July 18, 2018

“UNCOMMON WOMEN AND OTHERS”: Performances are underway for Princeton Summer Theater’s production of “Uncommon Women and Others.” Directed by Daniel Krane, the play runs through July 22 at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater. Mrs. Plumm (Carol Lee, center) serves tea to residents of North Stimson Hall, from left: Rita (Allison Spann), Kate (Kat Giordano), Susie (E Harper Nora Jerimijenko-Conley), and Leilah  (Michelle Navis). Photo by Sarah Golobish.

By Donald Sanborn III

Princeton Summer Theater is delivering a polished production of Uncommon Women and Others at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater. A press release for this season’s previous production, Tick, Tick…Boom!, states that it “sets the stage for a summer of performances that center around self-discovery as seen through critical turning points in our characters’ lives.” That theme — as well as pressure to succeed with personal and professional accomplishments by the time one reaches a certain age — is shared by this play, which was written by Wendy Wasserstein (1950-2006). more

By Nancy Plum

No matter how much doubt is shed on the future of orchestral music, it is clear that there will always be composers looking for opportunities to present newly-created musical works. In Princeton, thanks to a collaboration among the Edward T. Cone Foundation, Princeton University, and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, four emerging composers have had the chance to explore in depth symphonic composition as part of the Fifth Annual NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute. Conductor David Robertson, Institute director and composer Steven Mackey and members of the New Jersey Symphony mentored four composers in creating significant musical pieces, as well as learning the business aspects of the field. This year’s Institute culminated last Saturday night in a public performance of four new one-movement works at Richardson Auditorium to an audience which has continued to grow over the five years of the Institute. Composers Jonathan Cziner, Brian Shank, Aaron Hendrix, and Natalie Dietterich spent last week in Princeton receiving an invaluable experience and education as a huge stepping stone in already successful careers. more

July 3, 2018

By Nancy Plum

’Tis the week for 18th-century music in the Princeton area. Princeton Festival has been showcasing its Baroque Festival Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble, and for the first time in its 51-year history, Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts has presented a Baroque instrumental ensemble. Last Tuesday night’s concert at Richardson Auditorium featured the chamber ensemble REBEL, named after the early French composer Jean-Féry Rebel. REBEL has been performing worldwide for more than 25 years, winning numerous awards while compiling an impressive roster of instrumentalists. Tuesday night’s concert brought two violinists, one violoncello, and a harpsichord to Princeton, performing a potpourri of 17th and 18th-century pieces. It was a unique program of music for three strings, but no viola, and the collection of multi-movement works presented on period instruments showed solid partnership among violinists Jôrg-Michael Schwarz and Karen Marie Marmer, cellist John Moran, and harpsichordist Dongsok Shin. more

By Taylor Smith 

This year’s Princeton Student Film Festival will take place July 17-19 at 7 p.m. The showings on July 17 will be held at Princeton Garden Theatre, while the showings on July 18 and 19, will be hosted by the Princeton Public Library.

Created and presented by the Princeton Public Library, the Festival features original short films created by student filmmakers ages 14-25. The films were chosen from local, national, and international entries. Some of the films represent college student thesis projects, while others are from novice high school filmmakers who possess a passion for filmmaking and a desire to see their vision portrayed on the big screen.  more

This year, eight Philadelphia Youth Orchestra (PYO) students have been selected to participate in the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA), and two students have been selected to participate in its sister ensemble for younger students: NYO2. The PYO students who have been chosen from Pa. are: Akili Farrow, violin, of Southwest Philadelphia; Johnny May, violin, of Penn Valley; Noah Stein, trombone, of Yardley; Sabine Jung (NYO2), cello, of West Chester; and Gregory Padilla (NYO2), bass, of Northeast Philadelphia. The students from N.J. are: Clara Bouch, viola, of Cherry Hill; Robin Park, cello, of Princeton Junction; and David Stein, tuba, of Morristown.  more

June 27, 2018

“TICK, TICK…BOOM!”: Performances are underway for Princeton Summer Theater’s production of “Tick, Tick … Boom!.” Directed by Victoria Davidjohn, the musical runs through July 8 at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater. Susan (Allison Spann, left), Michael (Chibueze Ihuoma, center), and Jon (Isaac Piecuch) sing “Louder Than Words,” the show’s closing number. (Photo by Sarah Golobish)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

