Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

Last month, the National Endowment for the Arts crowned four new NEA Jazz Masters, including Todd Barkan, a jazz advocate whose early interest in Latin jazz piano turned into a successful five-decade career as a prominent impresario, club owner and record producer. Guitarist Pat Metheny continues to redefine the parameters of his instrument through innovative technique and signature sound. Pianist Joanne Brackeen's unique style commands attention, and Dianne Reeves has become one of the world's preeminent jazz vocalists, whose genius in retrospect seems ceaseless.

In 1943, two 25 year olds — Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein — were about to rock the ballet world. The dance they collaborated on was Fancy Free — about three sailors in a bar, trying to meet women before they ship out to World War II.

"It's such a wonderful little sweet picture of that time ..." says Christine Redpath, one of four ballet masters Robbins chose to stage his work. "It's playful, and they're just fun and innocent. They don't know what's going to happen when they go off to war."

Aspiring orchestral musicians have long known that the road to a professional career is arduous and paved with risks. But new research from the U.K. shows that even attaining the brass ring of an orchestral job does not necessarily provide financial security. In fact, even with salaried, full-time employment, many British orchestral musicians are struggling to pay their bills.

Tina Fey's popular high-school movie "Mean Girls" is now a Broadway musical. Hear Theater Critic Howard Shapiro's review this week on In a Broadway Minute. Tune in Friday at 8 am and Saturday at 10 am.

With graduation season underway, A Tempo this week begins a short series of conversations with accomplished musicians who are giving back to young artists or imparting their wisdom at Commencement ceremonies. This Saturday (4/5 at 7 pm) host Rachel Katz chats with Philadelphia Orchestra Concertmaster David Kim, who frequently performs with youth and community orchestras and will be the soloist in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with West Windsor, NJ-based Sinfonietta Nova on Sunday May 6.

There's a well-known Russian folktale, "Snegurochka," that tells the story of an elderly couple who yearn to have a child; they create a little girl out of snow, and she comes to life. In her novel The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey reimagined that story and set it in her home state of Alaska — and now the story has made one more leap, to the theatre at Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage.

On a balmy Thursday evening, dozens of young Saudis stream into the AlComedy Club in the western port city of Jeddah. It's the start of the weekend, and the crowd snacks on popcorn and ice cream before grabbing some of the sagging seats in the theater. Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" blares from speakers hanging above a tiny stage.

When I first sat down to talk to Leslie Odom, Jr., I told him that our team had seen him in Hamilton, and then I told him that I suspected that's how many of his conversations started these days. He said that now, it's all about how early people say they saw it. They saw it at the beginning of the run! Before it was a hit! Back when it was at the Public!

Fifty years ago this past weekend, Broadway "let the sun shine in."

The musical Hair was controversial in 1968, with its rock music, hippies, nude scene, multiracial cast and anti-war irreverence. It billed itself as "the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical."

Audiences ... didn't quite know what to make of that. (They figured it out eventually.)

To appreciate how unexpected Hair was in 1968, consider what else was playing on Broadway the week it opened:

Hello, Dolly!

Man of La Mancha

The two most-nominated shows at this year's Tony Awards might sound familiar, even to those who don't keep an eye on Broadway: Mean Girls, based on the 2004 movie, and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical, based on the long-running animated TV show, each earned a dozen nominations.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

'Carousel' Returns To Broadway

Apr 28, 2018

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Harry Potter has arrived on Broadway with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a stage adaptation of the newest installment in J.K. Rowling's runaway hit series about a wizard and his upbringing. Hear Theater Critic Howard Shapiro's review this week on In a Broadway Minute Friday at 8 am and Saturday at 10 am. 

The 2018 New York Opera Fest gets underway May 1, and this Saturday (4/28) A Tempo offers a preview of its diverse productions and offerings - ranging from fully staged productions to immersive events in smaller venues to a downloadable podcast. Host Rachel Katz will speak with Peter Szep, co-founder and chair of the festival, about highlights and how the New York opera scene is expanding and evolving. Tune in Saturday at 7 pm. 

