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      Carl's Morning Quiz

      Carl Grapentine

      Carl's Morning Quiz: The Italian composer Luigi Denza composed his famous song "Funiculi, Funicula" to celebrate the building of a funicular railway. The railway made its way up and down what mountain? Answer >>

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      QUIZ: Guess the Composer by Their Facial Hair

      Think you know classical composers? Can you guess them by their facial hair? more...

      Your High School Musical Memories

      Heading back to school means auditions are coming up, rehearsals will be starting soon, and before you know it, you’ll be practicing music for a holiday concert even though it’s not even officially fall. For many, one of the best parts of heading back to school is performing with school ensembles. We asked four organizations more... more...

      10 Operas About Poisonous and Medicinal Plants

      As everyone is poised for the corpse plant at the Chicago Botanic Garden to bloom, why not enjoy some music about poisonous and medicinal plants? Operas would be a lot less interesting if poison didn’t seep its way into their plots. Check out this list of 10 operas about poisonous and medicinal plants, taken largely from the research more... more...

      5 Women on Being Modern Women in Dance

      The 9th Chicago Dancing Festival presented its first ever Modern Women program, highlighting the important contributions of women in dance both past and present: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Kate Weare, and Pam Tanowitz, Crystal Pite. I spoke with women from each of the five companies on the program about women’s roles in dance, both as dancers and as choreographers. more...

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      Hindemith: The Long Christmas Dinner CD review – preserves the subtlety of his last opera

      Zamora/Murphy/Ott/Quinn/Allen/American SO/Botstein
      (Bridge)

      Though, or perhaps because, he was a very fine amateur musician, Thornton Wilder generally discouraged attempts to turn his plays into operas. But he did write the libretto for one opera, Louise Talma’s The Alcestiad, and agreed to adapt his 1931 play The Long Christmas Dinner as a text for Paul Hindemith. First performed in Mannheim in 1961, it was Hindemith’s final opera. The premiere was given in German translation, and subsequent recordings of the work have all used that version; this is the first disc of The Long Christmas Dinner to return to Wilder’s original English text.

      Lasting less than 50 minutes, the chamber opera encapsulates the history of a single family, the Bayards, across 90 years, through a succession of Christmas feasts. Characters enter from one side and depart from the other as the decades and the generations roll by. It’s a subtle, wonderfully understated examination of the changing relationships within a family, and of the ways in which society is evolving around them. There are births, marriages and deaths, and finally lonely old age, and Hindemith’s score matches the light touch with which Wilder’s text deals with this complex web of issues.

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      Nikolaus Lehnhoff obituary

      Opera director who was best known in Britain for his association with Glyndebourne

      The German opera director Nikolaus Lehnhoff, who has died aged 76, worked as an assistant to Wagner’s grandson, Wieland, in Bayreuth in the mid-1960s, an association that was to nourish his work both aesthetically and intellectually throughout his career. Wieland Wagner’s New Bayreuth style – austerely stylised and subtly lit – clearly made its mark on Lehnhoff’s productions right up to and including his Tristan und Isolde for Glyndebourne in 2003. From Wieland, too, Lehnhoff drew inspiration for a seriousness of purpose expressed often in abstract or symbolic terms.

      Lehnhoff was at the same time conscious of the legacy of Wieland as something he needed to come to terms with. And indeed his approach was by no means rooted in the past: he frequently elected to work, for example, with designers who were prominent painters and sculptors, whose strongly characterised visual aesthetic formed an intrinsic element of the production.

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      OAE/Alsop review – Jamie Barton makes Proms debut with breathtaking Brahms

      Royal Albert Hall, London
      The mezzo-soprano’s Alto Rhapsody was restrained and compelling in the midst of an exuberant programme by Marin Alsop and the OAE

      Marin Alsop’s Brahms concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment here formed the Proms debut of the American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, winner of Cardiff Singer of the World in 2013. Her Brahms singing on that occasion marked her out as an important interpreter of his music, an impression confirmed by her Proms performance of the Alto Rhapsody, one of his greatest works, though the unusual forces required – a male chorus in addition to alto and orchestra – have made it something of a rarity.

      Setting a text by Goethe, the rhapsody examines the nature of existential isolation and the potential of music to offer solace. Where some interpreters ramp up the angst, Barton was notably restrained: the only moment of overt passion came, tellingly, in the heft with which she uttered the statement that “human hatred” has forced Brahms’s traveller from his path. Elsewhere, the noble beauty of the sound was breathtaking. The tenors and basses of the Choir of the Enlightenment sang with focused refinement. Alsop conducted with the immediacy that characterises her Brahms as a whole.

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