Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bocelli, Rieu, Williams, Pavarotti: The Mount Rushmore Of Artists Who Have Popularized Classical Music

Bocelli, Rieu, Williams, Pavarotti: The Mount Rushmore Of Artists Who Have Popularized Classical Music

Classical music is to music what baseball is to sports. You don’t start watching baseball and immediately fall in love with it. Someone has to teach you the game. You have to be taught baseball’s nuances. Someone has to explain how the shortstop and second baseman turning a double-play is a thing of beauty. Baseball is not like football, a sport you love from the first snap of the ball.

Classical music is the same way. It needs to be taught. The uninitiated needs to learn about its history, its forms, and most of all, what the heck the composer is trying to say. Unfortunately, few popular music fans have access to classical music teachers (or the time to teach it to themselves). Fortunately, there have been a few artists that have done the next best thing, they’ve popularized the genre and introduced it to music fans that would have otherwise never listened to symphonies, concertos, or arias.

Below are four classical musicians—two singers and two conductors—that have done more to attract adherents to the genre than anyone else. If there was a Mount Rushmore dedicated to artists that have popularized classical music the faces of the following four gentlemen would be on it.

Andrea Bocelli
Andrea Bocelli has sold more than 80 million albums. His sales figures have made him the best-selling solo classical artist of all-time. He’s been able to sell all those albums by singing opera, light opera, and affluent pop songs. Bocelli’s beautiful voice and his accessible setlists helped to make opera music palatable to the masses. Called “pop opera” or “operatic pop” or “popera,” Bocelli has not only introduced millions to the wonderful world of opera music but he paved the way for artists like Josh Groban, Il Divo, and Il Volo.

André Rieu
André Rieu has sold more 32 million albums during his historic career but that’s not why he’s on our list. Rieu is the Phish of classical music. Every year the master of the waltz sells thousands of André Rieu tickets. His 2011 tour was the ninth highest grossing tour of the year. That’s impressive since he plays classical music and 1732 Stradivarius violin.

In 2013, Rieu will once again pack stadiums and arenas this time with his “And The Waltz Goes On Tour.” The North American portion of his outing commences March 7 in Orlando, Florida and ends March 20 in Vancouver, B.C. While the majority of his setlist is comprised of waltzes and other classical music selections he does dabble in other genres including folk and showtunes. You’ll be moved by the sweeping melodies, dazzled by amazing soloists, and you’ll laugh at Rieu’s delightful wit—for a classical artist he has a great sense of humor.

Highlights of Andre Rieu's "And The Waltz Goes On Tour"
>>March 7 - Andre Rieu tickets Orlando @ Amway Center
>>March 8 - Andre Rieu tickets Tampa @ Tampa Bay Times Forum
>>March 9 - Andre Rieu in Sunrise @ BB&T Center
>>March 12 - Andre Rieu in San Diego @ Valley View Casino Center
>>March 16 - Andre Rieu in San Jose @ HP Pavilion

John Williams
John Williams has composed some of most memorable film scores in the history of cinema—Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws. He also conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra for more than two decades. Those two accomplishments alone has made him one of classical music’s greatest proponents. Think of how many pimpled face boys got into classical music after listening to his symphonic movie scores.
Luciano Pavarotti
Bocelli sells records. Rieu sells concert tickets. Williams gets people used to music without words, but Pavarotti popularized classical music—opera to be exact—based solely on his talent, not necessarily a conscious effort to “dumb” the genre down. He was, and probably still is, the only opera singer most popular music fans can name. Pavarotti performed with a number of big-time pop artists and at a number of high-profile events. All that exposure meant Pavarotti was able to introduce millions of popular music fans to the beauty and majesty of opera.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Madonna’s ‘MDNA World Tour’ Causing One Controversy After Another

Madonna’s ‘MDNA World Tour’ Causing One Controversy After Another

During a recent tour stop in Dallas, Madonna took a tumble during her performance of “Like a Prayer.”
Video of the spill has created a bit of a stir on the internet. People relish a good fall. I do too but I also give performers some slack when it comes to losing their footing.