“The sound you are hearing is not a technical problem,” quips Jon, the protagonist of Tick, Tick … Boom! “It is the sound of one man’s mounting anxiety. I am that man.” He reveals that he is “a ‘promising young composer.’ I should have kids of my own by now, a career, but … I’m trying to work, trying to enjoy what remains of my extremely late 20s, trying to ignore the tick tick booms.” more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Festival is spending the fourth week of this year’s season focusing on the Baroque era of music history, beginning with a chamber orchestra concert last Saturday afternoon. Comprised of six members of The Princeton Festival Baroque Orchestra, the Festival Baroque Chamber Ensemble presented an hour-long performance at Princeton Abbey which felt like a refreshing cool drink on a summer afternoon. The five works performed were, as advertised, “rare gems of the Baroque chamber repertoire,” as four string players, a theorbo, and harpsichord showed that the Festival’s foray into 17th- and 18th-century music was a worthy artistic decision. Princeton Abbey is an unusual liturgical space in that the members of the congregation face one another, rather than the chancel, but perhaps thanks to the recent residency at the Abbey by the American Boychoir, the acoustics were perfect for chamber music. more

June 20, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Festival opened its mainstage opera production this past weekend with an audience favorite in Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Now one of the most popular Italian operas in the repertory, Puccini’s 1904 Butterfly was an unexpected disaster on its premiere night in Milan, leading the composer to revise the opera into the blockbuster it is today. Princeton Festival’s presentation Saturday night at McCarter Theatre Center’s Matthews Theatre was every bit the crowd-pleaser it should be, showcasing several stand-out singers in the process. Some operas lend themselves to restaging in other time periods, but Madama Butterfly is best left in its original timeframe of late 19th-early 20th-century Japan. Set in the harbor town of Nagasaki, Butterfly combined Puccini’s lush orchestrations and melodies with an exotic seaside locale to tug at audience heartstrings. Princeton Festival’s production, sung in Italian with English supertitles, took every advantage of Puccini’s rich melodic writing to convey a poignant storyline.  more

June 13, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Summer brings many traditions to the Princeton area: the P-rade, fireworks on Reunions weekend, and other signs that three months of summer days stretch out ahead. One musical tradition which has become a staple of audience calendars is the Concordia Chamber Players concert which opens the Princeton Festival each year. Concordia Artistic Director Michelle Djokic annually brings an ensemble of refined chamber music players to Miller Chapel, and this year in particular set the tone for the festival with a performance of dramatic late 19th and early 20th-century music. more

May 23, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Like a successful garden, it takes a long time to develop and nourish a performing ensemble. Princeton Singers began 35 years ago as a volunteer chorus singing English cathedral music, madrigals, and folksongs, and has grown like a weed under the direction of only two conductors: Founding Director John Bertalot and current Artistic Director Steven Sametz. The ensemble is celebrating its 35th anniversary this season, paying credit to its past and present, while looking ahead to the future. The Singers is especially proud of its emergence as a leading professional vocal ensemble performing a wide range of repertoire with a commitment to contemporary music, and its closing concert of this season demonstrated why the chorus is justifiably proud of its musical heritage. more

May 16, 2018

“TURNING OFF THE MORNING NEWS”: Performances are underway for “Turning Off the Morning News.” Directed by Artistic Director Emily Mann, the play runs through June 3 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. From left: Jimmy (John Pankow) and Polly (Kristine Nielsen) make a memorable, if undesirable, first impression on new neighbors Salena (Rachel Nicks) and Clifford (Robert Sella). (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

middle-aged father, Jimmy, nonchalantly announces his decision to shoot either his wife Polly and their 13-year-old son Timmy, or strangers at a mall. Polly attempts to ignore Jimmy’s behavior by focusing on her houseplant, and dreaming of going to heaven. Dysfunctional characters and horrifying events are viewed through the lens of a wholesome family sitcom. more

