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Three years after his death, my father, virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg, made headlines all over the world when his beloved Stradivarius violin, stolen 35 years earlier, was recovered by the FBI. The story struck the hearts of so many, I think, because in such turbulent times, it was rare good, even joyful, news. And the mystery of where it had been, was finally solved.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic's yearlong centennial celebration kicked off at the end of September, with a day-long street festival that spanned eight miles across the city.

Over two decades ago in 1997, when violinist Hilary Hahn was 17, she made a celebrated recording debut, Hilary Hahn Plays Bach. That year, Hahn told NPR about her enthusiasm for Bach's music.

"There's nothing I really wanted to record more than Bach," Hahn said. "I can work on it for a long time and keep discovering more things that surprise me every time."

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Joan Marcus


A promising violinist in her teens, Jessica Stuart put aside her instrument in college as she struggled with a cascade of mental illness challenges. She never expected to play it again, let alone perform, until about 15 years later, when a doctor suggested she look into the Me2/Orchestra in Burlington, Vt., which was launched in 2011 to create a safe, warm and welcoming environment for musicians facing various forms of mental illness (and not to be confused with the more recent #MeToo movement protesting sexual assault and harrassment).

Before Mike Nussbaum started acting professionally in his 40s, he was trying to make a living as an exterminator.

"I was acting since I was 9 years old ... but I was doing community theater for many years before I went ahead with it as a professional," Nussbaum says.

These days Nussbaum is earning rave reviews for his portrayal of Rudy, a grandfather who is confronting loss and decline, in Rachel Bond's play Curve of Departure at the Northlight Theatre near Chicago.

Magos Herrera is a jazz singer from Mexico, but she has also sung pop songs with Brazilian beats and crooned Mexican classics with a touch of rock. Herrera takes another adventuresome step on her new album, Dreamers, where she partners with a classical string quartet for an album steeped in Latin American culture. The potent mix of themes and the sound of the string quartet, plus a little percussion, are compelling.

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"Bernhardt/Hamlet" is a Broadway world premiere about actress Sarah Bernhardt's decision at the end of the 1800s to take on the role of Hamlet. Hear theater critic Howard Shapiro's review of this play on In a Broadway Minute, Friday (9/28 at 8 am) and Saturday (9/29 at 10 am).

Daniel Gonzalez

Even after her marriage to Robert Schumann, Clara (Wieck) Schumann continued composing and performing. While her income from performing was crucial to her family's financial stability, she also continued because of the important role music played in her life.

Music came naturally to Jon Batiste, the leader of Stay Human, the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Growing up outside of New Orleans as part of a large musical family, he says, "I picked up on all of these things that are integral to who I am as a musician without necessarily studying them."

Two of the country's oldest and most venerated music institutions, the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, are beginning their seasons with a change in artistic leadership. Both organizations are grappling with 21st century issues of bringing new audiences in and convincing them that centuries-old music forms are central to their lives today.

Despite being one of the first and oldest forms of popular music, opera sometimes struggles to connect with 21st century audiences. However, Anthony Roth Costanzo is breaking down the genre's stodgy stereotype and making opera more accessible — taking his distinctive sound to the masses, from a sixth-grade classroom in the Bronx to NPR's own Tiny Desk.

Photo by Joan Marcus


Andy Aitchison

A Tempo this Saturday (9/22 at 7 pm) features a conversation with author Judith Chernaik, whose book, Schumman: The Faces and the Masks, was published this month. Host Rachel Katz will speak with Chernaik about the way Schumann expressed and wove these various personas through his music, critical writing and personal correspondence, as well as how his relationship with Clara - and his struggle with Clara's father - are reflected in his music. 

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Dancer and choreographer Arthur Mitchell has died.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ARTHUR MITCHELL: I was the first black classical dancer with a major company in the United States of America.

The New York Philharmonic announced Sunday that it has taken action against two prominent musicians over unspecified "misconduct": the orchestra's principal oboist, Liang Wang, and its associate principal trumpeter, Matthew Muckey.

The orchestra said the decision came after a five-month internal investigation, led by a former federal judge. Both musicians dispute the Philharmonic's findings, and while the musicians' union reviews the orchestra's decision, the two have been placed on unpaid leave.

A Minneapolis Theater 'Prop God' Retires

Sep 15, 2018

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DING DONG MERRILY ON HIGH")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Ding dong merrily on high...

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Remembering Broadway Star Marin Mazzie

Sep 14, 2018

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One of Broadway's best-loved leading ladies has died. Actress Marin Mazzie died yesterday from ovarian cancer at the age of 57. Mazzie was known for her roles in the musicals "Passion" and "Ragtime." Jeff Lunden offers this appreciation.

Opera Philadelphia's annual Fall Festival, O18, opens September 20, continuing Opera Philadelphia's mission of presenting new works that explore diverse voices and themes, along with more traditional productions, and this week's A Tempo (Saturday 9/15 at 7 pm) provides a preview of one of the festival's centerpieces, "Sky on Swings" by Lembit Beecher.

When the sci-fi teen musical Be More Chill opened in New Jersey a few years ago, it got a ho-hum critical response. But then something surprising happened.

The cast recording and some YouTube videos went viral. Then came fan art, fan fiction and fan covers of the songs on social media.

When the show opened off-Broadway last month, it sold out entirely. In February, Be More Chill will move to Broadway.

At the Metropolitan Theatrical Awards in Mexico City, actresses in sequined floor length gowns and actors in tuxedos ranging from the debonair to the eccentric, walk the red carpet striking poses for photographers on a recent Tuesday evening at the historic Teatro de la Ciudad.

It is an unusual place for tensions over immigration and cultural identity.

Photo by Joan Marcus


Maryland Lyric Opera this month kicks off its 2018-2019 season, which will include its first fully-staged production since its founding in 2014. The season includes a concert performance of La Fanciulla del West in September and a staged production of Lucia di Lammermoor in January, as well as expanded opportunities to young singers through its Young Artist Institute. A Tempo this Saturday (9/8 at 7 pm) features a conversation with Music Director Louis Salemno about these programs and Maryland Lyric Opera's mission. 

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