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'Tristan' makes Rattle want to 'curl up in a fetal position'

Simon Rattle thought back to his first staged performance of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" in Amsterdam in 2001.

"I remember wanting to lie down on the rostrum and curl up in a fetal position and sob," he said. "While every bone of my body was asking me to do that, the rest of me was saying, no, actually you have to be professional and keep on conducting."

Wagner's hypnotic love story, composed from 1857-59 and premiered in 1865, returned to the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night in a psychologically fascinating, nautically centered contemporary staging by the Polish director Mariusz Trelinski. The run, marking 50 years since the new house at Lincoln Center opened, continues for a month, and the Oct. 8 matinee will be telecast to movie theaters around the globe.

"Tristan" had not opened a Met season since 1937 and before this staging Rattle had not conducted a full performance since 2009 in Vienna.

Composed during Wagner's affair with Mathilde Wesendonck, Wagner's "Tristan" was a musical landmark for its chromaticism. Rattle says Wagner's transformation is evident from the autograph score.

"His handwriting was famously beautiful and accurate, and sometimes he even used to send his musical handwriting to ladies as a kind of seduction tool," he said. "When you look at the manuscript of 'Tristan,' it simply doesn't do that at all. I mean, it is perfectly legible, but it's obviously done at such burning haste. It's like one of the great biographers of Wordsworth said, he didn't so much write poems as vomit them out. And it looks as though some other power has taken him over."

Wagner set the first act on Tristan's ship, the second outside King Marke's castle in Cornwall and the third at Tristan's castle in Brittany. Trelinksi and set designer Boris Kudlicka move all three acts to an ominous, dark and starkly lit warship, setting the first in cabins, the second on the bridge and in a lower-deck weapons bay, and the third in sickbay, where Tristan drifts in and out of consciousness and has flashbacks to his youth that include a doppelganger boy.

Sonar is a frequent backdrop for Trelinski along with Bartek Macias' projections of waves, flames, black suns and the Northern Lights. This production evokes Peter Sellars' 2005 Paris staging dominated by Bill Viola videos, and Lars von Trier's 2011 film "Melancholia."

Trelinski takes liberties with Wagner's stage directions. Rather than allowing Melot to stab him, Tristan shoots himself with a pistol, and Isolde slits a wrist before the Liebestod. When the production appeared in Warsaw in June, the Liebestod was sung at a newly created state funeral procession for Tristan. At the Met, Trelinski reverted to the staging used at the March premiere in Baden-Baden, Germany, where Isolde sings to Tristan's dead body slumped in a chair.

Rattle decided on a second-act cut that reduces the love duet by about 10 minutes to a half-hour. The previous staging by Dieter Dorn that was used from 1999-2008, was always performed uncut by James Levine and then Daniel Barenboim.

Rattle said last week "I've been begging the orchestra to be more like chiffon than wool," and after a pulsating, glistening rendition he was greeted by overwhelming cheers and applause. Some boos were mixed in for Trelinski.

Tenor Stuart Skelton (Tristan), soprano Nina Stemme (Isolde) and bass Rene Pape (King Marke) also received bravos. Stemme, dressed at times walking through fog in a trench coat (think Lauren Bacall) had a glorious, if sometimes unemotional sheen to her voice. Skelton became slightly gravelly in the third act.

"What is asked of the tenor is beyond anything the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should allow," Rattle said.

His tenure as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, which began in 2002, ends in 2018, and he starts next September as music director of the London Symphony Orchestra. He said plans for a new hall on the Museum of London site near St. Paul's Cathedral may be put on hold because of the Brexit decision by British voters. Rattle plans to return to the Met for a pair of productions in three years

To prepare for "Tristan," he studied the marked-up conducting scores of Gustav Mahler and Wilhelm Furtwaengler.

"A mine of information," Rattle said. "I can't get them on the phone. The Wi-Fi situation where they are is problematic."

Allison Janney clowns around in Rachael Yamagata's new video

It's a steamy afternoon in a sun-soaked loft in Los Angeles and Allison Janney is in full clown makeup preparing for her dance solo.

"Should we not even address it?" Janney joked of her dramatically painted eyes and bright red nose.

"Let's just talk like we're absolutely serious," she said while settling in for an interview on the set of Rachael Yamagata's new music video.

The seven-time Emmy winner and "Mom" star had no qualms with the physical transformation for Yamagata's "Let Me Be Your Girl."

"I've always loved her music and I've never done a music video. And I thought, 'What the hell?' Definitely I'm all about doing things I haven't done before and I'm having fun," Janney said.