Madonna spends a lot of time on stage and stages not exactly known for being easy to navigate. So she, and the rest of her ilk, are bound to fall every once in a while.

Regardless, Madge’s stumble is one of the smoothest things that have happened on her global odyssey. Her trek has been plagued by controversy, remonstration, and nudity.

Her MNDA would tour kicked off May 31 in Israel. It ends Dec. 22 in Argentina. Her North American leg began Aug. 28 in Philadelphia and will conclude November 20 with a second Madonna concert in Miami.

In the near future: Madonna will be in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4; Madonna will be in Pittsburgh on Nov. 6; and Madonna plays Madison Square Garden in New York City on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13.
Even if you can’t get Madonna tickets you should still follow her tour. Why? So far the Material Girl has made headlines by superimposing a swastika over the face of a French politician, showed her breast in Istanbul, challenged a gay-pride ban in St. Petersburg, and publically demanded the release of Pu**y Riot in Moscow.

Just about everywhere she went in Europe she was greeted with protest from those who took exception to her vocal support of the LGBT community and her lascivious stage show.

The fun didn’t stop when she came to the United States. While gallivanting around America, Madonna has called President Obama a “Black Muslim,” mysteriously canceled a show in Dallas due to the world’s briefest case of laryngitis (she was originally scheduled to perform two nights in Big-D), used a handgun during her concert in Denver, and showed her buttocks in Los Angeles to support a 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head.

There are some very worthy causes mentioned in the last few paragraphs. However, Madonna has supported them in the most boorish of manners.

Madonna’s heart is bleeding without a shred of class.

During her concert in Denver, Madge wielded a gun and pretended to shoot a masked gunman during the song “Gang Bang.” Many in attendance were shocked at her homage to violence.

The Denver area is still recovering from a mass shooting at a movie theater, the unsolved murder of a
10-year-old girl, and the slaying of five people at a bar and grill.

In response to complaints by Colorado concert-goers, Madonna’s press agent said the bit was a crucial part of the show and removing it would be like “taking out the third act of Hamlet.”

No, removing it would not have been like removing the third act from Hamlet. Removing it would have been Madonna not picking up the prop gun. For Madonna to compare herself to The Bard only shows us her hubris. Who does she think she is, Bono?

In Los Angeles, Madonna performed a striptease in which she revealed the name “Malala” written on her back between her bra strap and her throng. Malala was fighting for women’s education in Pakistan when she was shot in the head by the Taliban. For Madonna to support this brave girl by showing her buttocks is like a strip club holding a celebration for Eleanor Roosevelt.

Some say Madonna brought attention to Malala’s cause. Some say she’s enabled extremists to further cast Malala as a symbol of Western immodesty. It doesn’t really matter, Americans would have known about Malala with or without Madonna’s striptease and extremists don’t need any help when it comes to hate. The striptease was just Madonna being uncouth.

Calling President Obama a “black Muslim” was an extremely shortsighted statement for Madge to make. Certainly the Obama campaign rued the singer’s poor choice of words. When asked to clarify her ignorant statement Madonna said she was being ironic.
We all know Madonna has a compulsion to be controversial but there’s also another factor at work. The pop singer doesn’t connect her actions with her message. Madge says and does whatever she wants. She justifies it later and usually with the flimsiest of logic.

Take her support of Malala, a victim of a gunmen’s bullet. Yet, Madonna’s brandishes a gun every night during her live concerts. How can she reconcile those two actions? Intellectually she can’t.

They completely contradict one another.

Her proponents contend that she’s an artist and it’s an artist’s prerogative to be as illogical as they want. I disagree. I think there’s more to it.

I’m no fan of the hippie but there’s not a single artist from the 1960s that would have used a gun during a rock concert and then protested the Vietnam War.

Madonna is all style and no substance. She wants her act to conform to a certain aesthetic but she won’t bend that aesthetic to fit all of her values. To make the two conflicting forces jive, she contrives circuitous justifications long after the curtain falls.

She’s not the only performer who does this but she’s certainly the most famous.

Perhaps her aforementioned antics are quintessentially Madonna or perhaps they’re the product a 54-year-old singer desperately trying to be relevant.

