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Aria Code

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Aria Code

WQXR & The Metropolitan Opera

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Aria Code is a podcast that pulls back the curtain on some of the most famous arias in opera history, with insight from the biggest voices of our time, including Roberto Alagna, Diana Damrau, Sondra Radvanovsky, and many others. Hosted by Grammy Award-winner and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Rhiannon Giddens, Aria Code is produced in partnership with The Metropolitan Opera. Each episode dives into one aria — a feature for a single singer — and explores how and why these brief musical moments hav ...
 
How do today’s masters create their art? American Masters: Creative Spark presents narrative interviews that go in-depth with an iconic artist about the creation of a single work. Each episode offers a unique window into the world of art and the creative process of artists and cultural icons across a wide range of disciplines, from music and comedy to poetry and film. Explore more at www.pbs.org/creativespark
 
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Comedian Jo Firestone was leading a weekly remote comedy workshop with a group of senior citizens from New York’s Greenwich House when something magical happened. Through in-person sessions, one-on-one interviews and a live public performance, a documentary special emerged called "Good Timing." Join Firestone and her crew of funny seniors as they f…
 
Saying “I love you” for the first time takes courage, especially when you don’t know the response you'll get. But being open with your emotions and putting yourself out there can change you in unexpected ways. In Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, it’s the 16-year-old Tatyana who pins her heart on her sleeve. Young and naive, but also fierce…
 
Two-time Oscar-nominated animator, writer and filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt is considered one of the most influential figures in animation. In his first-ever formal podcast interview, he breaks down the long journey that went into making his 2012 feature film, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day.” The existential story at the heart of the film often mirrors many…
 
“To be or not to be, that is the question.” It’s hard to think of a more famous line from a more famous play. In this iconic speech from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the troubled Danish prince asks whether this whole life thing is even worth it. But “to be or not to be'' is not the only question we’re asking this week. When everyone knows this line so wel…
 
Comedian Atsuko Okatsuka does everything. The touring comic, actress, writer, dancehall dancer and podcast host is everywhere and works tirelessly. She even famously performed a stand-up set in the middle of an earthquake — and got lots of laughs. Okatsuka also just made her late night debut on “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” proving to a n…
 
Musician and artist Kim Gordon is known for being the coolest person in the room. She is one of the co-founders of Sonic Youth, the band that pioneered alternative rock for 30 years with albums like “Daydream Nation” (1988) and “Goo” (1990). Today, Gordon is focused on her solo work as well as new noisy and avant-garde collaborations. Here the musi…
 
When we talk about “falling in love,” we talk about it like it is something that just happens. Suddenly the ground opens up and we are falling for somebody, as if there is no choice in the matter. This is everywhere -- in movies, TV shows, novels, and of course, in opera. Take Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde - while Tristan is bringing her across the I…
 
For decades, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan has been telling original stories with movies like the Oscar-nominated hit, “The Sixth Sense” (1999), “Signs” (2002) and “Split” (2016). In today’s Hollywood system, this has turned Shyamalan into something of an iconoclast. Here he breaks down his independent approach to making his most recent thriller, “O…
 
Poet Jericho Brown won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection “The Tradition.” The poems are vivid works of beauty and agony - each word delivered with a strong sense of urgency. Brown breaks down the process behind writing the collection’s titular poem, “The Tradition,” and the many layers of his ever-changing consciousness that ins…
 
“A Strange Loop” has a lot to say in a one-act show. The metafictional musical is playwright, lyricist and composer Michael R. Jackson’s meditation on self-perception, race, sexuality, art, faith, identity and everything in between. The off-Broadway success of this ambitious work earned Jackson the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He breaks down the …
 
This week we’re decoding with the man who wrote the code - Terence Blanchard, composer of Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Not only is it the work that reopened the Met after its 18-month pandemic shutdown, but it’s also the first opera by a Black composer ever to be performed there. Based on the 2014 memoir of the same name by New York Times columnist Ch…
 
Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris broke open the documentary form with his early embrace of re-enactments and stylized lighting and music. His film, "The Thin Blue Line" (1988), put this reputation front and center, and his Oscar-winning film, "The Fog of War" (2003), cemented his legacy. He also has an irresistible attraction to controversial i…
 
Psalm 137 depicts the ancient Hebrews, enslaved and weeping “by the rivers of Babylon,” as they remember their homeland, Jerusalem. Those words have inspired songwriters of reggae, Broadway, disco, folk and more, but one of the most memorable versions is featured in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Nabucco. The opera retells the story of the Babylonian capti…
 
How do today’s masters create their art? American Masters: Creative Spark presents narrative interviews that go in-depth with one iconic artist about the creation of a single work. Whether it is Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris explaining the thinking behind a controversial film, comedian Atsuko Okatsuka sharing what makes a joke land, Pulitzer…
 
