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Editor Kevin Hoffman to leave City Pages

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: May 16, 2014 - 3:37 PM

Kevin Hoffman, City Pages' editor-in-chief since 2007, is leaving the alt-weekly. Hoffman confirmed the news Friday afternoon shortly before sharing the information with his staff.

Hoffman, who previously served as managing editor at the Cleveland Scene, said departing was his idea and that he gave his bosses at Voice Media Group his notice four weeks ago. Friday will be his last day.

Hoffman oversaw a news organization that lost a significant amount of its staff over the years. At the same time, he led Pages' transition into the digital world and oversaw coverage that won national awards.

But Hoffman said it's now time for a change. "It starts to feel like Groundhog Day after a while," he said.

Hoffman said he plans to stay in the Twin Cities, where his wife is a lawyer. He said he's primarily interviewing with companies that are at least somewhat journalism-related.

Barkhad Abdi adds another film role

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: May 15, 2014 - 4:44 PM
Photo: John Shearer, AP

Photo: John Shearer, AP

Barkhad Abdi’s film career is building momentum. The “Captain Phillips” Oscar nominee has added a the military Drones thriller “Eye In the Sky,” joining a cast led by Colin Firth.

Abdi is already booked to portray famous South African marathon runner Willie Mtolo in an upcoming biography, and to test his comedic chops in Judd Apatow's “Trainwreck.” The new film, directed by Oscar winning South African director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi), returns him to a drama about African terrorism. Cue the official synopsis:

“A group of leading terror suspects gather in a secluded safe house in Nairobi, Kenya, to plan a suicide bombing mission. Meanwhile, British, Kenyan and American intelligence units, working together, keep the terrorists under real-time surveillance using cameras mounted on a remotely piloted, heavily armed MQ-9 Reaper Drone: an "Eye in the Sky." But as the British and Americans prepare to assassinate the terror suspects using a Hellfire missile, launched from the unseen drone flying at 20,000 feet, a little Kenyan girl walks into the kill zone, selling bread.”

Firth, who is producing the film, seems likely to play the man with his finger on the launch button, caught in a crisis of conscience. No word on Abdi’s role as of yet.

SPCO makes changes to Britten Festival

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: May 16, 2014 - 2:25 PM

Violinist and conductor Thomas Zehetmair, an SPCO Artistic Partner, has withdrawn from three weeks of concerts marking the centenary of composer Benjamin Britten. Photo courtesy of SPCO.

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has been scrambling this week after news that conductor Thomas Zehetmair was suffering from "exhaustion and fatigue." Zehetmair is under doctor's orders to withdraw from all travel and performing commitments until he recovers, said Stephen Sokolouski of the SPCO. 

Zehetmair was scheduled to lead concerts over the next three weekends to celebrate the centenary of British composer Benjamin Britten.

The Britten festival begins Thursday at Temple Israel in Minneapolis, and will go on, but with changes to the program and players, as follows:

Britten: String Quartet No. 2 (Steven Copes, Kyu-Young Kim, Maiya Papach, James Wilson)
Britten: Lachrymae (Maiya Papach, viola and director)
Haydn: Symphony No. 101, "Clock" 

The new program, to be played Saturday at the St. Paul UCC and Sunday afternoon in Arden Hills, will be led by SPCO musicians. " Although it’s unfortunate that Thomas can’t be with us, we’re excited that our musicians are once again taking the lead on this weekend’s concerts, as the concerts that they have led this year have been some of the best of the season," said Sokolouski.

 Britten's chamber opera "The Turn of the Screw" remains on the program for weekend two, (May 23-24, at Ordway Center) with Jayce Ogren stepping in to replace Zehetmair as conductor.

The third weekend (May 29-30) has been changed, and includes no music of Britten. Instead, the SPCO will perform Stravinsky (Danses concertantes), Haydn (Cello Concerto No. 2, with Julie Albers, cellist) and Brahms (String Quintet No. 2), with SPCO musicians leading the orchestra.

Cody, Streep, Demme team up for "Ricky and the Flash"

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: May 7, 2014 - 11:42 AM

Photo: Dan Steinberg, AP

Diablo Cody's next feature arrives next summer with a top star and teriffic director attached. TriStar Productions will release "Ricky and the Flash" June 26, 2015. The comedy drama stars Meryl Streep as a woman who abandoned her family to find fast-lane fortune and fame as a rock star. Decades later she returns,trying to reconnect with her estranged kids, one of whom is navigating a rocky divorce. Jonathan Demme ("Stop Making Sense," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Philadelphia") directs.

Minnesota Opera co-commissions 'Cold Mountain'

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: May 6, 2014 - 4:46 PM

The 2003 movie version of "Cold Mountain" starred Jude Law, above, as a Confederate soldier turned deserter making his way home. The Minnesota Opera has co-commissioned an opera version of the best-selling Civil War saga.

The Minnesota Opera has co-commissioned an adaptation of the best-selling Civil War novel "Cold Mountain," with music by Pulitzer-winning composer Jennifer Higdon. The commission is the latest in a string of new operas with modern cultural roots that Minnesota Opera has been involved with over the last several years -- including "Doubt, "The Manchurian Candidate" and "The Shining" -- through its  $7-million New Works Initiative program.

The novel "Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier won the 1997 National Book Award. It tells the story of a Confederate Army deserter making his way home through ravaged terrain toward the end of the war. It was made into a 2003 movie that was nominated for seven Academy awards.

Partners in the commission are The Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia. The opera will get its premiere in Santa Fe in the summer of 2015, marking the150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. It will be presented by the Minnesota Opera sometime in 2018.

Higdon, who won a Pulitzer and a Grammy for two separate concertos in 2010, will be joined by librettist Gene Scheer, who wrote the book for an opera version of "Moby Dick."

Jennifer Higdon. Photo by J. Henry Fair.

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