Cohen in New York City.

The musical speaks to a lot of people, but perhaps these guys more than others.

There's Josh Cohen from Mahopac, N.Y.; Joshua A. Cohen from Las Vegas; Joshua C. Cohen from Los Angeles; Josh N. Cohen from Brooklyn; and Joshua H. Cohen from Manhattan.

Renowned British actor Albert Finney has died at 82; his family confirmed the death in a short statement, saying he "passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side."

Photo by Kate Glicksberg / NYC & Company


Opera Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia this week announced details of its 2019-2020 season, including its third annual Fall Festival, O19. A Tempo this Saturday (2/9 at 7 pm) explores more about the season in a conversation with President and General Director David Devan, and Music Director Corrado Rovaris, about the season, which will include a tribute to the 20th anniversary of Rovaris' debut with the company.

The beloved American baritone Sanford Sylvan died Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. Lenore Sylvan, the singer's mother, along with his sister Gwen Sylvan and brother Seth Sylvan confirmed the death to NPR Thursday morning. Marc Mandel, a close family friend and director of program publications at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, said that the death was "entirely sudden" and that it was "deemed to be of natural causes." Sylvan was 65.

Tristan Cook

A Tempo this Saturday (2/2) previews highlights of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra's 2019-2020 season. Host Rachel Katz will speak with Music Director Xian Zhang and President and CEO Gabriel van Aalst about the musical and artistic line-up and other plans for the NJSO's future, including its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Photo by Joan Marcus


As orchestras make efforts to reach new audiences, they are finding ways to incorporate traditions from non-Western traditions into their regular programming. In recent years, some have begun holding concerts celebrating the Chinese, or Lunar, New Year with a mix of works by Asian composers and traditional Western classics, and this Saturday (1/26 at 7 pm), A Tempo looks at some of the upcoming programs.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


Disney's Frozen remains one of the greatest box-office successes in history. But in terms of impact and influence, it is perhaps most loved and best remembered for one of its breakout songs.

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