Classical Music News

Updated at 3:43 p.m. ET

The embattled opera singer Plácido Domingo resigned Wednesday as general director of LA Opera, the company that he helped found and that he led for more than 15 years. The news broke in the midst of two formal investigations into accusations of sexual misconduct made by 20 women about alleged incidents that took place between the 1980s and the 2016-2017 performance season.

Domingo is also withdrawing from all scheduled appearances there, including a run of Gaetano Donizetti's Roberto Devereux next February and March.

Updated at 10:07 p.m. EDT

On Tuesday afternoon, at 5:07 p.m., Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb sent an email to staff that began this way:

"Dear Members of the Company,

Plácido Domingo has agreed to withdraw from all future performances at the Met, with immediate effect. We are grateful to him for recognizing that he needed to step down."

The Royal Opera [RO] in the U.K. — one of the most prestigious opera companies in the world — has suspended a star tenor, Vittorio Grigolo, after an incident that allegedly took place last week during the company's performance tour of Japan.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is back. Orchestra officials and musicians held a joint news conference Monday, on stage at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, to announce the ratification of a one-year contract that effectively ends a 16-week showdown between the two groups.

"I'm thrilled that an agreement has been reached," BSO music director Marin Alsop said in a statement announcing the new contract, "and that we will have our musicians back on stage to open our 104th season beginning on Friday night."

Composer Christopher Rouse, who once called himself a writer of "fast and furious" music and who taught courses in the history of rock, died Saturday of complications of renal cancer at age 70.

The other day, I went down to the National Mall here in Washington, D.C., and heard the sound of hope in sweet, strong, young voices.

A youth choir and chamber ensemble from Haiti are on a U.S. tour that's taken them from Maine to Manhattan to Kentucky over the past month. This stop was in a lush garden of the Smithsonian museums. The tour is meant to showcase Haiti's rich musical heritage — and to raise awareness of the country's rebuilding efforts.

Next Wednesday evening, Plácido Domingo, the opera megastar who has recently been accused of sexual misconduct by 20 women, is scheduled to start a run of performances of Verdi's Macbeth at the most famous opera house in the United States: New York's Metropolitan Opera.

When the first enslaved Africans landed on American shores in 1619, their musical traditions landed with them. Four centuries later, the primacy of African American music is indisputable, not only in this country but in much of the world. How that music has evolved, blending with or giving rise to other traditions — from African songs and dances to field hollers and spirituals, from ragtime and blues to jazz, R&B and hip-hop — is a topic of endless discussion.

With a season-opening concert slated for Saturday, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians and its management are still locking horns over details of a new contract agreement. A bargaining session ended Monday night with no resolution, only a set of last minute proposals from management which players will vote on Tuesday night.

Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET

The Associated Press reported Thursday that 11 more women have accused opera megastar Plácido Domingo of sexually harassing them in the opera theaters that are their workplaces. In total, 20 women have now accused Domingo of misconduct in allegations made via the AP.

A spokesperson for Domingo disputed the report and accused the AP of waging an "inaccurate" and "unethical" campaign against Domingo.

Dan Tepfer has transformed the acoustic piano entirely with his new project, Natural Machines. Watch the keys and you'll see this Disklavier — a player piano — plucking notes on its own. But it's not a prerecorded script.

Classical singer Marian Anderson was one of the all-time greats — both as an artist, and as a cultural figure who broke down racial barriers. She is best known for performing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, after she was denied permission to sing for an integrated audience at Washington's DAR Constitution Hall. But she was much more than that — she helped shape American music.

Julia Wolfe might be called America's "labor documentarian," but she's not making movies. She's composing music.

If 1960s rock icon Jimi Hendrix and 18th century composer George Frideric Handel were alive at the same time, they would have been next door neighbors in London.

"I once said to Fred Astaire, 'Isn't it wonderful what the Gershwin brothers did for you at RKO?' " John Williams recalls. Astaire answered. "Yes. But Irving Berlin did more."

Controversy has seemed to follow pianist Ivo Pogorelich at every move, even from the beginning. In 1980, when the 22-year-old whiz kid from Yugoslavia failed to reach the final round of the International Chopin Competition, the revered pianist Martha Argerich, who declared him a "genius," stormed off the jury in protest. Naturally, the dustup helped launch his career. With a brooding pout, movie star looks and a high-powered record deal, Pogorelich was an instant celebrity.

It's not every day someone walks into our NPR Music offices and unpacks an instrument made in 1680. And yet Kian Soltani, the 27-year-old cellist who plays with the authority and poetry of someone twice his age, isn't exactly fazed by his rare Giovanni Grancino cello, which produces large, luminous tones. (He also plays a Stradivarius.)

And if you think the notion of a cello recital isn't exactly sexy or thrilling, just take a look at Soltani; he radiates joy and ingenuity as he performs three pieces that offer virtuosity, sweet lyricism and fire.

Last month, opera star David Daniels and his husband, William "Scott" Walters, were indicted by Harris County, Texas on a felony charge of sexual assault. Simultaneously, the singer is battling the University of Michigan (UM), where he has taught since 2015 and where he was granted tenure in May 2018. Earlier this year, the school began seeking to fire Daniels over multiple, serious allegations of sexual misconduct.

One of the most potentially explosive #MeToo situations in the classical music sphere has been quietly shut down. The Metropolitan Opera and its former music director, James Levine, have reached a settlement in competing court claims that had been filed in New York State Supreme Court.

Updated Aug. 1 at 8:14 p.m. ET

Opera star David Daniels has been indicted in Texas on a felony charge of sexual assault.

A grand jury indicted Daniels in Harris County District Court on July 25. Also indicted on the same charge is Daniels' husband, William Walters, who goes by the name Scott. In Texas, sexual assault of an adult is a Class 2 felony; if convicted, Daniels and Walter could face between two and 20 years in prison.

Maybe you have opera jokes. We did.

When the Pop Culture Happy Hour team planned a trip to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, we grudgingly served up to each other our dusty old gags about Bugs Bunny and helmets with horns and Pretty Woman and ... have we left anything out?

We chose to see Rigoletto, precisely because it's a classic. It's real, hardcore actual opera. We didn't want to be reluctant, or to insist that opera come meet us where we were. We wanted to dive in. All jokes aside, we really did want the opera experience.

Augustin Hadelich's latest album of violin concertos offers two unlikely bedfellows. The tuneful, romantic classic by Johannes Brahms bumps up against the modernist mayhem of György Ligeti. The album, titled simply Brahms, Ligeti: Violin Concertos, also proves to be a compelling introduction to one of today's best, but still undervalued, violinists.

Updated on Jun. 17 at 11:41 a.m.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) musicians, carrying signs reading "Fair Play for World Class Musicians," have begun picketing in front of their artistic home, Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, as the orchestra's management has locked out its players.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.

In a surprising announcement Thursday, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra abruptly cancelled its summer 2019 lineup of concerts.

Kishi Bashi's "Summer of '42" is a love song inspired by and set in one of the darker chapters of American history: the internment of Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. "What are the things you wanted / The same as anyone," the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist sings. "Just a hand to hold a little / After all is said and done."

Jeremy Dutcher came to the Tiny Desk with sparkling, purple streams of glitter draped around his shoulders. Then he set his iPad on our Yamaha upright piano, not to read his score as pianists do these days, but to play a centuries-old wax cylinder recording of a song sung in the incredibly rare language of Wolastoq. Jeremy Dutcher, along with cellist Blanche Israel and percussionist and electronics wizard Greg Harrison, wove that old recording into a remarkably passionate performance that was very 21st-century, with a deep nod to a century past.

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