Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

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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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The Minnesota Orchestra will play one of its most important gigs of the year this month — at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, South Africa. In doing so, it will become the first major U.S. orchestra to visit that city. The performance is part of a year of celebrations recognizing the centennial of Nelson Mandela's birth. It makes sense for the orchestra to play in the community central to the freedom struggle which brought down apartheid.

Chris Lee

A Tempo this Saturday (8/18 at 7 pm) concludes its conversation with Barbara Haws, archivist and historian for the New York Philharmonic, who is retiring this month after 34 years in the position. Haws next plans to pursue her Doctorate at Oxford, focusing on Ureli Corelli Hill, who founded the Philharmonic in 1842.

Host Rachel Katz will speak with Haws about some of the Philharmonic's iconic leaders, including Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein, as well as her plans to study Hill's diary and what can tell us about music and musicians in 19-century America.

Joan Marcus


Barbara Haws is retiring this month after 34 years as Archivist of the New York Philharmonic, and this Saturday (8/11) on A Tempo, host Rachel Katz will speak with Haws about what attracted her to this role, some of the historical highlights she has come across, and her accomplishments, including the digitization of much of the collection's materials to make them accessible online. Tune in Saturday at 7 pm. (Part two of this conversation will air next week.)

Charlotte Rae, who died Sunday at 92, was a seasoned performer by the time she landed the role of matronly housekeeper Mrs. Garrett on the NBC sitcom Diff'rent Strokes in 1978. She'd done musical theater, including Li'l Abner in 1956 and Pickwick in 1965. She'd released an album of satirical songs in 1955, and played Sylvia, the wife of Al Lewis' character, on Car 54, Where Are You? from 1961-63.

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, considered one of the world's top orchestras, has fired its conductor, Daniele Gatti, after two women publicly accused him of sexual misconduct. A statement published Thursday on the orchestra's website notes that it has "terminated the cooperation with chief conductor Daniele Gatti with immediate effect."

Mental Illness: [Enter Stage Right]

Aug 2, 2018

With guest host Celeste Headlee.

In “Dear Evan Hansen,” the hit Broadway musical, we see a main character who struggles with severe social anxiety. “Fun Home,” another Tony Award-winner, digs deep into paralyzing depression.

Musicals about mental illness are a lucrative artistic trend in theatre. And these productions are breaking new ground with their honest, entertaining portrayals of disorders that 1 in 5 Americans live with.


In June, NPR reported the Philadelphia Orchestra's admission that it had not programmed a single piece of music composed by a woman for its upcoming 2018-19 season. Jeremy Rothman, the orchestra's vice president of artistic planning, said at the time the omission was "obviously a blind spot and an oversight."

Todd Rosenberg Photography

Carnegie Hall's National Youth Orchestra program launched its first-ever jazz program this summer, and this Saturday (8/4 at 7 pm) A Tempo takes a look at this new opportunity for young musicians. Host Rachel Katz will chat with pianist Brooke Wyatt from Houston, TX, and Wyatt Forham, a bass trombonist from St. Louis, MO. She will also speak with Joanna Massey, Director of Learning and Engagment Programs at Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute.

The 1A Movie Club Sees 'Blindspotting.'

Jul 31, 2018

‘Blindspotting’ resists genre. It’s not quite a comedy, and it’s not quite a tragedy. It’s the story of an Oakland, California, man, Collin (Daveed Diggs), who is spending his last couple of days on probation with a good friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), who can’t seem to get it together. And then he sees a white police officer shoot an unarmed black man.

Critics and the public alike have raved about the film. It has an enviable 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Nothing like a comedy festival to make you think so hard your head hurts. Immigration, #MeToo, bullying. Pain has long been at the root of great comedic material, and it was no different at this year's annual Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, where hundreds of comedians perform, attend panels and schmooze with agents, TV network reps and each other. "We're an industry built on outsiders," Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby told a roomful of her peers at the annual Just For Laughs Awards Show on Friday. She also urged the crowd not to forget it.

It's dress rehearsal at the Santa Fe Opera and Tina Cordova is waiting for her cue.

"There is not a single one of us onstage that isn't either a cancer patient, dealing with a tumor or a cancer," she says.

Cordova and the others preparing to take the stage are from southern New Mexico. They're downwinders — the people who lived near the first nuclear explosion and their descendants.

Many people living in the area weren't warned before they saw the flash of the 1945 atomic bomb tested as part of the Manhattan Project.

Victor Nechay/ProperPix


A Tempo this week (7/28 at 7 pm) highlights the upcoming Classical Bridge Festival, Academy and Conference in a conversation with pianist Klara Min, founder of the festival and New York Concert Artists and Associates. Host Rachel Katz will speak with Min about the inaugural season of the festival, which runs Aug. 4 through Aug. 11 at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center and features performances, master classes and panel discussions. 

Fifty years ago, a group of six guys walked on a London stage to perform for the first time as The King's Singers. They were choral scholars and graduates from King's College, part of England's venerable Cambridge University.

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