KLRE Classical Music News

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When opera star Joyce DiDonato told us she wanted to sing centuries-old Italian love songs at the Tiny Desk we weren't surprised. But when she said she was bringing a jazz band to back her up, we did a double take. But that's Joyce, always taking risks. After all, the last time we filmed the down-to-earth diva, she insisted on singing an opera aria at the Stonewall Inn, the iconic gay tavern in Greenwich Village.

Arkansas Cinema Society

We’re in the midst of awards season, and movies are naturally on the mind of many. But for Kathryn Tucker, film is always at the forefront.

Tucker founded the Arkansas Cinema Society in 2017 along with Little Rock-born film director Jeff Nichols. Since then, the ACS has been uplifting filmmakers in the Natural State through grants, public programs and screenings.

After the ferociously talented harpist Bridget Kibbey unpacked her 47-stringed instrument at our NPR Music offices, she proceeded to crush the stereotype of the genteel harp, plucked by angels. She proved that the instrument can be as tempestuous as a tango, as complex as a Bach fugue and sing as serenely as a church choir.

Kibbey is crazy for the harp. She first heard one at a country church amid the Northwest Ohio cornfields where she grew up. Now she's the go-to harpist for contemporary composers, some of whom who are writing pieces especially for her.

Adrianne Lenker is the guitarist and singer for the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based rock band Big Thief. Cecilia Bartoli is the Italian opera singer who thrives on neglected repertoire from the 18th century. The two women might seem like strange bedfellows, but they come together in our series titled "highly specific superlatives," a kind of drilling down to some of the finest and most precise moments in the arts in 2019.

Every Christmas Eve at exactly 3 p.m., the Chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England plays A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. The tradition began in 1918, and for decades it's been broadcast on the BBC and around the world. A commemorative recording of last year's Centenary Service has just been released; it was the last one conducted by Sir Stephen Cleobury, the choir's music director for 37 years, who died just last month on Nov. 22.

At the height of the Cold War in 1958, Van Cliburn, a curly-headed kid from Texas, won the International Tchaikovsky Competition. He was hugged by Nikita Khrushchev and heralded like Elvis Presley when he returned.

Arkansas Rep

If you find yourself in Little Rock for the Holidays, you don't have to be the richest man in the world to revisit a Christmas classic. 

The story of George Bailey, his guardian angel Clarence, and all the inhabitants of Bedford Falls has become something of a holiday tradition for many. 

Traditions worth saving still need need practitioners and advocates who are willing to propel them forward. Classical music boasts a long, rich history — about 1000 years — of transformation, adaptation, tumult and triumph. From radical, boundary-bashing composers to brave and bold interpreters, the music has remained vibrantly alive even as prognosticators routinely forecast its demise.

Daniel Breen

The state of the arts in Arkansas is good, and that’s been largely due to the efforts of the Arkansas Arts Council.

For more than 50 years, the council has been dedicated to supporting artists in the Natural State through grants, education and special events.

Ever since Beethoven's iconic Ninth Symphony premiered May 7, 1824 at the Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna, it has remained arguably the most popular composition in the classical music canon, thanks largely to its final movement, the "Ode to Joy," with a text by poet Friedrich Schiller.

But Beethoven's music has become something much more than popular. With its expansive length, mold-busting design, and the inclusion of solo singers and chorus, he was proposing nothing less than a philosophy for humanity.

One of opera's leading men, Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo, was dismissed Thursday by two of the world's most prestigious houses: the Royal Opera in London and New York's Metropolitan Opera.

His firing comes after an investigation by the Royal Opera [RO], which determined that he had demonstrated "inappropriate and aggressive behavior" during an RO tour of Japan in September.

One of classical music's most beloved conductors has died: Latvian-born Mariss Jansons, who was age 76 at his death on Saturday in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Jansons had long had a heart condition, which first became known when he collapsed on the podium while conducting in Norway more than 20 years ago.

Cecilia Bartoli isn't your average opera star. She doesn't sing many of the popular 19th century operas. Instead, she prefers to explore the dusty, little-known corners of the 18th century.

Bartoli's new album is devoted to music written for a single artist of the Baroque era named Farinelli. He was the most acclaimed opera singer of the mid-1700s, the rock star of his day, singing some of the most virtuosic music ever written for the human voice.

Peter Gelb has not enjoyed a particularly smooth tenure as the general manager at New York's Metropolitan Opera. But the company's board expressed its faith in him on Monday by extending his contract through 2027.

The agreement — which arrived a full two and a half years before Gelb's current contract expires — signals the board's strong commitment to Gelb, who earned some $2.17 million in combined pay and benefits during the company's last reported financial year.

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The 2019 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has come and gone, and if you didn't make the trip to Spa City last month, we've got just the thing. 

UA Little Rock Public Radio's resident movie buff Sarah Kellogg is our guest this week, and breaks down some of the festival's 100 plus screenings. 

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