The young Composer in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos is one of opera’s great trouser roles -- a female singer playing the part of a young man. He is set to premiere his new opera at the home of the richest man in Vienna, only to learn moments before the performance that a bawdy comedy troupe will be performing at the same time. As his plans collapse a…
 
People who go to see Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor spend the entire evening waiting for the famous Mad Scene, to hear the soprano’s incredible acrobatics, and to feel her intense emotional changes over the course of the lengthy showstopper. But the Mad Scene is more than a vocal showpiece: it’s a window into what it means to lose touch wi…
 
Perhaps no opera better reflects the questions and contradictions at the heart of Russian history than Modest Mussorgsky’s historical epic Boris Godunov. Based on the play by Alexander Pushkin (considered by many to be one of Russia’s greatest writers), it’s a meditation on power and legitimacy, and a portrayal of a pivotal period in Russian histor…
 
One of opera’s great heroines is based on one of history’s extraordinary women. The 19th century French courtesan Marie Duplessis was elegant, successful, famous, and gone before her time, dying of tuberculosis at the age of 23. One of her lovers, Alexandre Dumas fils, was so inspired by her that he wrote a novel and a play about her life called Th…
 
What makes us human? As artificial intelligence becomes more advanced, technology is becoming even more integrated into the fabric of daily life, and better able to simulate real human interactions. But what really separates humans from machines is our ability to love, to dream, and to believe in an illusion. In Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, t…
 
Note: This episode includes descriptions of childhood sexual assault. The drive for revenge can be all-consuming, especially when you or someone you love has been wronged. Outcast and distraught, the title character in Richard Strauss’s Elektra is obsessed with avenging the murder of her father. And because the story is based on a Greek myth, and G…
 
It’s not easy to talk about death. We associate dying with so much suffering and loss. But for many people, the end of life is full of peaceful remembrance of the moments and relationships that have meant the most. For the leading man in Puccini’s Tosca, that’s the sweetness and beauty of his beloved. Caught up in the messy politics of his time, Ma…
 
In order to be a Roman Emperor, you had to be entirely cold-blooded. It was a violent world of infighting, ruthless slander, and take-no-prisoners politics -- a world where rulers would kill a million people and enslave a million more just to flex their power. This was the Game of Thrones setting that George Frideric Handel chose for Agrippina. The…
 
Almost three hundred years ago, the English artist William Hogarth created a series of paintings called A Rake’s Progress, which tell the tragic story of a man whose life spirals out of control after inheriting an unexpected fortune. He leaves behind a fiancée, and it is her story of devotion that reverberates through Igor Stravinsky’s opera The Ra…
 
Maybe you’ve heard this one before: a powerful man abuses his privilege and wealth to exploit the women in his life. When confronted with the fact that they’re not his playthings, he throws a fit and blames everyone but himself. Sound like your daily news alert? It’s Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, but somehow the world of feudal Spain in the 1700…
 
Chances are, you know the overture to The Barber of Seville (maybe from Bugs Bunny?!) but Gioachino Rossini’s most famous opera is more than a comedic romp. Embedded in the topsy-turvy tale of young love and silly disguises, there is a story of forced marriage and a woman’s determination to live a life of her choosing. We meet the heroine Rosina fo…
 
They say you can’t go home again, and Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida knows it all too well. Captured from her homeland of Ethiopia and enslaved in Egypt, she falls in love with an Egyptian warrior. Aida is torn between her love for this man and her love for her home and, because it’s opera, she ultimately chooses the tenor. In “O Patria Mia,” Aida stands on…
 
Sometimes, the only thing that gets us through the darkest moments is knowing that the sun will rise again on a new day. Puccini's final opera, Turandot, is about courage in the face of adversity, and love triumphing over fear. In other words, it is exactly what the world needs right now. The aria “Nessun dorma” is Prince Calaf’s declaration of lov…
 
The third season of the critically-acclaimed podcast is more expansive than the previous two, with a total of 18 new episodes released bi-weekly, starting March 10, 2021. Just like a full season at the opera house, the podcast season will cover a staggering range of music, artists, and voices -- from early works by Handel all the way to the contemp…
 
Although he became famous for his work as an actor in films like “Clueless”, “The Princess Bride” and “Toy Story,” Wallace Shawn is also an Obie Award-winning playwright and author, known for his experimental and challenging writing on class politics and morality. Josh Hamilton talks with Shawn about this dichotomy, as the duo explore the ways in w…
 
The beginning of the universe might be the greatest origin story of all time, and theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku has made a career exploring this subject and others like it. Dr. Kaku is the co-founder of string field theory, which some suggest will crack the final code toward understanding the universe. Dr. Kaku talks about building an atom …
 
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