April 5, 2017

CZECH FOLK MUSIC AND DANCING: Shown rehearsing for Westminster Opera Theatre’s production of Bedrich (Frederick) Smetana’s comic opera “The Bartered Bride” are Avery Peterman (Marie, left) and Evan Stenzel (Jenik). Performances are Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University. Learn more at www.rider.edu/wcc.

Westminster Opera Theatre will present Bedrich (Frederick) Smetana’s comic opera The Bartered Bride on Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University. It will be performed in Czech with English supertitles and a chamber ensemble orchestra. William Hobbs is musical director for the production and Ivan Fuller is stage director. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors. They can be purchased online at www.rider.edu/arts or by calling (609) 921-2663. more

March 29, 2017

SIZE MATTERS: When this Martha’s Vineyard mega-mansion came close to falling into the sea, the owner simply bought up the neighboring property and had it moved back. The house is among several that inspired the filmmaker to make “One Big Home,” one of the offerings at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival through this weekend at Princeton Public Library.

Thomas Bena was working as a carpenter on the idyllic island of Martha’s Vineyard when he started noticing that homes being built were getting bigger — a lot bigger. On land overlooking the ocean where modest, clapboard homes once stood, huge mansions many times their size were going up at a rapid pace.  more

March 22, 2017

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS: Performances are underway for McCarter Theatre Center’s world premiere production of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” Adapted by Ken Ludwig and directed by Emily Mann, the play runs through April 2 on McCarter’s Matthews Stage. Hercule Poirot (Allan Corduner) is shown in the top photo and the play’s company appears in the bottom photo. (Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson) 

Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express received its world premiere at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre March 17. As expected, the story keeps the audience guessing about the solution to the murder until near the end. Early on, however, it is no mystery that playgoers will find much to entertain them in this first-class production. more

Taking Princeton’s mind off the recent spring snowstorm, the Takács String Quartet returned to Richardson Auditorium this past week to close its Complete Beethoven string quartet cycle.  Last Wednesday night’s concert (the closing performance of the series was Thursday night) featured violinists Edward Dusinberre and Károly Schranz, violist Geraldine Walther and cellist András Fejér in three string quartets showing both the classical structure and style of the genre and how Beethoven stretched the boundaries of the string quartet form. more

March 15, 2017

University orchestras frequently sponsor student concerto competitions, with resulting performances of single movements of a winning concerto or a standard work from the Baroque or Classical periods. Not the Princeton University Orchestra — the 2017 Concerto Competition winners presented this past weekend played some of the most difficult music in the concerto repertory. Hornist Nivanthi Karunaratne and pianists Kevin Chien and Seho Young chose complete and substantial works from the 19th and 20th centuries for their performance with the University orchestra. Led by conductor Michael Pratt in a performance last Friday night at Richardson Auditorium (the performance was repeated Saturday night), these remarkable soloists demonstrated performance abilities and composure way beyond their years.  more

At age 32, Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani will perform on McCarter’s Berlind stage on Sunday, March 19 at 3 p.m. His McCarter program will include a mixture of old and new, including works by Cowell, Kalabis, Bach and  Scarlatti. Single tickets are $50 and can be purchased online. For further information, visit www.mccarter.org(Photo Credit: Bernhard Musil/Deutsche Grammophon)

BANJO DUO: On Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 7:30pm at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, 16-time Grammy award-winner Béla Fleck will collaborate with singer, fellow banjoist and wife, Abigail Washburn, to present vernacular music of Appalachia. This special event hosted by Princeton University Concerts (“PUC”) spans the genres of bluegrass, jazz, African and Asian styles. The duo will bring highlights from the their recent album, which won Best Folk Album at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Tickets are only $40 ($15 for students), available at princetonuniversityconcerts.org, and by calling (609) 258-9220. (Photo Credit: Jim McGuire)

16-time Grammy award-winner Béla Fleck will collaborate with singer, fellow banjoist and wife, Abigail Washburn, to present vernacular music of Appalachia at Richardson Auditorium on Thursday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. more

March 8, 2017

In the most recent performance last week presented by Princeton University Concerts, it was fitting that the music of Franz Schubert, who played in a family string quartet ensemble, was performed by a mostly family quartet of musicians. The Salzburg-based Hagen String Quartet is comprised of three siblings — violinist Lukas, violist Veronika, and cellist Clemens Hagen — with the quartet completed by violinist Rainer Schmidt. The Hagen Quartet came to Richardson Auditorium last Thursday night to perform Schubert, Shostakovich, and Dvořák, showing the nearly full house that maybe there is something to sibling intuition and musical clairvoyance.  more

March 1, 2017

For a number of years, Princeton Singers has enjoyed a successful collaborative relationship with the Princeton University Art Museum, performing a cappella sacred choral music surrounded by the iconic paintings and statues of the Museum’s Medieval chapel. This past Saturday night, the 16 voice professional vocal ensemble presented a double-header — a concert of unaccompanied works centered on the theme “As the Lily Among the Thorns,” performed twice during the evening to two different audiences. Artistic Director and Conductor Steven Sametz well researched the eight pieces from five centuries to find the “Lily” in the music, composers, or circumstances in which the work was written. more

February 22, 2017

FIVE DECADES OF DANCE: Twyla Tharp Dance visits McCarter Theatre as part of the choreographer’s 50th year of creating eclectic work. John Selya, offering his hand to the woman in blue, appears here with the company in “Preludes and Fugues.”

