Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

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...

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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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Photo by Matthew Murphy


Paul Taylor, one of the most prolific and influential choreographers in the world of modern dance, died Wednesday, Aug. 29. The cause was renal failure, the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation confirmed. He was 88.

The movements Taylor created on stage were inspired by everyday people doing everyday things, including doing nothing at all. It was an approach that at first turned people away — but he eventually turned them around.


Renée Fleming is becoming America's go-to singer. The celebrated soprano, who has performed at a broad range of high-profile events off the opera stage, is scheduled to sing at Senator John McCain's memorial service this Saturday at Washington's National Cathedral.

Fleming is slated to sing the Irish standard "Danny Boy" — at McCain's request — alongside tributes to the late Senator by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and a homily by Bay Area Catholic leader Father Edward A. Reese.

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Neil Simon, the enormously productive comic playwright who often adapted his work into screenplays, died on early Sunday morning. He was 91. The cause of death was complications from pneumonia, according to Bill Evans, his longtime friend and publicist.

Among the most prolific playwrights in American theater from the 1960s through the 1990s, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for Lost in Yonkers, which he said was his deepest play. But Neil Simon was better known for being funny.

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Louisiana-born fashion designer Billy Reid had his spring runway show yesterday in Florence - Florence, Ala. It's part of a weekend where high fashion meets Southern hospitality at Reid's annual Shindig in northwest Alabama. NPR's Debbie Elliott was there.

Jamie Bernstein can't call her childhood a typical one. On any given weekend, she might find Lauren Bacall, Isaac Stern, Richard Avedon, Mike Nichols, Stephen Sondheim, Lillian Hellman or Sidney Lumet hanging out at her house. Jamie's father was Leonard Bernstein.

There has never been an American dynamo remotely like Leonard Bernstein. The composer, conductor, pianist, creator of musicals, educator, political maven and raconteur seemed to spin on his axis faster than any normal human being.

Library of Congress


Photo by David DeNee

A Tempo this Saturday (8/25) follows up on The Orchestra Now (TON), a Masters program launched at Bard College three years ago to train orchestral musicians, encourage them to explore new and overlooked repertoire, and enable them to blaze their own trails in the music world by creating new and innovative ensembles and education programs.

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

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