Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

A new musical explores life in high school in a way that's eerily familiar. It's called Ranked, and it's set in a dystopian world where your class rank — determined by grades and test scores — governs everything from where you sit to what your future holds.

Photo courtesy of Brigette Lacombe


A Tempo this week looks at how two upcoming performances reflect efforts to explore the impact of social, historic and economic trends on cities. Host Rachel Katz will speak with composer Derek Bermel and librettist Wendy S. Walters, whose Golden Motors is about the impact of the Detroit auto industry on those whose livelihoods depend on it. The New York debut of scenes from the work in progress will take place April 18 and 19 at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.

If you could bottle the keen curiosity the new FX series Fosse/Verdon has about the details of both Bob Fosse's genius and his destructive, dishonest, sexually harassing, emotionally abusive behavior, you would perhaps have a little bit of curiosity to spare to make up for the project's limited interest in what it all meant for Gwen Verdon and countless other women he treated like hot garbage.

During a recent break in the action, a dance squad stormed the court for the Washington Wizards. Donning bright red, white and sparkly blue outfits, they spun, they shimmied, they even did some light twerking. They looked like any dance team a fan might expect to see at an NBA game, except for one difference: They were all over the age of 50.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

In 2005, even as the flood waters that rose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina subsumed his home along with countless others, Allen Toussaint was reluctant to leave his city. But the elegant architect of New Orleans rhythm and blues was left with no other option. Just a day after his evacuation, in an interview with Rolling Stone, he described the experience less in terms of what had been lost than what could yet be gained.

Photo by Matthew Murphy


A Tempo this Saturday (4/6 at 7 pm) turns a spotlight on the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia's College of Physicians, which will feature a presentation by pianist, composer and music historian Robert Greenberg  on April 15 entitled "We Need No Longer Be Afraid," exploring the way the music of Stravinsky, Debussy and Schoenberg shook up to music world while reflecting the changes taking place in the world at the dawn of the 20th century.

The Lehman Trilogy, which opened at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City on March 27, has been produced in France, Germany and Italy. An Italian, Stefano Massini, wrote it; the Englishman Sam Mendes directed it.

And yet the story is quintessentially American. Three Orthodox Jews from Bavaria arrive in New York in the mid-19th century; eventually two of them settle in the very neighborhood where the play is being staged. And over the next decades, they build one of the most influential economic behemoths in the world: Lehman Brothers.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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No composition seems too difficult for pianist Lang Lang. But on his latest solo record, Piano Book, the 36-year-old known for his finger-twisting virtuosity is exploring something simpler: Beethoven's "Fur Elise," Debussy's "Clair de Lune" and other pieces that accompanied him in the first few years of a lifelong love-affair with the instrument.

Editor's note on April 2, 2019: This story was an April Fools' joke.

A musical inspired by the Broadway hit about Alexander Hamilton tells the story of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Actor and playwright Heidi Schreck says her new play — What the Constitution Means to Me — is a love letter to her mother.

The Broadway play — part personal memoir, part civics town hall — recreates the constitutional debate contests Schreck attended in high school. It's an attempt, she explains, to trace her evolving understanding of the U.S. Constitution and how it relates to her life, her family, and the women in her family in particular.

Christine Goerke is focused on endurance. The dramatic soprano is tackling one of the most challenging roles in opera: singing Brünnhilde, the Valkyrie maiden warrior, in Richard Wagner's epic, Der Ring des Nibelungen, at New York's Metropolitan Opera. Otherwise known as the Ring cycle, the 16-hour saga spans four operas and tells the story of gods, monsters, humans and an insatiable urge to own an all-powerful golden ring.

Photo by Joan Marcus


This Saturday (3/30 at 7 pm), A Tempo looks at one of the latest online learning resources available for those interested in exploring opera in more depth. The Metropolitan Opera Guild has just launched an online learning program, and host Rachel Katz will speak with Stuart Holt, director of school programs and community engagement, about the series and some of the Guild's other education initiatives and activities.

Photo by Tom Miller


A Tempo this Saturday (3/23 at 7 pm) wraps up its two-week feature on the New World Symphony and its 31 years of training musicians for musical careers. This week host Rachel Katz focuses on the symphony's mission to provide career development, including expanded explorations of community outreach, alternative programming and entrepreneurial initiatives.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Born 100 years ago today, Nat King Cole was one of the most popular and influential entertainers of the 20th century. As an African American ballad singer and jazz musician, he topped the charts year after year, sold more than 50 million records, pushed jazz piano in a new direction and paved the way for later generations of performers.

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.

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