July 19, 2017

Julie Diana Hench

American Repertory Ballet and Princeton Ballet School announced that, after an international search, Julie Diana Hench has been selected as the organization’s executive director starting September 1, 2017.

“On behalf of the Board and the entire organization, I am very pleased to extend a warm welcome to Julie Diana Hench,” says Chuck Metcalf, chair of the organization’s Board of Trustees. “American Repertory Ballet and Princeton Ballet School are recognized as leaders in their respective fields throughout the tri-state area, as well as on the national landscape, and it is imperative we have an experienced leader to maintain and build on the excellent reputation of the entire organization.” more

Some cast members are shown from Princeton Day School’s production of “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen, that will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. From left: Danielle Hirsch ’17 (Newtown, Pa.), Hope Ammidon ’18 (Princeton), Liv Sheridan ’18 (Lawrenceville), Emily Trend ’18 (Pennington), and Nate Jones ’18 (Princeton). (Photo Credit: Matt Pilsner)

In its ongoing commitment to contemporary music, every summer for the past four years New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has created a “laboratory experience” for four emerging composers to develop their craft and produce a unique work of music, subsequently presented to the public in Richardson Auditorium. Guided by Institute Director and Princeton University Professor of Music Steven Mackey, the four composers who participated in this year’s NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute created pieces reflecting diverse backgrounds and talents. Led by conductor JoAnn Falletta, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presented a more casual concert atmosphere last Saturday night than during the regular season, but were no less serious about the music, executing well the sophisticated scores of these promising composers.  more

July 12, 2017

ASPIRING FILMMAKERS: “The Last Playboys,” directed by Luke Momo (son of local restauranteur Raoul Momo), is among the entries in the 2017 Princeton Student Film Festival, on screen at the Princeton Public Library July 19 and 20.

Everett Shen isn’t sure he wants to make filmmaking a career. But the rising Princeton High School senior, who will do an independent study in film next fall, has plenty to think about as he considers his future.

Mr. Shen is among 22 filmmakers showing their work at the upcoming Princeton Student Film Festival, screening at Princeton Public Library July 19 and 20. He also served on the selection committee, helping to decide which of the nearly 60 short films, culled by librarian Susan Conlon from nearly 150 submitted by young people across the globe, would be included in the annual gathering. more

OPERA TRAINING PROGRAM: Opera coach and conductor Kathleen Kelly will lead a master class with aspiring opera singers participating in Westminster Choir College’s CoOPERAtive program on Monday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

The Westminster CoOPERAtive Program, Westminster Choir College’s three-week intensive opera training program, is in full swing at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. The public is invited to attend an array of free recitals, concerts, and master classes featuring talented singers and accompanists from around the world who are taking the next step in their operatic careers. more

Summer is not always for the outdoors, as a full house at Richardson Auditorium proved Sunday at a concert of the Brentano String Quartet. In an unusual Sunday afternoon concert time, the Brentano Quartet showed that good chamber music is welcome at any time of day. As part of Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts’ 50th Season Celebration, the Brentano String Quartet returned to Richardson and presented music ranging from the 16th to the 21st centuries. more

July 5, 2017

BONNIE AND CLYDE: Mary Pomykacz and Noah Barson star as Bonnie and Clyde in the Washington Crossing Open Air Theatre’s latest production, set to run July 7 through July 16 with performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. “Bonnie and Clyde” is sponsored in part by the Trenton Thunder baseball team. (Photo Credit: Jordan Brennan)

At the height of the Great Depression, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow went from two small-town nobodies in West Texas to America’s most renowned folk heroes and Texas law enforcement’s worst nightmares. Bonnie and Clyde is an electrifying musical story of love, adventure, and crime that takes to the Open Air Theatre stage from July 7 through July 16 with performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. The production is sponsored in part by the Trenton Thunder baseball team. more

Blue Curtain, in co-operation with the Princeton Recreation Department, presents two evenings of free concerts on Saturday, July 15 and 22 at 7 p.m. Both events will present musical traditions. Concerts will be held at the Pettoranello Gardens Amphitheater in Community Park North, Route 206 and Mountain Avenue. Kicking off the 2017 concert series on Saturday, July 15 will be Mystic Bowie, the legendary Jamaican front-man of the TomTom Club; and the New Orleans sounds of Sasha Masakowski and The Sidewalk Strutters. From humble beginnings in St. Elizabeth Parish, Jamaica, Mystic has released five studio albums: “Funky Reggae,” “Rebirth,” “Nevah Kiss and Tell,” “Sweet Jamaica,” and “Money Tree, The Best of Mystic Bowie Vol.1” Beginning in 1992, he was lead vocalist for the TomTom Club, the spin-off band from the Talking Heads, for nearly two decades.

June 28, 2017

Blue Curtain, in cooperation with the Princeton Recreation Department, presents two evenings of free concerts on Saturday, July 15 and 22 at 7 p.m.  Both events, that will present musical traditions from around the globe, promise to thrill audiences. Pettoranello Gardens Amphitheater is located at Community Park North, Route 206 and Mountain Avenue.

