Tom Huizenga

Some people go to auto races secretly hoping to see a crash. You wouldn't go to a concert for that reason, but with live music you really never know what might happen.

Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.

It wasn't always easy for Polish composer Witold Lutosławski to find his musical voice.

His Symphonic Variations, which opens this third disc in a series of Lutosławski's music, was shunned by a Warsaw Conservatory professor in the late 1930s. Not understanding the young student's score, the teacher, Witold Maliszewski, said, "For me your work is ugly."

Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.

As opera left its toddler years behind, it grew more restrictive and extravagant at the same time. Around 1700, a new style called opera seria began to dominate. It was, as the name implies, "serious opera," and was driven by two main forces: formulaic librettos and flamboyant singers.

Maurice André, who elevated the status of the solo trumpet, has died at age 78. Celebrated for his clarion tones, especially from his piccolo trumpet, André touched off a resurgence of interest in the trumpet and music from the Baroque era.

(Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.)

So what's wrong with rap and opera? Not much, really. Except that last week when we asked readers to name their musical blind spots (genres or bands they ignored, either by choice or neglect) a distinct refrain emerged within the responses. Two examples:

"Oh, and by the way, rap is not music. It is mostly a bunch of meaningless drivel by people with no real talent and who certainly should not get paid."

What's the saying — the more things change, the more they stay the same? It seems that's how it goes in the ways we make music. MIT futurologist Tod Machover rethinks traditional instruments, coming up with new things like the hyperpiano; Pianist Michael Chertock gives it a go in an explosive excerpt below.

  • Conductor, educator and lecturer Benjamin Zander was fired from his post at the New England Conservatory last month over his hiring of a registered sex offender as a NEC videographer.

(Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.)

It happens every day. You're at the opera and the know-it-all next to you starts analyzing arias, cataloging cabalettas and generally running on about recitatives. You gulp your champagne with equal measures of disgust and shame.

If you only knew what the oaf was pontificating about, you could call his bluff on buzzwords from da capo arias to ariosos. For such occasions, a little operatic ammunition — in the form of jargon-busting — is necessary.

Happy New Year — Chinese New Year, that is. Today marks the first day in the Year of the Dragon and, according to the Chinese calendar, the end of the winter season. The Chinese think of it as their spring festival.

The outburst of Western classical music in China over the past decade has been called nothing short of a frenzy by some observers. Estimates vary widely, but it's reported that somewhere between 50 and 100 million Chinese children are studying piano, violin and other Western instruments. One piano manufacturer alone, the Pearl River Company, builds around 100,000 pianos per year.

(Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.)

  • As of Monday, New York City Opera had locked out orchestra and chorus members though the company's first production of the 2011-12 season, a weeklong run of La Traviata at the Brooklyn Academy of Music scheduled to begin Feb. 12. Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for the opera, says City Opera is taking things 'one day at a time.' But with a first performance scheduled for Feb. 12 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, time is running out.

Before I touched down in Germany for another Christmas and New Year's with my wife's family, I had never heard of Bernard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow.

There was nothing ordinary about Czech composer Leos Janáček. He set one opera in a barnyard and another on the moon. He fell for a married woman more than 30 years his junior, proceeding to write more than 700 love letters. And in his mid-60s, he churned out piece after amazing piece in one of classical music's most impressive late surges.

The Bulgarian-born pianist Alexis Weissenberg, whose musical talent as a youngster probably saved his life and that of his mother, died Sunday at age 82.

With all the chatter about the death of the compact disc, anxiety in the recording industry and the domination of downloads, the flood of CDs overflowing my mailbox never seems to recede. Need a new Bruckner 4th, an Adès anthology or piano music by Pärt? How about Azerbaijani concertos, Schubert sonatas or a new Midsummer Night's Dream?

The silly season of endless lists is upon us. You might notice that here at Deceptive Cadence, we don't even try to enumerate which albums were "best" — we use the word "favorite" quite intentionally, as you'll see from the pan-genre list painstakingly compiled with our NPR Music colleagues.

(Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.)

Gabriel Kahane seems to enjoy blurring the lines between indie rock and indie classical. He arrived at the NPR Music offices with a string quartet and an electric guitarist in tow, and though they hadn't played together for long, you'd never know it.

December is just around the corner — a time when we look back at musical events, catalog our favorite records of the year and, inevitably, remember musicians who died.

One of 2011's biggest losses was composer Daniel Catán. Tomorrow (Friday the 25th), many PBS stations will broadcast his final opera, Il Postino, in the world premiere LA Opera production starring Placido Domingo.

Yo-Yo Ma calls himself a "venture culturalist," and he's got the proof to back it up. He's reached out to a broad range of musicians (and Muppets) to play not just Bach and Beethoven, but also Brazilian samba, Argentine tango, jazz, songs from Sesame Street and a smorgasbord of Asian music with his Silk Road Ensemble.

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