Since forming her own dance troupe after graduating from Barnard College more than five decades ago, Twyla Tharp has continued to challenge the way we think about dance. Starkly modern at first, her style has expanded over the decades to encompass classical ballet while weaving in elements of jazz, slapstick, even boxing. more

England is known for things green — spacious meadows, rolling hills — all part of “England’s green and pleasant land.” On a February Sunday afternoon, warm enough to make any gardener’s heart race with anticipation, the Richardson Chamber Players presented an instrumental and vocal concert devoted to England’s lush and opulent early 20th-century musical tradition. With an expanded ensemble including talented students, the Chamber Players musically reminded the audience at Richardson Auditorium that spring may not be that far off. more

February 15, 2017

INHERIT THE WIND: Rehearsing for Rider Theatre’s production of “Inherit the Wind” are Shelly Walsh in the role of Drummond and Dan Maldonado in the role of Matthew Harrison Brady in Rider University’s upcoming production of the play, that will be presented in the Yvonne Theater on the campus of Rider University in Lawrenceville. February 22-26. Learn more at www.rider.edu/arts.

Rider Theatre will present the Tony Award-winning play Inherit the Wind in the Yvonne Theater on the campus of Rider University in Lawrenceville. February 22 — 26. A preview performance will be Wednesday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m., and performances will be Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. The production, directed by Miriam Mills, will be performed by Rider University students. more

With picturesque towns and medieval castles, the Baltic nation of Estonia is known to many as a stop on a Baltic sea cruise; much of the classical world is unaware of the rich Estonian choral tradition dating back to the 12th century. In and out of Russian control from the early 1700s, Estonia most recently came into its own politically in 1991 and since that time, the worldwide choral community has been eager to devour the unique music of Estonia’s composers. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, with its own 35-year high-level performance history, brought this long-standing musical tradition to the Princeton University Chapel last week. more

February 8, 2017

A SATIRICAL FANTASIA: Princeton University freshman Tri Le (left) as Frank and senior Kathy Zhao (right) as Kathy in rehearsal for Charles Francis Chan Jr.’s Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery to be presented at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts and directed by faculty member Peter Kim on February 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. Performances will take place at the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio located at 185 Nassau Street in Princeton. (Photo Credit: Justin Goldberg)

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Charles Francis Chan, Jr.’s Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery by Lloyd Suh, directed by faculty member Peter Kim and featuring senior Kathy Zhao, on February 10, 11, 16, 17, and 18 at 8 p.m. Performances will take place in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio located at 185 Nassau Street in Princeton. The February 17 performance will be American Sign Language-interpreted. A symposium presented in collaboration with the student theater group East West Theater Company will precede the February 11 performance, beginning at 2 p.m. in the Matthews Acting Studio. more

February 1, 2017

GOING OR STAYING: That’s the question on the minds of students at Westminster Choir College, which could be relocated to Lawrenceville if Rider University, which owns the school, decides to put the Princeton campus up for sale. A 24-hour musical performance marathon by Westminster students, faculty and alumni this week was mounted as a protest by those who want the campus to stay where it is. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

Jody Doktor Velloso’s warm, melodious soprano filled the sanctuary of Nassau Presbyterian Church Tuesday afternoon, thrilling those seated in the pews. It was a sparse crowd. But Ms. Velloso’s recital was only the beginning of a 24-hour marathon held by The Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College. It was in protest of a proposal by Rider University, which owns Westminster, to sell the Princeton campus and relocate the music school to Rider’s Lawrenceville location. more

When planning a season of performance, it is impossible to predict how news events will impact music in the coming year, or vice versa. At the end of a tumultuous weekend of national affairs, Princeton Symphony Orchestra presented a concert which could not have been more appropriate — music of a composer born in Belarus, a composer rooted in Middle Eastern musical heritage, music of an individual working in a repressive artistic climate, and a performer who has made a life mission excelling in a genre rooted in Eastern Europe. If there were ever an instance of music to reflect and inform a troubled time, Princeton Symphony’s concert Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium was it.  more

January 25, 2017

ON TRIAL: After all her miraculous success in leading the French to victory, Joan (Andrus Nichols) finds herself captured, brought before an ecclesiastical court on charges of heresy, and interrogated by the Inquisitor (Eric Tucker) in Bedlam theater company’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan,” at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through February 12. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson) 

