This Week in Classical Music 5/06/2018

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Pretty Yende: "Big Changes are Happening";

Pussy Riot Oratorio


It’s It’s “This Week in Classical Music”, An Update on what’s happening in the classical music world; I’m Randy Kinkel.

When the soprano Pretty Yende was training in Milan, coaches suggested she study the title role of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”  “I thought they were crazy,” Ms. Yende said;  “I thought it was an impossible role for me,”

when Ms. Yende was growing up in a Zulu-speaking home in South Africa, she didn’t have very many role models as a black girl who wanted to be an opera singer.

 “I guess at the time I hadn’t seen so many on the world stage like me,” she said. Singers like Leontyne Price and Kathleen Battle had paved the way for black artists, but Yende didn’t know about them.

she had originally planned on going to college to study accounting. But at 16, she saw a British Airlines commercial that used the gorgeous duet from Delibes’s “Lakmé.” (#97 on the KBACH “Top 100 Most Wanted” list by the way)  She instantly fell in love, and went from music school in Cape Town to Milan — where soprano Mirella Freni advised her to explore the bel canto repertory.

She believes classical music institutions, music schools and universities have a lot of work to do to recruit young artists like her who have been historically excluded from the art form.

On the positive side, though, Yende said that both opera companies and audiences have mostly embraced colorblind casting.  “I think we are experiencing a big change, The world might not see it. But the operatic world is really breaking this wall, and we have to thank the opera houses and casting directors. That is something historic,” she said. “A big change is happening.”


The pussy riot protests and subsequent trial and imprisonment of it’s members are the subject of a new work for vocal ensemble. Motherland, the latest release from the Quince Ensemble dropped earlier this month on New Focus Recordings.  It explores four contemporary works. The Quince Ensemble, founded in 2010 and based in Chicago, is an all-woman vocal chamber ensemble committed to contemporary music.


The album’s anchoring piece is the acappella oratorio “Prisoner of Conscience” by Jennifer Jolley, with texts by Kendall A.


It uses material from protest art collective Pussy Riot’s trial and imprisonment for demonstrating against Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral in 2012.

The concept of “Prisoner of Conscience” is “totally up our alley aesthetically,” said Quince’s Executive Director Kayleigh Butcher. “More than anything, we identify as a feminist group [and] it’s important to us to make the music we perform reflect the world we live in — to tell the stories of other people living during this time.” “Prisoner of Conscience” was composed in 2015, three years after members of Pussy Riot had been found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and had served time in Russian penal colonies.

“In an era where there are rumors of Russia meddling with a presidential election and the White House doling Fake News Awards, I know now that protection of free speech is always relevant.” Said Jolly.

For more on these and other items and events, go to the website, K-B-A-C-H dot org; Be listening each week at this time for another update. Follow us on Facebook and twitter, and also listen every weekday at Noon for the Most Wanted Hour with Linda Cassidy, playing your top 100 classical hits.  I’m Randy Kinkel for KBACH’s “This Week in Classical Music”; Member supported 89.5 KBAQ Phoenix and HD, a service of Rio Salado College and Arizona State University.