I fell in love recently — with Mel Brooks. It was my almost-next-to-last day in Los Angeles, and I'd gone with my producer, Danny Hajek, to interview the great writer-director-producer-composer-lyricist-mensch, whose movies include Young Frankenstein, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (my favorite film title ever), Blazing Saddles and other knee-slapping hilarities.

Allan Monga, a junior at Deering High School in Portland, Maine, traveled to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Poetry Out Loud contest on Monday. It's a national competition in which students recite great works of poetry, and it's run by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

But Monga, who says he fled violence in his home country of Zambia, was initially barred from the national final because of his immigration status: He's an asylum seeker and does not yet have U.S. citizenship.

Matthew Yokobosky finds food inspirational — which is perhaps not entirely surprising, considering that as an art curator, it's his job to make connections between seemingly disparate objects, just as a chef creates a cohesive dish out of contrasting ingredients.

So when New York City restaurateur and chef Saul Bolton suggested developing a themed menu and a series of dinners around the "David Bowie Is" exhibition now on view at the Brooklyn Museum, Yokobosky was intrigued.

The most expensive play in Broadway history opened Sunday night. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cost $33.5 million, runs five and a half hours long (in two parts), and has gotten rave reviews. But while it has plenty of special effects, it's actually designed for audiences to use their imagination.

As the orchestral world strives for greater diversity among musicians, a variety of programs to support musicians of color, who face multiple challenges on their path to an orchestral seat, have been explored. Recently, three organizations that have been tackling some of these issues - The Sphinx Organization, The League of American Orchestras and the New World Symphony - have brought their expertise and experience together, joining in a partnership to launch the National Alliance for Audition Support.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A good magician never reveals his secrets. Well, one of the world's most famous magicians has just broken that rule.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Arvo Pärt is one of the most popular, most performed living composers. He's beloved worldwide for his signature sound – a spacious, meditative music that tends to sound timeless.

But there's a lesser-known side to the 82-year-old Estonian's career. It's a story that can be traced in a new recording of Pärt's four Symphonies. The album is a musical journey spanning 45 years in fervently detailed performances by the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic, conducted by fellow Estonian Tõnu Kaljuste.

In the annals of American culture, Kendrick Lamar's unprecedented Pulitzer win in music for DAMN. will stand alongside a recent influx of hip-hop firsts: Jay-Z's 2017 induction into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, LL Cool J's 2017 Kennedy Center Honors and the entire slew of artists who — to paraphrase a George Clinton classic — helped paint the White House rap during Obama's presidency.


Since (at least) the release of good kid, m.A.A.d. city in 2012, the singularity of Kendrick Lamar has been plainly evident. But with the Pulitzer Prize in Music for 2018 being given to the Compton rapper for his 2017 album DAMN., his exceptionalism is now officially historic: It's the first time in the prize's history that it has been given to an artist outside of the classical or jazz community.

Orquesta Akokán takes its name from the Yoruba word meaning "from the heart." The group's self-titled debut album, released in March, draws deep from the soul and history of Cuba, reviving the spirit of the big-band orquestas of decades past like Buena Vista Social Club and Orquesta Aragón.

Laurie Metcalf is currently co-starring in the Broadway production of Edward Albee's Three Tall Women ... so we've invited her to play a game called "Three Short Men" — questions about Tom Cruise, Charlie Chaplin and a guy named Pete Conrad.

Metcalf also appears in the ABC sitcom Roseanne and was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Lady Bird.

Click the audio link above to see how she does.

Imagine what it would be like to grow up in a library. For much of the 20th century, public libraries built by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie included apartments for the families of custodians — people like Sharon Washington's dad. Back in the 1960s, she and her family lived above the St. Agnes branch of the New York Public Library, on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

SAG-AFTRA is calling for an end to auditions in private hotel rooms or residences, after a spate of sexual harassment allegations against powerful Hollywood figures.

"We are committed to addressing the scenario that has allowed predators to exploit performers behind closed doors under the guise of a professional meeting," the union's president, Gabrielle Carteris, said in a statement.

Kenneth Lonergan's play "Lobby Hero" is making its Broadway debut, starring Michael Cera as a security guard in an upscale New York apartment house. Hear theater critic Howard Shapiro's review of the play at the Helen Hayes Theater this week on In a Broadway Minute Friday at 8 am and Saturday at 10 am. 

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