The young heroine of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan (1923) has a lot in common with the celebrated Bedlam theater company that is presenting the play at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through February 12. “There is something about the girl,” says a soldier in the opening scene of the play, as Joan of Arc wins over the local squire to supply her with a horse, armor, and troops, and, following orders directly from God, she sets out to free the city of Orleans from the English.  more

The Takács String Quartet returned to Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University last Wednesday night for the third of the ensemble’s six-part journey through the string quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven. Throughout the fall and early winter, Princeton University Concerts has built ancillary educational events around these performances, and as in the previous concerts, the Takács Quartet played to a nearly full house. Also as with other performances in this series, seating in the house was limited to downstairs and onstage, creating a more intimate atmosphere. more

Princeton Abbey and Cemetery is pleased to announce they will be hosting a concert from Les Agrements de Musique on Sunday afternoon, February 5 at 4 p.m. The concert will feature works by: Jean-Baptiste Lully, Marin Marais, Louis and François Couperin, and Charles (François) Dieupart. This concert hass general admission with a suggested donation of $15 at the door. more

January 18, 2017

For one semester, Princeton University’s Music 219, an opera performance class in the music department, put its small class through the paces of preparing operatic excerpts for public performance. The students and faculty selected the music to be prepared, and the class culminated last Saturday night in an evening of operatic selections accompanied by an orchestra.  more

BURIAL BATTLE: Laertes (Edmund Lewis, on bottom) and Hamlet (Eric Tucker) fight over the corpse of Ophelia (Andrus Nichols) in the graveyard, as Hamlet prepares for his final revenge in Bedlam theater company’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through February 12. (Photo by Elizabeth Nichols)

A New York-based theater company founded in 2012, Bedlam, currently presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Shaw’s Saint Joan in rotating repertory at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre, has received much acclaim from New York critics and others for its productions over the past four years. McCarter artistic director Emily Mann saw their Saint Joan a few years ago in New York City, and “was determined to bring Bedlam’s work to Princeton.” more

January 11, 2017

PHS graduate Damien Chazelle met recently with Town Topics film reviewer Kam Williams to  talk about his latest movie, La La Land, which swept the Golden Globes Sunday, winning a record seven awards.

Damien wrote and directed the Academy Award-winning Whiplash which landed five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for Chazelle. The movie won a trio of Oscars in the Film Editing, Sound Mixing and Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons) categories.

In 2013, his short film of the same name won the Short Film Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Previously, Damien wrote Grand Piano, starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack, and co-wrote the horror sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane, starring John Goodman. His screenplays for Whiplash and The Claim both appeared on the “Blacklist,” the annual survey of the most liked motion picture screenplays not yet produced.

Damien shot his first feature film, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, while still an undergraduate at Harvard University. The critically-acclaimed debut was named the Best First Feature of 2010 by L.A. Weekly and was described as “easily the best first film in eons” by Time Out New York. more

Williamson Hall overlooking the Princeton campus of Westminster Choir College.

At a packed meeting of Princeton’s Historic Preservation Commission last week, a group of students, alumni, and friends of Westminster Choir College of Rider University asked that the Westminster campus on Walnut Avenue be registered as a historic district. The request is part of an effort to keep the music school’s operations in Princeton, instead of relocating to Rider’s Lawrenceville location, a move the financially strapped University is considering. more

January 4, 2017

Photo by Mitsu Yasukawa

As it pursues its mission to support playwrights, new plays, and the future of the American theater, McCarter Theatre Center’s LAB program will be putting to work a $35,000 grant, announced last month, from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“The future of the American theater rests with the American playwright,” McCarter artistic director and resident playwright Emily Mann stated. “We take it as a core mission of this theater to develop and support new works and the playwrights who create them.”

LAB offers readings, workshops, a 10-day artists’ retreat in the spring, commissions and the annual LAB Spotlight Production. It also provides McCarter audiences with a window into the creative process. New works developed in the McCarter LAB have included pieces by Christopher Durang (Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike), Danai Gurira (Eclipsed), Nilo Cruz (Anna in the Tropics), Regina Taylor (Crowns), Tarrell Alvin McCraney (The Brother/Sister Plays) and more.

Noura, a new play by Iraqi-American playwright and performer Heather Raffo (9 Parts of Desire), will be featured at the end of this month as a LAB Spotlight Production. Created after years of work in Arab American communities in New York City, where Ms. Raffo discussed A Doll’s House with Middle Eastern women, Noura is “a timely re-imagining” of Ibsen’s play “through the lens of an Iraqi refugee family” and “a passionate exploration of contemporary feminism that reflects the dilemma facing modern America: do we live for each other or for ourselves?” more

The Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank will host an epic Elvis Presley Birthday Bash starring expert impersonators, musicians Scot Bruce and Mike Albert on Saturday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m. Both are known for their uncanny resemblance to the young “King” and have earned endorsements by Elvis’s former back-up singers. Special requests will be taken by the audience. Ticket prices range from $20-$40. To purchase, visit www.countbasietheatre.org.