Have you ever wondered whether music conductors actually influence their orchestras?
They seem important. After all, they're standing in the middle of the stage and waving their hands. But the musicians all have scores before them that tell them what to play. If you took the conductor away, could the orchestra manage on its own?
I never heard of the Baroque composer Agostino Steffani until last year, when the Boston Early Music Festival presented the North American premiere of Steffani's Niobe, an opera about the mythical queen who bragged so much about her many children, the gods killed them all in revenge. One of the leading roles, Niobe's husband King Amphion, was played by the early-music superstar countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, who sang the opera's most sublime aria — a hymn to the harmony of the spheres. I couldn't wait to hear Jaroussky again, and was eager to hear more Steffani.
Originally published on Tue November 27, 2012 11:07 am
It's beginning to look a lot like craziness — end-of-the-year craziness, to be precise. Now that Gray Thursday has officially reduced Thanksgiving to carbo-loading for the holiday shopping marathon, many people's winter holidays have become little more than a massive spinout.
Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 10:36 am
It's true — opera is totally over the top. Plots can strain even the barest semblance of credulity (too many cases of ghosts and mistaken identities to count), with characters that could get you thrown out of an introductory writing course, down to the blushing ingenues and the evil connivers who might as well be twirling waxed mustaches.
Getting San Cisco to the U.S. airwaves was a serendipitous event. Early in the summer of 2012, The Current's local-music producer (Jon Schober) was watching the YouTube video for Metronomy's "The Look," and saw San Cisco's video for "Awkward" pop up as a recommended follow-up. The charming song, with its back-and-forth vocals between drummer Jordi Davieson and guitarist Josh Biondillo, stuck.
Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 12:03 pm
Dave Alvin makes his sixth appearance on Mountain Stage alongside his band The Guilty Ones, recorded live in West Virginia. Since 2009, Alvin has explored his acoustic honky-tonk side, but his latest album, Eleven Eleven, marks a return to his fiery electric roots. Alvin's road-worn '64 Stratocaster screams throughout "Harlan County Line," which he wrote for the TV show Justified.
Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 10:41 am
Though the shock value of dropping a sitar into Western pop music has decreased since George Harrison's Hare Krishna days, the metallic, resonant drones of the instrument can still take a normal pop song and twist it into something unexpected. Rishi Dhir, sitarist, bassist and founding member of Elephant Stone, takes full advantage of the juxtaposition.
On her latest album, Pour Une Âme Souveraine, singer and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello performs the songs of Nina Simone. The French title is a nod to the fact that Simone spent the later years of her life in France, but it's also Ndegeocello's way of honoring her idol.
"It means 'for a sovereign soul,' " Ndegeocello tells NPR's Melissa Block. "She was one of the people, but I felt she was like royalty."