June 21, 2017

WORK AND RIGHTS: As the opera “Fidelio” opens with the Overture, we see how the nobleman Florestan (Noah Baetge, second from left holding the banner) was imprisoned for demonstrating with the workers for “trabajo y derechos.” (Photo by Jessi Franko Designs LLC, Courtesy of The Princeton Festival)

The last two times Ludwig van Beethoven’s opera Fidelio was performed in Princeton, the productions were plagued with blizzards. In the early 1980s, Princeton University mounted a production, only to have a performance besieged by a monster snowstorm. In January 2016, a visiting opera company came to Richardson Auditorium to present the same work, with blizzard conditions predicted for most of the performance weekend and the schedule adjusted accordingly. Hopefully, Princeton Festival had no thoughts about the “Princeton Fidelio snow curse” in opening its production of Beethoven’s only opera this past weekend at McCarter Theatre Center. Festival Artistic Director Richard Tang Yuk led the cast members of Sunday afternoon’s performance at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre on a moving journey through the work Beethoven himself described as “the one most dear to him” of all his compositional “children.” more

June 14, 2017

BACK TO THE BARRE: Princeton Ballet School Director Pamela Levy, shown here teaching at the school (above) and during her days as a student appearing as a soldier in “The Nutcracker,” (below) has instituted some changes in the curriculum.

There are changes afoot at the Princeton Ballet School.

The 63-year-old dance academy headquartered in Princeton Shopping Center now offers free tuition for boys. There is a new Conservatory Program for serious students interested in more focused training. Another, the FLEX Program, offers similarly rigorous classes, but without the same intensity or time commitment. Class names have been simplified to more clearly reflect their progression. more

The Princeton Festival is presenting Man of La Mancha in the Matthews Acting Studio at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts. The auditorium becomes a dungeon in which Cervantes awaits trial by the Spanish Inquisition. A playwright and actor, he entertains the other prisoners — and the audience — by becoming Don Quixote, his creation. There is nothing quixotic about this beautiful production, which makes effective use of the intimate space.

The musical’s book is by Dale Wasserman, who based it on his television play I, Don Quixote. The Flamenco-infused music is by Mitch Leigh, and the lyrics are by Joe Darion.

Man of La Mancha is presented without an intermission, because Mr. Wasserman wished to avoid interrupting the narrative. Except for an opening guitar solo performed by one of the prisoners, there is no music during the dungeon scenes. Only the Don Quixote vignettes, which are set “various places in the imagination of Miguel de Cervantes,” contain songs.

Cervantes is brought with his manservant to a dungeon in Seville, to await trial by the Spanish Inquisition. The other prisoners, led by a “governor,” also place them on trial. If Cervantes is found guilty, he will surrender his possessions — costumes, makeup, and a mysterious manuscript — and the manuscript will be burned. Cervantes begs the prisoners to permit his defense to be in the form of a play.  more

Like many performing organizations in Princeton involving students, the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra (GPYO) has spent this past year honing their orchestral sound to make the most of their young players, only to bid farewell to graduating seniors at the end of the concert season. This past Saturday night, GPYO sent its “senior class” off with a well-performed concert of challenging orchestral music featuring a prodigious multi-talented young pianist in a movement of a concerto which challenges even the most experienced soloists. GPYO has several instrumental ensembles under its organizational umbrella, and Saturday night’s concert in Richardson Auditorium showcased the older and more experienced players in the Concert Orchestra and Symphonic Orchestra. more

June 7, 2017

With last Saturday night’s concert by Concordia Chamber Players, this year’s Princeton Festival is off and running. The Concordia ensemble brought only four instrumentalists to this opening concert of Princeton Festival’s 2017 season, but violinist Emily Daggett Smith, violist Ayane Kozasa, cellist Michelle Djokic, and pianist William Wolfram filled Princeton Theological Seminary’s Miller Chapel with a full orchestral-level sound in music both Romantic and contemporary.

The string musicians of Concordia Chamber Players began the concert with a tribute to an 18th-century giant by a late 20th-century composer. American composer Aaron Jay Kernis is renowned for his imaginative approach to orchestral color and instrumentation, and his 1991 Mozart En Route (Or, A Little Traveling Music) takes Mozart’s concept for the well-known A Little Night Music to new levels.  more

May 24, 2017

Kyra Nichols and David Gray, shown here in the ballet studio of the Princeton home they are about to leave, are moving to Bloomington, Ind., where Ms. Nichols has joined the faculty of the prestigious Jacobs School of Music. (Photo by Andrew Wilkinson)

Princeton resident Kyra Nichols, a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, has been named to the faculty of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Ind. Ms. Nichols and her husband David Gray, who is the executive director of Pennsylvania Ballet, have lived in Princeton with their two sons for 18 years. Ms. Nichols was most recently a ballet mistress at Pennsylvania Ballet. more

McCarter Theatre Center is proud to announce its participation in a new partnership with Princeton University, commissioning seven professional playwrights to write short plays to be presented with the 2017 launch of the Princeton and Slavery Project.