May 9, 2018

“CAGED” IN REHEARSAL: Performances are underway for “Caged.” Directed by Jerrell L. Henderson, the play runs through May 20 at Passage Theatre. From left: cast members Nicolette Lynch, Brandon Rubin, Monah Yancy, and Ural Grant are rehearsing their parts. (Photo by Damion Parran)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Passage Theatre Company is concluding its season with the world premiere of Caged. Written by the New Jersey Prison Cooperative, this play is the synthesis of experiences shared by current or former inmates in the New Jersey prison system. The result is a cohesive, engaging drama in which an African American man struggles to protect his family — and preserve his humanity — in the face of poverty and incarceration. more

May 2, 2018

By Nancy Plum

In a true “town and gown” collaboration, the Princeton University Orchestra presented one of its most substantial Stuart B. Mindlin Memorial Concerts ever this past weekend at Richardson Auditorium. Joined by the University Glee Club, Princeton Pro Musica, Princeton High School Women’s Choir, and three international vocal soloists, the orchestra put the crowning stroke on conductor Michael Pratt’s 40th anniversary season leading the ensemble. In performances Friday and Saturday night, more than 300 musicians took the stage for Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, requiring an extension to the stage at Richardson. Friday night’s opening performance showed this piece to be a work just as timely now as at its premiere in 1962, and proved to be music that musically pulls two world conflicts into contemporary times. In another achievement for the University Orchestra, the concert was broadcast live on local radio, and was to be rebroadcasted at a later date.  more

April 25, 2018

By Nancy Plum

One-act operas present unusual challenges to directors in how to combine them into an evening’s entertainment and the possibility of double casting. Two short operas often linked in one production are Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci, creating an evening of 19th-century human drama. These two operas represent the school of verismo, in which composers portrayed the ugly realities of life, with ordinary people doing ordinary things — such as stealing each other spouses and killing one another off. Boheme Opera NJ presented Cavalleria and Pagliacci in a double bill this past weekend at The College of New Jersey’s Kendall Main Stage Theater, with a cast of nine principals who demonstrated that this regional opera company wastes no expense in seeking the highest level of talent. With a nod to its home base, Boheme Opera NJ set both of these productions in a late 1940s Italian-American community in northeastern United States, similar to what the Chambersburg section of Trenton might have been like in the years after World War II.  more

April 18, 2018

BAKERSFIELD MIST: Performances are underway for Pegasus Theatre Project’s production of “Bakersfield Mist.” Directed by Peter Bisgaier, the play runs through April 22 at the West Windsor Arts Center. Maude (Donne Petito, left) and Lionel (Rupert Hinton) have a heated discussion about the authenticity of a painting. (Photo by John M. Maurer)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Bakersfield Mist is a tragicomedy in which Maude Gutman, an unemployed bartender, has purchased a painting from a thrift store. She believes that her acquisition is a Jackson Pollack masterpiece worth millions of dollars; the initial conflict arises when Lionel Percy, a haughty art expert, doubts the painting’s authenticity.  more

By Nancy Plum

Richardson Chamber Players journeyed into a new comfort zone this past weekend with a concert celebrating chamber pieces by African-American composers. The 11 members of the Chamber Players performing Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium presented works ranging from the familiar Duke Ellington to a world premiere by one of the University’s own graduate students. A rare collaboration among Princeton University’s jazz and classical faculty, this concert not only showed the versatility of the Chamber Players musicians but also how far outside the box these individuals have traveled in their musical careers. more

March 28, 2018

By Nancy Plum

The island of Cuba, 90 miles off the coast of Florida and just about the size of Pennsylvania, packs a wallop in performing arts and culture. Latin America and the Caribbean are known for indigenous dance forms and music full of percussion and brass, but Cuba also has strong roots in the Western European classical tradition. Cuba’s orchestral ancestry dates back to the 18th century, when the country’s major cathedrals paralleled their counterparts in Europe by establishing instrumental ensembles. Cuba joined the evolution of the symphony orchestra in the 19th century, and by the 1930s, Havana boasted two full symphonic ensembles. In 1959, one National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba emerged, and has been well representing the country worldwide since.  more

March 7, 2018

By Nancy Plum

In its annual tribute to long-time conductor Walter L. Nollner this year, the Princeton University Glee Club showed how much the ensemble has grown under the leadership of current music director Gabriel Crouch, as well as how multi-national choral music has become since Nollner’s time. Not content to merely present a masterpiece of the repertory, the Glee Club stretched its performance wings well into the 21st century with a work by one of its own members. more

