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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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      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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      Brahms, Bruckner: Motets CD review – an illuminating double bill

      (Signum Classics)

      Bruckner was a man of faith, Brahms was a humanist but still turned to the Lutheran Bible and liturgy for texts. Both wrote devotional motets informed by an interest in plainchant and early Renaissance polyphony. The choices here include an Ave Maria by each, illuminating to compare: the Brahms, for women’s voices, has a soaring simplicity while the Bruckner setting (one of three he wrote), for seven-part mixed choir, is richly expressive. Other featured works include Brahms’s a cappella Three Motets Op 110 and Bruckner’s Tota pulchra es, Locus iste and Virga Jesse floruit. The dense harmonies suit this well-established professional choir perfectly. Were any extra reason needed, a portion of the proceeds of the disc go to Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of, among others, Tenebrae’s co-founder Barbara Pollock.

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      new releases

      1615: Gabrieli in Venice

      Choir of King’s College KGS-0012

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      Saint-Saens: Violin Concertos

      Analekta AN 2 8770

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      Cimarosa: Overtures

      Naxos 8.573459

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      Julia Lezhneva Sings Handel

      Decca 478 6766

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      Offenbach: Overtures & Ballets

      Chandos CHSA-5160

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