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WTIU’s February Classical Music Highlights

Specials include a 50th anniversary gala with Maggie Smith, a Met opera seen for the first time in 25 years, and a film about a pioneering arts school.

Dame Judi Dench in

Great Performances: National Theatre – 50 Years on Stage

Friday, February 14 at 9pm
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The National Theatre opened its doors in 1963 with Laurence Olivier as its first director. Eight hundred productions later, the venerable institution celebrated its 50th anniversary with a star-studded evening of live performance and rare glimpses from the archive, featuring celebrated actors who have performed on the National’s stages over the past five decades.

Directed by the National’s Artistic Director Nicholas Hytner, the tribute recalled the remarkable people and plays that have made the National one of the most cherished and creative wellsprings of international theater: from premieres of plays by Tom Stoppard, Peter Shaffer, Harold Pinter, Alan Bennett, and David Hare, to outstanding revivals of classic plays and musicals.

The program features scenes from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (with Benedict Cumberbatch), Mourning Becomes Electra (with Helen Mirren and Tim Pigott-Smith), and Bedroom Farce (with Maggie Smith’s Downton Abbey co-star Penelope Wilton).

There are musical numbers from A Little Night Music (Judi Dench singing “Send in the Clowns”), My Fair Lady (Alex Jennings as Henry Higgins leading Eliza and Pickering in “The Rain in Spain”), and Guys and Dolls (Clive Rowe bringing down the house with “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat”).

Priceless archival scenes include Noël Coward’s Hay Fever (with Maggie Smith), Amadeus (with Paul Scofield), and Richard III (with Ian McKellen). There are felicitous juxtapositions of then and now, such as Smith’s youthful turn in the Coward play followed by her live-on-stage speech from Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Strategem.

Great Performances at the Met: Francesca Da Rimini

Sunday, February 23 at 4pm

Riccardo Zandonai’s classic tale of doomed love is staged by the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in more than a quarter of a century. Piero Faggioni’s production sets the action in Renaissance Italy. Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek and Italian tenor Marcello Giordani are Francesca and Paolo, the star-crossed lovers whose doomed romance was immortalized in an episode in Dante’s Inferno. Marco Armiliato conducts a cast that includes the American baritone Mark Delavan as Gianciotto, Francesca’s brutal husband, and American tenor Robert Brubaker as the wicked Malatestino.

Francesca da Rimini had its Met premiere in 1916 with Frances Alda in the title role, Giovanni Martinelli as Paolo, and Pasquale Amato as Gianciotto. The opera quickly gained a reputation among connoisseurs for its unusual blend of musical styles, joining the melodies of Italian verismo with the colorful harmonic influences of Debussy and the orchestral effects of Richard Strauss. The opera returned to the Met’s repertory in 1984, when Faggioni’s production premiered with Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil in the central roles. The production was revived once in 1986 and has not been seen at the Met until this past season.

American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky hosts the broadcast and conducts backstage interviews with the stars.

Instruments of Change

Thursday, February 27 at 10 p.m.

In Miami, Florida in 1951, musician and teacher Ruth Greenfield founded the Fine Arts Conservatory, one of the first racially integrated art schools in the South. The Conservatory was a place where those of any color could come together, be taught by first rate teachers, and be instilled with a sense of dignity and confidence. The school changed the lives of many, such as Fredrick Morley, who went on to become the principal of a highly acclaimed elementary school, and others who started their own conservatories or theater companies, or become lifelong advocates for the arts. As the Conservatory wound down in the late 70s, it overlapped another Greenfield project known as the Lunchtime Lively Arts Series. Initiated in 1972 to help revitalize a downtown in decline, it was hosted by Miami Dade College and brought a variety of free entertainment every Wednesday at noon to various downtown venues. The series spanned almost twenty years, reignited interest in the arts, and was the spark that led to Miami’s urban renewal that is still taking place today. Instruments of Change shows the power the performing arts in bringing a community together. It features intimate interviews, emotional footage, and photographs along with archival and current day performances.

Jazz and the Philharmonic

Friday, February 28, 9pm

This unique, generational, and wholly American concert highlights two of the world’s greatest musical art forms—classical and jazz. A superstar roster of award-winning jazz and classical musicians and ensembles, as well as emerging artists and rising stars, brings together works of past composers such as Bach and Mozart with those of contemporary artists.

Virtuoso vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin takes center stage and is joined by a host of world-class stars including Emmy- and Oscar Award-winning pianist and computer Dave Grusin; trumpeter and Grammy Award-winning composer Terence Blanchard; and Grammy-winning violinist educator Mark O’Connor, and Metropolitan Opera bass-baritone Eric Owens.

Also featured are Chick Corea, Elizabeth Joy Roe,  Desmond Richardson, the dean of the University of Miami Frost School of Music Shelly Berg, the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, and alumni from the National YoungArts Foundation.

Becoming An Artist

Friday, February 28, 10:30pm

Enjoy an inspiring tribute to the power of mentoring and the vital role it plays in passing on our artistic cultural heritage from one generation to the next. The documentary features acclaimed artists across the disciplines, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Robert Redford, Rosie Perez, Bill T. Jones, Frank Gehry, John Guare, and Kathleen Turner working with some of the nation’s most talented students selected by the National YoungArts Foundation, a non-profit that discovers emerging visual, literary, and performing artists and nurtures their talent. Becoming An Artist is a celebration of our cultural vitality and the need to ensure its continuance.
WTIU Media Contact:
Scott Witzke

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