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      A British Import: the BBC Proms

      They gave the world Monty Python and the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Leave it to the British to organize something as inexplicable and wonderful as the BBC Proms, with a subculture of devoted attendants, some of whom line up hours before a concert for a £5.00, standing-room-only ticket more...

      Impromptu with Ken Burns

      As a director who's covered everything from the Civil War, to baseball, to prohibition, to the national parks, Ken Burns is famous for making epic films about human endeavors – not so much for making biographies, although personal accounts are a hallmark of his storytelling style. His latest series is a biography, weaving together the stories of three people named Roosevelt more...

      Filmmaker Ken Burns to Visit WFMT

      Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns comes to WFMT on Tuesday, September 9 for a live conversation with Kerry Frumkin. Mr. Burns will be on-hand to talk about his latest release, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, which premiers on WTTW on Sunday. more...

      The Passing of Magda Olivero

      With Licia Albanese and Magda Olivero gone, it truly is the end of an era in opera, reaching back into the first half of the twentieth century. Those were the decades in which composers like Puccini, Mascagni, Cilea and Strauss; and conductors like Arturo Toscanini more...

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      Magda Olivero obituary

      Italian prima donna with one of the longest careers in the history of opera

      The Italian prima donna Magda Olivero, who has died aged 104, had one of the most remarkable careers of the 20th century, above all as a leading exponent of the often-derided art of the verismo soprano. The post-Romantic realism of the verismo movemement in Italian opera, notably in works by Giacomo Puccini, Francesco Cilea, Franco Alfano, Umberto Giordano and Pietro Mascagni, provided an outlet ideally suited to her compelling presence, and brought her a great following.

      She had sung the role of Adriana Lecouvreur in Cilea's opera opposite Beniamino Gigli before the second world war, but during the war she married and all but retired. It was Cilea who encouraged her to return to the stage, first as Mimì in La Bohème, then as Adriana at Brescia, (1951). Cilea died shortly before her performance, but he had coached Olivero in what was to become her most famous role.

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      Prom 75: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Gilbert review one of the best-sung Beethoven Ninths in years

      Performing under the baton of Alan Gilbert, the Gewandhaus only gradually found Beethovens fire, with clear and controlled playing in the earlier movements giving way to an explosive choral finale

      The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra arrived at the Proms without its kapellmeister, Riccardo Chailly, who cancelled his summer engagements after injuring his arm earlier this year. He was replaced by Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, a fine if variable conductor whose UK performances divide opinion.

      The main work in their second programme was Beethovens Ninth Symphony, restored after an absence to its once traditional place in the penultimate concert of the series. The symphony was prefaced with Friedrich Cerhas Paraphrase on the Opening of Beethovens Symphony No 9, one in a series of works commissioned in 2010 by the Gewandhaus to accompany the orchestras Beethoven cycle, and heard in London during their Barbican residency. Cerha is best known for his completion of the third act of Bergs Lulu, and his paraphrase takes a variant of the symphonys opening motto as the starting point for a journey into astringent Bergian darkness and back. It is fractionally too long, but is deftly scored and was attractively played.

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      Otello review musically magnificent but there's an emotional vacuum at the heart of ENO's new production

      Coliseum, London
      With Stuart Skelton in the title role, this is the tragedy of an ordinary jealous man; its Jonathan Summerss totally compelling Iago who holds centre stage

      English National Operas last Otello, 16 years ago, set it in the army barracks of a 20th-century war zone in the desert. David Aldens new production, which also marks the 30th anniversary of his Coliseum debut, keeps Verdis penultimate masterpiece in the 20th century, but nudges it back 70 years earlier to between the two world wars, still somewhere in the Mediterranean, perhaps even in Cyprus. The action takes place in a single space, a battle-scarred inner courtyard in Jon Morrells designs to which a chair is added for the final bedchamber act.

      In an interview in the programme Alden says that the production plays Otello himself as an assimilated Muslim, who has converted to Christianity; but in performance the effect seems to be to deracinate the opera altogether. The tragedy becomes that of an impulsive, unresolved man and his hopelessly naive young wife, who almost too easily become the victims of Iagos smouldering, class-ridden resentment.

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