Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

Thousands of people will lay down blankets this week and watch Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's annual production in Boston Common, the heart of the city's sacred civic space.

This year's selection, following a year off because of the pandemic, is The Tempest. The production stars John Douglas Thompson as Prospero, a powerful magician ruling over a tiny island.

Stand-up comedian Jackie Mason, who followed a path from rabbi to borscht-belt comic, died in a New York City hospital on Saturday. He was 93.

Mason's longtime friend Raoul Felder confirmed his death to NPR. He said Mason was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago and suffered from a variety of ailments, including inflammation of the lungs. There are no indications that COVID-19 was a factor in the comedian's death.

This is a recap of the first episode of season 2 of Ted Lasso. You absolutely should not read it if you don't want to be spoiled. You've been warned!

Game Highlights

In a strong season premiere, Ted Lasso survives a risky opening scene and opens a new line of inquiry: What about the problems a miracle coach doesn't know how to fix?

Musicians in youth ensembles are eager to get back to in-person rehearsals and performances, and this Saturday (7/24 at 7 pm), A Tempo catches up with two of them. Carnegie Hall's National Youth Orchestra ensembles (NYO-USA, NYO-2 for slighhtly younger students and NYO-Jazz) are back this summer, with musicians gathering on the campus of SUNY-Purchase for workshops, sectionals and rehearsals, after the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 season.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts today announced its 44th lifetime achievement award winners.

The pandemic shut down most summer music festivals last year and Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, was no exception. But on July 10 the BSO returned, with an all-Beethoven program featuring pianist Emanuel Ax.

In 1931, modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn purchased a farm in an isolated location in Western Massachusetts, as a retreat for his company. And over the years, Jacob's Pillow grew into one of the most important incubators of contemporary dance, not just for America, but for the world.

"This festival has never been canceled ever in its history," says director Pamela Tatge, "not even in World War II."

From the debates and the hype on social media about unconventional casting choices lately, you might think the world was about to spin off its axis.

If Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel takes a seat at the Round Table in The Green Knight, does that mean King Arthur recruited knights of Indian descent in the 12th century?

And is Mindy Kaling really voicing the brainiac title character in a Scooby-Doo spinoff called Velma? And producing it too?

Of all the things I know that I don't need to know, I probably don't need to know the words to "(Not) Getting Married Today" from Company the most.

The Pennsylvania Ballet recently announced it was changing its name to The Philadelphia Ballet to reflect it's home city, and this Saturday (7/17 at 7 pm) on A Tempo, host Rachel Katz will explore the name change and the company's plans for a return to live performances in the coming season. The program's guests will be Philadelphia Ballet Artistic Director Angel Corella and Music Director Beatrice Affron.

(Photo: Dean Alexander)

One of the most adventurous classical ensembles, the Grammy Award-winning Attacca Quartet, has made its reputation with an eclectic musical palette – they've explored the string quartets of Haydn and Beethoven and premiered new pieces by contemporary composers.

Broadway is back, and its 2021 new play lineup is brimming with shows by Black writers.

Through the end of the year, new and returning shows are scheduled to hit Broadway stages after theaters closed for a year and a half due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shows are set to begin as early as August, bringing back both beloved musicals and plays that were forced to close early because of the pandemic, and new work seeing the Broadway stage for the first time.

Westminster Choir College's Co-OPERAtive program is bringing young singers together - online for the second year in a row - for intensive training in vocal technique and stage craft. A Tempo this Saturday (7/10 at 7 pm) gets a closer look at this opera training program, including how it's migrated online in light of the pandemic, in a conversation with Director Susan Ashbaker.

Italians are mourning the death of a beloved entertainer often referred to as "the lady" or "the queen" of Italian television.

When the Pulitzer-winning composer Caroline Shaw wants a snack, she soft-boils an egg. She knows that six minutes and 15 seconds leads to the ideal texture — a jammy yolk, with a chalky outer edge and a flowing center. But her ritual for the past few years has been to surrender the process to music, letting whatever she's listening to that day dictate the precise cook time.

Bill Cosby called on Howard University to support former co-star Phylicia Rashad's freedom of speech after she expressed support for him when his sexual assault conviction was overturned.

In a statement, Cosby also lashed out at the media, comparing journalists to the rioters who stormed the Capitol in January.

"Howard University you must support ones Freedom of Speech (Ms. Rashad), which is taught or suppose to be taught everyday at that renowned law school, which resides on your campus," Cosby said in a statement provided to NPR by his spokesman Andrew Wyatt.

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Louis Andriessen, the most widely acclaimed Dutch composer of his generation, died on Thursday, July 1, in a care home in Weesp, North Holland. His death was confirmed by Boosey & Hawkes, his publisher. He was 82 years old.

The past year has given arts organizations the chance to rethink and reimagine their future, and recently two popular Princeton cultural institutions announced plans to merge. The Princeton Symphony Orchestra and Princeton Festival are bringing together their musical and educational programs, and this Saturday on A Tempo (7/3 at 7 pm), host Rachel Katz will speak with PSO Executive Director Marc Uys and PSO Edward T. Cone Music Director Rossen Milanov, as well as Festival Director Gregory Geehern.

Actor James Franco and two other men have agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit led by Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, former students of an acting school owned by Franco and one of the other men. Tither-Kaplan and Gaal, who filed their suit in Oct. 2020, claimed that they were sexually exploited and victims of fraud at the now-closed school, which was called Studio 4.

Pianist Min Kwon had been considering commissioning a set of variations, not unlike the Diabelli Variations, before the pandemic put the world on hold. Over the past year she expanded her vision, reaching out to composers for their various reflections on "America the Beautiful." She will premiere the result - works by 75 composers including Victoria Bond, Nico Muhly, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Terry Riley, and Jed Distler (host of Between the Keys here on The Classical Network) - beginning July 4 through online performances and two nights of live concerts.

Today the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announces new grants for arts and culture organizations under President Biden's American Rescue Plan. The pandemic relief fund set aside $135 million for both the arts and humanities endowments, nearly double the amount that was available to cultural groups in President Trump's CARES Act. Eligibility requirements for NEA grants have also been modified to allow for a broader pool of applicants.

Performing in the fictional girl band Girls5Eva is not entirely new territory for actor Renée Elise Goldsberry. "I was actually in a girl group that had the same experience ... ," she says. "We didn't make it even as far as Girls5Eva back in the late '90s."

Editor's note: This story includes multiple uses of offensive language.

There have been many misfits in classical music, but Julius Eastman stands tall among them.

The U.S. Congress this week established Juneteenth, a commemoration observed in communities and cities across the country for more than 150 years to mark the day slaves in Texas were informed of their freedom, as an officially recognized federal holiday. Celebrations being held all over the country on June 19 likely will assume an added sense of occasion.