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      “Why there aren’t more women on the podiums”

      When conductor Marin Alsop became the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2007, she was the first woman to hold this position with a major American orchestra. She’s also the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms, and the first conductor ever to receive a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. I sat down with this trailblazing conductor during rehearsals with the more... more...

      An American Dance Craze Hits Europe

      European music took root in the Americas as the colonies began to expand. But the more enthusiastic cultural exchange arguably occurred on the other side of the Atlantic. Learn more about how early American dance created a craze in Europe. more...

      Thousands Attend Chicago’s 102nd Christmas Tree Lighting

      Thousands gathered on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 to celebrate the 102nd Annual Christmas Tree Lighting in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Previously staged in Daley Plaza, the city’s Christmas tree can now be seen at the west entrance of the park, across from the Michigan Avenue and Madison Street intersection. This year’s tree, a 63-foot Colorado blue more... more...

      Quiz: Match the Composer to His Favorite Food

      Some composers ate to live, others lived to eat. Can you match the composer to his favorite food? more...

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      Hirda review – a well-drawn chamber opera plays to the home crowd

      Mareel, Lerwick
      This new work from Glagsow’s NOISE, about the drama that ensues when an actor takes up with his brother’s new wife, is an appealing mix of accessible feisty

      Hirda is a Shetland term for wreckage or mess, and there’s hirda of sorts to this new chamber opera, co-composed by Gareth Williams and fiddler Chris Stout to a libretto in broad dialect by Sian Evans. The story involves an actor who comes home to the islands for his brother’s wedding and, wearing a slick suit and with Los Angeles charm, seduces his new sister-in-law. A pair of ghosts circle in the background with unfinished 19th-century business. Whisky is drunk, hirda ensues.

      As a piece of theatre, Hirda is no mess. It was commissioned by the Glasgow company NOISE, who aim to create nimble opera for new audiences. It’s as accessible as it was intended to be: Evans’s libretto is unfussy and uncluttered; and James Robert Carson directs with minimal stage faff. Carson also lets the cast shine: they’re a sparky, vocally ballsy young sextet comprising Laura Margaret Smith, Shuna Scott Sendall, Marie Claire Breen, Douglas Nairne, Andrew Dickinson and Jonathan Best. Characters are well drawn, their chemistry is believable and the accents are valiant. Premiering to a home crowd is the ultimate test, and the jokes (“If du canna get laid in Hamnavoe, du canna get laid at aw”) got genuine laughs in Lerwick.

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      Opera Zazà review – a knockout performance

      Barbican, London
      Ermonela Jaho was brilliant in the title role, part of a staging that redeemed Leoncavallo’s underappreciated opera about a singer in a French music hall

      Ruggero Leoncavallo thought Zazà, first performed in Milan in 1900, a finer work than Pagliacci, the only one of his operas to maintain a place in the regular repertory. History has generally disagreed with him – until last Friday night, with Opera Rara’s concert performance. It was an absolute stunner.

      Warm-hearted Zazà, a singer in a French provincial music hall, falls for Parisian businessman Milio, initially unaware that he is married. She only gives him up when she encounters his daughter, Toto, and realises that wrecking the marriage will blight the girl’s childhood, as her own was ruined by her father’s desertion. There’s one flaw: Milio, whose ghastly nature is only revealed at the end, is too enigmatic a figure early on for us to fully understand the initial attraction. We wonder why Zazà is still not involved with her worldly ex Cascart, who is now her stage partner and best friend. But there is a superb exposition, worthy of Émile Zola, in which the protagonists gradually detach themselves from a beautifully observed depiction of theatrical life. And the second half trawls Zazà’s anguish with an emotional force that tears you in two.

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      Die Fledermaus; Jerusalem Quartet; András Schiff – review

      Britten theatre; St John’s Smith Square, London; Assembly Rooms, Bath
      With John Copley directing tomorrow’s stars, RCM’s Strauss was a class act. But András Schiff was out of this world

      Die Fledermaus, done well, which it rarely is, can offer a brief, brittle distraction from dark days. Exquisitely awful puns and farcical disguise – the enraged wife who turns herself into a mystery “Hungarian”, the prison governor who pretends to be a French chevalier but can only muster the words “la plume de ma tante” and “prêt à manger” – are whisked into a featherlight Viennese froth of a score by “the waltz king” Johann Strauss II. From the moment the Royal College of Music’s opera orchestra struck up the opening notes of the overture, supple and brisk with a quicksilver scurry of strings, there was cause for optimism. The conductor, Michael Rosewell, whose career started at the Vienna State Opera, is no mean waltzer himself and twirled his players along with him in style.

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      Tour Vienna next May! Join Carl Grapentine in exploring some of his favorite musical sites, attending performances, and sightseeing. Then on to Salzburg!

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      1615: Gabrieli in Venice

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      Saint-Saens: Violin Concertos

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