Regardless, I believe Madonna is a great performer who doesn’t need to be controversial to entertain her fans. She’s called the “Queen of Pop” for a reason.

Her inability to realize that she doesn’t need to make headlines in order to put on a good show is her greatest stumble of all.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Current Television Stars That Are Also On Broadway

Current Television Stars That Are Also On Broadway

One of the best new sitcoms of the 2012-2013 television season is NBC’s The New Normal. It stars Andrew Rannells. The name should sound familiar to Broadway fans. Rannels originated the role of “Elder Price” in The Book of Mormon.

The hilarious and Tony Award winning musical can be seen on Broadway and in several major U.S. cities. For example, The Book of Mormon is currently running in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theatre. You can also buy Book of Mormon tickets for Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C. to see the national touring company.

Now, Rannells WAS starring on Broadway but is NOW starring on television. We thought it would be interesting to go the other way and look at current television stars (and we use that term loosely) that are also on Broadway. Below are eight actors pulling the very difficult stage and boob-tube double.

Paul Rudd
America’s sweetheart Paul Rudd plays “Bobby Newport” on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. He can currently be seen at the Cort Theatre in Craig Wright’s play Grace. The drama stars another television veteran, Ed Asner. He recently appeared in an episode of “The Middle” as a newspaper man.

David Strathaim
David Strathaim plays “Dr. Lee Rosen” in the SyFy original series Alphas. It’s a great show and you should watch it. While the hour-long drama is on hiatus, Strathaim is starring in the play The Heiress. It’s running at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The drama is based on Henry James’ novel Washington Square.

Jackson, Silverstone & Winkler
You need a spreadsheet and a PowerPoint presentation to keep track of all the television stars in The Performers (Longacre Theatre). The play stars Cheyenne Jackson, who’s “Danny Baker” on 30 Rock; Alicia Silverstone, who’s “Eden” on Suburgatory; and Henry Winkler, who’s “Eddie R. Lawson” on Royal Pains. How do the actors find the time to be on small screen and walk the boards? Well, all the aforementioned TV roles are recurring characters.

Laurie Metcalf The great Laurie Metcalf is set to star in The Other Place, a Sharr White play scheduled to open Jan. 10 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Metcalf has been delighting television audiences for years with her various roles but she’s currently “Mary Cooper,” Sheldon’s mom on the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Kathie Lee Gifford
Kathie Lee Gifford, who holds down the fourth hour of the Today Show, isn’t actually starring on Broadway, but her words are. The much-maligned television host wrote the book and lyrics for the much-hyped musical Scandalous. The show, about Aimee Semple McPherson, officially opens at the Neil Simon Theatre on Nov. 15.

Michael Cerveris
Michael Cerveris isn’t a household name but his face his. He plays “The Observer” on the Fox science fiction drama Fringe. I tried watching the program when it first debuted but I just couldn’t get into it. Next spring, Cerveris will play “Juan Peron” in my all-time favorite musical, Evita. Cerveris won a Tony Award in 2004.

Hello and Welcome To Music & Sports News

Hello and Welcome To Music & Sports News

In Ken Burns' great documentary Baseball, a commentator says he has two loves in life: baseball and opera. He says they are very similar, you have to sit through a bunch of boring stuff to get to the exciting stuff.

My two loves, besides Star Trek and the blonde cheerleader from Glee, are football and musicals. While they seem to be very different, they are, in fact, very similar.

Okay, you're right. They have nothing in common and are complete polar opposites.

Despite all that I still think a blog dedicated to Broadway and sports, and why we're at it let's throw in music concerts, makes perfect sense.

For one, they are all better live than on television and to attend you need to tickets.

Apart from that, concerts, Broadway shows, and sports capture the imagination and showcase the best of what humans can express with their minds and bodies.

Sports, plays, and musicals have characters to love and hate, plot twists. and gripping drama only difference is one is scripted and one is spontaneous. Sports and concerts incite passion from their attendees and you're encourage to scream. All three administer a special type of excitement that can only come from live events.

That's why I've decided to combine sports, Broadway, and concerts into one blog. All three are passions of mine and all three will be explored in-depth right here at Music & Sports News.