An impressive collection of award-winning playwrights will take part in this project, including Nathan Alan Davis, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Dipika Guha, recently announced MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Emily Mann, and Regina Taylor. The public readings will be directed by Patricia McGregor. These commissions are made possible by generous support from Mathematica Policy Research, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and the Princeton University Histories Fund. more

Jane Cox, director of the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University, has been nominated for a Tony Award for her lighting design of the Broadway production of August Wilson’s play Jitney. In addition to her work as a professional lighting designer, Ms. Cox has served as a lecturer in the Program in Theater since 2007 and was appointed as director in July 2016.

The Tony Awards are given for Broadway productions and performances and are selected by a committee made up of select members of the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League, the Dramatists Guild, Actors’ Equity Association, United Scenic Artists, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.  more

Mill Ballet announces Christine McDowell will join as a guest instructor for the Choreographic Workshop during Summer Dance 2017. While the main focus is on ballet, summer students will be exposed to other forms of dance such as flamenco, modern, contemporary, ballroom, and jazz. Classes in dance conditioning, as well as lectures in injury prevention and nutrition, auditioning, and careers in dance will all be a part of the student’s day.

May 17, 2017

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel opened at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre May 12. The program notes state that Ms. Nottage, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat is currently on Broadway, has the following artistic mission: “to tell the stories of forgotten people, those whose lives did not make it into the records through which we, as Americans, chronicle the history of our country.” Inspired by a photograph of her great-grandmother, a Barbadian seamstress who lived in New York City at the turn of the last century, Ms. Nottage succeeds with this 2003 drama.

Esther Mills, a 35-year-old African American seamstress patterned after the playwright’s great-grandmother, rents a room in a boarding house owned by Mrs. Dickson. Esther creates “intimate apparel” for affluent women such as the unhappily married Mrs. Van Buren; and for Mayme, a prostitute and talented pianist. more

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) closed its 2016-17 Princeton series on Friday night with the best of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as an old musical friend featured in a Romantic Sibelius violin concerto. NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang led the ensemble and violin soloist Jennifer Koh in a concert at Richardson Auditorium including music of Mozart, Sibelius, and Schubert.

Ms. Koh is an old friend to Princeton audiences; she has performed a number of times with area ensembles. Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D minor, Opus 47 is an expansive symphonic work, and even after its 1905 revision by the composer, still demands the highest in technical facility from the soloist. more

May 10, 2017

CLASSICAL DISCOVERIES: Marvin Rosen, host of the “Classical Discoveries” program, in the WPRB studios at Princeton University.

“You know, in our world today, all over our world, there is just so much incredible talent,” Marvin Rosen says as he leans back in his seat contentedly, wire-rimmed glasses on his nose, a nest of curly brown hair atop his head. “I could never air everything that I would want to air.”  more

Programmatic coincidences do not happen often in Princeton; there is so much music out there that local ensembles usually do not program the same works for the same season. Such a coincidence occurred this past weekend when Princeton Symphony Orchestra performed the same Paul Hindemith piece as the Princeton University Orchestra did last weekend. Audiences rarely have the opportunity to hear the same work twice, compare performances, and perhaps hear something new the second time around. Princeton Symphony Orchestra closed its classical series this past Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium with a concert entitled “Metamorphosis,” that not only could refer to the Hindemith work performed, but also the orchestra’s journey from the beginning of the 2016-17 season until now — a season jam-packed with concerts, educational programs, and community outreach activities. PSO Music Director Rossen Milanov led the ensemble in a performance that was both rooted in impressionistic musical style and full of precision and elegance of playing. more

May 3, 2017

SEA-FARING SONGS WITH TOM LEWIS: The Princeton Folk Music Society welcomes musician Tom Lewis to Christ Congregation Church in Princeton for a performance of sea-faring songs accompanied by the button accordion and ukulele on Friday, May 19 at 8:15 p.m. (doors open at 7:30 p.m.). Born in Northern Ireland, Tom’s Celtic heritage is evident in his passionate musicality. Tickets are $20 at the door ($15 Folk Society members, $10 students, and $5 children). Ample free parking is available.

Anchoring its last concert for this season, Princeton Folk Music Society presents an evening of sea-faring songs with Tom Lewis on Friday, May 19 at 8:15 p.m. at Christ Congregation Church, 50 Walnut Lane in Princeton. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8:15 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for $20 ($15 members, $10 students, and $5 children).   more

The Princeton University Sinfonia performs a program that utilizes the talent of Princeton University’s students on Wednesday, May 10 in Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall at 7:30 p.m.  more

Two years ago, Princeton University music professor Simon Morrison was working on an article in the archives of Yale University when he noticed the original score for a ballet by none other than Cole Porter. Within the Quota, which had libretto, scenery, and costumes by wealthy expatriate artist Gerald Murphy, premiered in Paris in 1923 and was Porter’s only commission for a ballet. more