The video, directed by actor-filmmaker Josh Radnor of "How I Met Your Mother" fame, premiered Tuesday.

The unlikely trio took a quick break between takes to chat about the project, Yamagata's newfound optimism and her latest album, "Tightrope Walker," released last week.


AP: How did you get Allison Janney to agree to this?

Yamagata: There was a lot of money involved.

Radnor: You've got to pay to play with Janney.

Yamagata: No, I was very fortunate. We have a mutual friend, Emily Wachtel, who is a champion of my music and talked to Allison about my song and just convinced her to do it.

Janney: No convincing at all! I knew of Rachael way before my friend Emily asked me to do this because I use music a lot to prepare for when I act. And there are several songs of hers that would make me feel things and I love her music. And then Josh and I went to (the same) college. ...He directed me in "Liberal Arts."


AP: What's your vision for the video?

Radnor: I started listening to the song and for some reason I just had this image of Allison putting on like funky kind of clown makeup and then just dancing. I was like, "I would really love to see Allison dance to this song in a clown outfit." And that's how the whole thing started.

Janney: Probably one of my favorite things to do is dance. I do a lot of dancing by myself in mirrors and it gives me a lot of joy. I think I'm not alone. I think a lot of people are private dancers.


AP: Is this is a bigger production than you're used to?

Yamagata: I've definitely done like that one camera (shoot) and I am the wardrobe and standing at Lowe's ordering paints. The last video I did ...we were hanging tarps from trees and climbing ladders by ourselves. So this is fantastic that we even have a fruit platter available.

Radnor: It's a killer fruit platter.


AP: Allison, what are your go-to Rachael Yamagata songs?

Janney: Her song "Quiet" ...every time before I have to cry (on set) I listen to that and I'm like, "Oh my God!"

Radnor: She's talented, Rachael Yamagata.

Janney: She's very, very talented.

Yamagata: Can I get a copy of this? Because before I go onstage I'd like to watch it every time.


AP: What was your inspiration for "Let Me Be Your Girl"?

Yamagata: This is one of those like put your windows down, drive, songs of joy. ...My sort of calling card in music has always been these troubadour of heartbreak, get-your-soul, emotional breakup songs. ...This new record is a different side. I finally think I figured out how to express the optimism that I feel in life into art.


AP: How would you describe the new album?

Yamagata: Almost like Tom Waits and Nick Cave meet Roberta Flack. There's beautiful cinematic songs. There's saxophones and banjos and drumming on ladders in the middle of the woods and French spoken word. It's a smorgasbord of sound. I keep describing it as if you're thinking of quitting anything then this might be the record for you. Call me Pollyanna. I'm changing my tune.



"Let Me Be Your Girl" video:


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Adele is still winning: '25' album reaches diamond status

Adele's comeback album "25" has reached diamond status in less than a year.

"25" was released last November and features the hits "Hello" and "Send My Love (To My New Lover)." Adele received a plaque for her top-selling achievement at Madison Square Garden in New York on Monday night after performing a whopping six shows at the venue.

The Recording Industry Association of America awards diamond plaques to albums and songs that reach 10 times platinum status. That once was the equivalent of selling 10 million albums or songs but has changed since the RIAA began incorporating streaming from YouTube, Spotify and other digital music services.

So far, "25" has sold more than 9 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music.

Adele's 2011 album, "21," also reached diamond status.

Jason Aldean shuns streaming, tops the charts with new album

Country star Jason Aldean rarely has time to be a tourist when he's touring, but during a recent trip to New York, he and his wife, Brittany, found some downtime to walk around the city. The crowds afford the Georgia-born singer a little anonymity that he doesn't always get back home.

"I can go wherever here and you just kind of blend in with everybody else," said the reigning Academy of Country Music's entertainer of the year. "When there are a hundred people walking down the street, you just kind of slip on in there."

A couple of nights later, Aldean and Kid Rock headlined a doubleheader at Fenway Park in Boston in front of tens of thousands of fans.

Despite his star status, Aldean still holds onto his everyman qualities. He isn't a big TV star like some of his country music peers, but he regularly sells out stadiums and arenas and is the first country artist this year to top the Billboard 200 albums chart with his seventh effort, "They Don't Know," released this month.

The title track is an anthem to Aldean's core audience, the small town working class.

"People work hard just to be able to go out on the weekend and have fun," Aldean said of his fans. "They are not flashy. They aren't working on Wall Street. They are just simple people."