January 31, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s concert on Sunday afternoon centered on guest pianist Simone Dinnerstein, but another subtler theme also ran through the performance. PSO Music Director Rossen Milanov programmed a concert with a narrative covering three hundred years of music history, featuring innovation and new musical ideas within well-known frameworks. The addition of dynamic and technically dazzling American pianist Simone Dinnerstein made the afternoon that much more exciting.  more

January 24, 2018

By Nancy Plum

At first glance, the title of New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s concert this past Friday night would seem to have little connection to the pieces performed. As it turned out, the works by Bohuslav Martinu°, Maurice Ravel, and Sergei Rachmaninoff were all linked to “America, Inspiring,” with each piece rooted in the composer’s association with the United States. Led by guest conductor Andrew Constantine, the orchestra’s performance at Richardson Auditorium showed a little-known side of how America in the first half of the 20th century affected European composers from all regions. more

January 17, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Students at Princeton University have an incredibly diverse range of choices for musical experiences on campus. One of the most challenging this year was the opera class Music 219, in which music majors and non-majors joined together to explore a single theme or production. As described by Humanities Council Visiting Lecture Thomas Guthrie, co-teacher of Music 219, this year’s class was “all about exploring what it’s like to be in an opera.” The 30 students who participated in the class performed the resulting operatic project this past weekend at Richardson Auditorium. Guthrie and University Director of Choral Activities Gabriel Crouch (also co-teacher of Music 219) led the students through a staged production in Italian (with English super-titles) of what is considered the first fully-developed opera — Claudio Monteverdi’s 1607 L’Orfeo. Friday night’s performance (the opera was repeated Saturday night) showed both the depth of the class and how even those who are not studying music extensively can rise to a challenge.  more

January 3, 2018

By Nancy Plum

The holiday season means many things in Princeton — a brightly-decorated tree in Palmer Square, busy post office lines, and in musical terms, the annual performance of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Presented by McCarter Theatre, this performance in Richardson Auditorium has always given audiences a respite from breakneck December activities, and this year was no exception. Last Monday night, 21 instrumentalists joined together in a variety of combinations to perform Bach’s six concertos which are considered the epitome of the Baroque form. Each concerto featured a different blend of soloists, and the members of the Chamber Music Society demonstrated both solid ensemble and refined solo playing.  more

December 20, 2017

“All good things come to those who wait,” so goes the saying. The audience for New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s Friday night concert at Richardson Auditorium had to wait a bit for the orchestra to arrive through the snow, but following the late start, orchestra, chorus, and soloists presented a well-informed performance of George Frideric Handel’s perennial Christmas holiday favorite, Messiah. NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang took a unique and creative journey through a work which is enjoyable in any form, but so much more fun with an imaginative approach to performance practice. more

December 13, 2017

“A CHRISTMAS CAROL”: Performances are underway for “A Christmas Carol.” Directed by Adam Immerwahr, the play runs through December 31 at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre. Scrooge (Greg Wood, center) joins the company in a celebratory dance. The cast combines professional actors with members of a community ensemble and young ensemble. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter’s annual production of A Christmas Carol is playing at the Matthews Theatre. Adapted by David Thompson and directed by Adam Immerwahr, the show is a warm celebration, both of Christmas and theater. The uniformly talented cast combines professional actors, who are members of Actors’ Equity Association, with nonprofessional performers who comprise a community ensemble (for ages 14 and older) and a young ensemble. more

November 29, 2017

COME TO THE CABARET: Soprano Karyn Levitt brings the music of 20th century Austrian composer Hanns Eisler to the forefront in “Will There Still Be Singing? A Hanns Eisler Cabaret,” at Princeton University this Friday.

By Anne Levin

It was her fondness for the music of Kurt Weill that introduced soprano and actress Karyn Levitt to the works of another composer of Weill’s era, Hanns Eisler. It wasn’t love at first hearing. But Levitt, who will perform a program of Eisler’s works at Princeton University on Friday, December 1, soon began to fall under the spell of his 12 tone, modernist style. more