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The unassuming hero of Jonas Karlsson's clever, Kafkaesque parable is the opposite of a malcontent. Despite scant education, a limited social life, and no prospects for success as it is usually defined, he's that rarity, a most happy fella with an amazing ability to content himself with very little. But one day, returning to his barebones flat from his dead-end, part-time job at a video store, he finds an astronomical bill from an entity called W.R.D. He assumes it's a scam. Actually, it is more sinister-- and it forces him to take a good hard look at his life and values.

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Donald Trump picked a military town, Virginia Beach, Va., to give a speech Tuesday on how he would go about reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs if elected.

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The season for blueberries used to be short. You'd find fresh berries in the store just during a couple of months in the middle of summer.

Now, though, it's always blueberry season somewhere. Blueberry production is booming. The berries are grown in Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan and the Pacific Northwest — not to mention the southern hemisphere.

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Shostakovich Didn't Want It, But Opera Debuts Anyway

Dec 3, 2011
Originally published on December 3, 2011 3:31 pm
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A long-lost Soviet opera by Dimitri Shostakovich gets a posthumous premiere this weekend in Los Angeles. The opera called "Orango" was found unfinished, dumped in a museum with other scrap paper from Shostakovich's house.

GERARD MCBURNEY: It's 13 sides of manuscript paper with this 40 minutes worth of music. It looks like piano music and the voices are written above it, rather like in a song.

SIMON: British composer Gerard McBurney turned the music into a performable orchestra score. Tried to make it sound as Shostakovich might have imagined it in 1932.

MCBURNEY: When you orchestrate in somebody else's style, you try and get to deep inside their soul and imagine what they would have done at any given point.

SIMON: So Mr. McBurney drew from other pieces from the same pre-World War II period in the composer's career.

MCBURNEY: I raided every theatre score of his I could and stole from them shamelessly.

SIMON: And the result is a score that reflects some of the absurdity of the opera's plot. "Orango" is a genetic experiment gone wrong, a human/ape hybrid who takes a job at an anti-communist newspaper where he's surrounded by rabid capitalists, driven to insanity and ends up as a side-show freak in a circus.

MCBURNEY: All of this music is very satirical. It's like cartoon film music, it's like "Tom and Jerry" or "Yogi Bear" or something.

SIMON: Since "Orango's" being performed for the first time ever this weekend, we don't have a recording of the new opera; we can hear the same satirical sound in this other Shostakovich piece, "Hypothetically Murdered."


SIMON: "Hypothetically Murdered," by the way, was also reconstructed by Gerard McBurney, performed here by the city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.