July 12, 2017

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

As temperatures warm up and spring buds make their presence known, one thing is musically clear in the Princeton community — the Princeton University Orchestra will show its best in the annual Stuart B. Mindlin Memorial Concerts. The student musicians of the orchestra were not born when these commemorative performances were first established, and the Mindlin children are all grown and on to amazing careers of their own, but one thing has never changed over the past close to 30 years — the University Orchestra has taken on the most challenging works in the repertory to end its concert year in a musical blaze of glory. This past weekend’s final performances of the orchestra’s 2016-17 season featured two towering composers of the 20th century in Paul Hindemith, who spent a good part of his career in the United States, and Gustav Mahler, who never fails to disappoint those looking to hear the most complex and dramatic of orchestral writing.  more

April 26, 2017

For its annual concert commemorating founder and long-time conductor Walter L. Nollner, the Princeton University Glee Club reached high into the professional choral arena to lead the ensemble’s closing performance of the season. British conductor and composer James Burton, recently appointed choral director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and conductor of the orchestra’s resident Tanglewood Festival Chorus, led the Glee Club on Sunday afternoon in Richardson Auditorium in a concert featuring works of Francis Poulenc and Ralph Vaughan Williams, an opportunity made possible by the spring sabbatical of University Director of Choral Activities Gabriel Crouch. While Mr. Crouch has been on sabbatical, the Glee Club has been ably directed by Renata Berlin, assistant director of choirs at the University and conductor of the William Trego Singers. Sunday afternoon’s performance showed the strength of the Glee Club as an organization and its consistent quality under different conductors. more

April 19, 2017

MUSIC AND HISTORY: Joe Miller, Choral Director at Westminster Choir College, is the conductor of this weekend’s performances of “Anthracite Fields” at Trenton’s Roebling Wireworks. Mr. Miller spent two years working to bring the Pulitzer-winning oratorio by Julia Wolfe to the Wireworks, where he is pictured.

When Westminster Choir College embarked on Transforming Space, a project exploring how the arts can alter a site not originally intended for that purpose, Trenton’s historic Roebling Wireworks immediately fit the bill. more

The Lewis Center for the Arts is presenting Into the Woods in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter. In this musical, fairy tale characters undertake individual quests, encountering temptations — and each other — along the way. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim, and the book is by James Lapine. An imaginative directorial concept and strong performances reward audiences for joining these characters on their journey.

This production, which celebrates the launch of Princeton University’s Program in Music Theater, is part of a spring semester course that provides students with rigorous experience in creating theater under near-professional circumstances. The students have worked with a professional director (Ethan Heard), design team, and stage manager either performing an onstage role or serving on the production team. more

THE FIRST COUPLE OF THE BANJO: Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck played material from their Grammy-winning 2014 album at Princeton’s Richardson Auditorium. (Photo by Jim McGuire)

Finishing their second or third piece of the evening, Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck rose from their seats to acknowledge an appreciative full house in Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium on Thursday. “Clapping sounds really good in here!” Ms. Washburn exclaimed, eliciting laughter and a further wave of applause. But if, superficially, her remark sounded like preening, it was also true. Every sound reverberated warmly in the intimate, wood-lined hall. Clapping did indeed sound good there. But more to the point, the space wonderfully supported each note of the banjo duo’s engrossing performance that evening. more