But he doesn't shun all recognition. Aldean admits he was confused that he was shut out of the nominations for this year's Country Music Association Awards when the nominees were announced last month. Although his new album wasn't eligible for this year's awards, he was eligible for other nominations such as entertainer of the year or male vocalist.

"It's a little weird to me that you can win the highest honor that one award show has to offer and you can't get a single nomination from the other," Aldean said. "It is frustrating and disappointing. You feel like you're out there and that you've done well and you feel like you've got as good a shot as anybody of being there and you're not."

In the past three years, he's only been nominated for one award at the CMAs, which was album of the year for his last platinum-selling record, "Old Boots, New Dirt." He admits he's a competitive person and he definitely wants to win, but he's come to a conclusion about it.

"Everyone that gets nominated wants to feel like they have a legitimate shot (of winning)," said Aldean, who has received Grammy nominations in the past unlike some of his peers, including Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. "At this point, if we can't even get enough votes to get a nomination, we're definitely not going to win it, so what's the point in getting a nomination?"

One of country's music biggest digital artists, Aldean decided to keep his new album off streaming services for a month, including Tidal, where he is one of the artist-owners along with Jay Z, Beyonce, Madonna and others. As he has said before, he doesn't think songwriters, producers and musicians are being compensated fairly through streaming services.

"Instead of people paying $10 an album, they are paying $10 for a million albums," Aldean said. "You can only split $10 so many ways until there is really nothing left."

Although he says he understands why music fans are drawn to streaming, he said the practice has devalued music. He removed all of his music from Spotify for a year, but he felt like he was the only artist in Nashville to take a stand.

"It was one of those things where everything sort of backfired and made me look like I was sort of greedy for doing it," Aldean said. "In reality, I am trying to look out for everybody else. And I turn around I am the only guy holding the flag. OK, I guess I am a one-man show."



My Hometown: Springsteen launches book tour in New Jersey

The Boss came back to his hometown Tuesday, returning to New Jersey and greeting thousands of fans to begin his book tour.

Bruce Springsteen fans from all over the world lined up hours before his for an appearance at a Barnes & Noble in Freehold to promote his autobiography "Born to Run."

In the book, Springsteen remembers his childhood in New Jersey, his rise to superstardom and personal struggles that inspired songs such as "Born to Run" and "Thunder Road."

Fans will receive a signed copy of the book and can pose for a picture with Springsteen. Some fans camped overnight in the parking lot and formed a line around 6 a.m. Springsteen arrived around 10:30 a.m. for an event that was scheduled to start at noon.

Barnes & Noble said about 2,000 books were sold for the event and the line snaked through the store about three hours before Springsteen was scheduled to appear. His book was stacked all over the store, while his music played. His albums were for sale on vinyl — fitting for a rocker who rocketed to stardom in the 1970s.

Steven Kaminsky wore a shirt that said "E Street Fans: Tougher Than The Rest" as he waited in line to buy book. He said he's been to more than 250 live shows and never had the opportunity to meet The Boss.

"I'd like to say thank you for 35 years of great music, great memories," he said. "It's a dream come true."

Springsteen's book tour will also stop in New York; Philadelphia; Seattle; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Portland, Oregon.

Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris and More Play 'Skyville Live' for Refugee Awareness

Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller and others performed on 'Skyville Live' as part of the Lampedusa: Concerts for Refugees tour.

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Memorials come down at Paisley Park ahead of public opening

The flowers, artwork and memorials that have adorned Paisley Park since Prince's death are coming down.

WCCO-TV reports ( ) that staff members removed memorial items Monday that fans have left outside the pop superstar's home in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen since his death in April.

The city and the singer's estate said the artwork and flowers were creating more traffic and risk to pedestrians. They're asking that visitors not place any new items near the fence.

The move comes just days before Paisley Park opens to the public as a museum.

Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose.


Information from: WCCO-TV,

Jana Kramer Out-Jives Babyface on 'Dancing With the Stars' [Watch]

The first-ever Dancing With the Stars face-off pitted Jana Kramer against Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds with one star earning immunity. Each danced the jive, and each failed to amaze the judges.

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Country Artists Get Sassy on Twitter During First Presidential Debate

A number of country artists sounded off on social media during the first presidential debate of 2016.

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Brett Eldredge Reveals Track Listing for Holiday Album, 'Glow'

Brett Eldredge has set the date for his first Christmas album. Glow will be available on Oct. 28, and fans can expect 11 tracks of holiday cheer including a duet with Meghan Trainor on "Baby, It’s Cold Outside." Continue reading…

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