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Classical music that pops

What do a teen "angel," an opera icon who rarely performs in operas, and a photogenic female string quartet have to do with classical music?

The answer may depend on how you define the term. Ultra-purists may have Austrian-German music of the 18th and 19th centuries in mind. The very word "classical" suggests adherence to set forms of composition (sonata, symphony, fugue) that follow established principles and, by definition, are not "experimental."

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But artists keep stretching the genre. Composer John Corigliano (see page 18), who has won a Pulitzer Prize for a symphony and an Oscar for a movie score, is resetting Bob Dylan's folk lyrics to new music. Does this make him a "classical" composer?

Meanwhile, Charlotte Church, a British teen on a solo singing tour in the US, blends Broadway tunes and pop standards with classical offerings in her performances.

Luciano Pavarotti, who shot to fame not on the opera stage but as one of the "three tenors," confines himself today to spectaculars like his 40th-anniversary show (which was Webcast, of course).

The female string quartet Bond has caused a stir in Britain, first for posing nude in a newspaper and then for being denied a place on the "classical" music charts, where its album would have ranked No. 2.

"People like Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman and Enya and me are keeping classical music alive," young Miss Church told The Boston Globe recently. "You know, maybe we are like little poppy classical people, making it a bit more contemporized. But they should at least realize, 'Hello! We're trying to help it.' "

Some suggest a new term for this new genre of artists: "popera."

Write to entertainment@csps.com.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor