Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

What does it say about the state of jazz recording that Jason Moran and Rudresh Mahanthappa, both former Jazz Critics Poll winners, resorted to issuing their new albums primarily as digital downloads? Nothing good, probably, though I know some will say that digital is where sales are these days and jazz is just catching up to the zeitgeist.

Playwright Tracy Letts says that by the time the 2016 election happened, he was almost finished writing The Minutes.

"It was a job of work to keep the blinders on and not make the play about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or — actually, to escape into the world of the play during that political moment was great, was solace," he says.

The artistic director of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Anna Shapiro, says The Minutes was solace for her too. Letts sent her the play just a few weeks after the election.

Four years into his studies at Westminster Choir College, senior John Franek was still finding himself caught up in the emotions and spirit of the school’s annual Readings and Carols as he prepared to chime the “basso profundo” D2 bell that rings in Joy to the World, the final carol on the program.

Uma Thurman is making her Broadway debut in a new play called The Parisian Woman, about Washington politics behind the scenes. Theater critic Howard Shapiro reviews the play this week on "In a Broadway Minute," Friday morning at 8 and Saturday morning at 10.

Tania El Khoury splits her time between London and Beirut, where she helped found an artists' collective. Three years ago, moved by stories she was hearing about the Syrian uprising, she created an interactive work called "Gardens Speak." It grew out of an image she saw of a mother digging a grave for her son in her home garden because public funerals had become too dangerous.

With allegations of sexual abuse beginning to ripple through the classical music world, what roles and responsibilities do performing arts organizations have? A Tempo explores that theme Saturday at 7 pm in a conversation with arts consultant Drew McManus, author of the blog Adaptistration.com.

Here's an idea for a musical: The end is near, and there's just one day for the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom to figure out how to save themselves from a powerful volcano that's about to explode. Who can we count on to come through?

Well, who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Absorbent and yellow and porous is he!

Classical music has never lived in a bubble. For centuries, it's always found common ground with folk music.

Enter, the Danish String Quartet.

Richard Reed Parry plays to arenas full of fans as a member of the Grammy-winning band Arcade Fire, but he impressed listeners in 2014 with a more intimate record. Parry's Music For Heart And Breath featured compositions that asked some of the best musicians in contemporary classical music to use their own heartbeats and breathing to guide their performances.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors were a chance to celebrate among others a dancer, a rapper and a TV-sitcom pioneer. Here's NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

Melissa Fitzgerald

Shelly Power, who takes over as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Ballet in February, has several priorities on her to-do list, such as strengthening the Philadelphia-based ballet company's financial foundation and continuing to expand its facility on North Broad Street. But she is particularly looking forward to exploring ways the organization can provide opportunities for the city's youth who may not have adequate exposure to dance and the arts. 

At a meeting in Geneva today, the treaty organization that shook the music industry with new trade regulations on rosewood took formal action to clarify and potentially ease some of the regulations.

Rosewood is a prized "tonewood" used for musical instruments from guitars to clarinets and oboes.

The treaty cracked down on the material's international movements late last year to combat worldwide depletion of rosewood trees, driven by China's burgeoning demand for rosewood furniture.

In a cheerful rehearsal room at Temple University, a few dozen professional musicians inspect the instruments that they'll be playing to debut an audacious piece of music by a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer.

The composition is called "Symphony For a Broken Orchestra" and, fittingly, these instruments are all broken.

Matthew Murphy

The actor, writer and comedian John Leguizamo is performing his new one-man show Latin History for Morons on Broadway. Join theater critic Howard Shapiro for his review this week on In a Broadway Minute Friday at 8 am and Saturday at 10 am. 

Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist Dan Katz has two cellos. The better one — the one he prefers to play with the orchestra — is 200 years old and has rosewood tuning pegs. When the orchestra went on an 11-concert European tour in January, he purposefully left it home.

"I worry with that instrument about international travel now, because of those pegs," Katz said after rehearsing for a performance of Schubert's Ninth Symphony earlier this month.

It is an important moment in the life of a symphony orchestra when a new conductor is selected — not just to lead the orchestra, but to create the programs, hire the artists and more. In short, to be the music director.

In Washington, D.C., the choice was made with astonishing harmony.

John Adams might be called the "documentarian" among American composers. His works have traced the birth of the atomic bomb, President Nixon's trip to China and the 9-11 attacks. Now, Adams turns to the California Gold Rush.

The new Christmas show on Broadway is a musical revue called "Home for the Holidays" at the August Wilson Theatre. Hear Theater Critic Howard Shapiro's review this week on In a Broadway Minute Friday at 8 am and Saturday at 10 am.

Giving Tuesday, which this year falls on November 28, provides an opportunity to support non-profits  and give back to community organizations. This week on A Tempo (Saturday 11/25 at 7 pm), host Rachel Katz highlights one such initiative by NPR's From the Top. For each dollar, composer and From the Top alum J.P. Redmond will add a note to a work to be performed by two other From the Top alumni. Guests this week will be From the Top's Marketing and Communications Director Austin Boyer and Senior Development Associate Shirley Barkai.

Stile Antico is a 13-member a cappella choir based in London. These young, fresh-faced singers have already racked up some impressive awards for their recordings — mainly of intricately woven music from the Renaissance.

Contemporary ballet company Ballet X celebrated the groundbreaking of its new Center for World Premiere Choreography this week, announcing plans to commission 40 new works by 25 choreographers in the next decade and promising to provide opportunities for young people in the neighborhood of its new South Philadelphia home. 

When playwright Sarah DeLappe was growing up, she loved war movies. So she decided to write a play that was like a war movie – but about girls soccer.

The Wolves opens at New York's Lincoln Center on Monday. As the lights come up, nine teenage girls are in a circle atop a green expanse of artificial turf, stretching before a match. And they're all talking at once.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The play M. Butterfly, about a French diplomat who falls in love with a Chinese mistress, is in revival on Broadway. Join Howard Shapiro on In a Broadway Minute for a review Friday at 8 am and Saturday at 10 am.

A Tempo this week explores the life and legacy of Venezuelan composer and arranger Aldemaro Romero. Hired by RCA in 1951, his career included the popular Dinner in Caracas album, collaborations with Dean Martin and Tito Puente, and the development of the Onda Nueva sound. His musical works spanned jazz, big band and classical genres and often brought in Venezuelan melodies and styles. 

When songwriter David Yazbek, whose mother is Jewish and father Lebanese, decided to write a musical that fused his two cultural backgrounds, he knew he didn't want it to be about tribal conflict.

His new Broadway show, The Band's Visit, attempts to do something that seems almost unfashionable: look at two historically antagonistic cultures and tell a story about their commonality.

"The Band's Visit" is a new musical taken from an Israeli film about a visiting Egyptian police band stranded in the Israeli desert. Howard Shapiro reviews the musical this week on In a Broadway Minute Friday at 8 am and Saturday at 10 am.

Imagine a dinner party that never ends. The guests can't leave. That's the premise for Luis Buñuel's classic 1962 surrealist film The Exterminating Angel. It might seem an unlikely subject for an opera, but that's just what London-born composer Thomas Adès has brought to New York's Metropolitan Opera.

Pages