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Earthquake survivors invited to La Scala gala premiere

Principal conductor Riccardo Chailly is reviving Puccini's original version of "Madama Butterfly" for the season-opener of La Scala, where it will be performed for the first time since its hotly contested world debut 112 years ago.

Chailly says it is a "duty" toward Puccini to present the masterpiece as he originally intended.

In a rare break with tradition, neither the Italian president nor premier will attend the gala opening Wednesday. President Sergio Mattarella canceled his attendance at the last minute because of the political crisis, while hopes that Premier Matteo Renzi would accept the invitation at the last minute withered with his impending resignation after voters rejected his constitutional reforms.

In the place of government officials, four survivors of central Italy's recent quakes will be sitting in the royal box.

Earthquake survivors invited to La Scala gala premiere

Principal conductor Riccardo Chailly is reviving Puccini's original version of "Madama Butterfly" for the season-opener of La Scala, where it will be performed for the first time since its hotly contested world debut 112 years ago.

Chailly says it is a "duty" toward Puccini to present the masterpiece as he originally intended.

In a rare break with tradition, neither the Italian president nor premier will attend the gala opening Wednesday. President Sergio Mattarella canceled his attendance at the last minute because of the political crisis, while hopes that Premier Matteo Renzi would accept the invitation at the last minute withered with his impending resignation after voters rejected his constitutional reforms.

In the place of government officials, four survivors of central Italy's recent quakes will be sitting in the royal box.

Tim McGraw's mom pays off layaway orders at Florida Walmart

A country music superstar's mother made a difference for several families this holiday season.

Tim McGraw's mother, Betty Trimble, made sure some deserving families have a merry Christmas.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Trimble paid off several customers' layaway orders Tuesday at the Walmart in Macclenny, Florida.

Shopper Deborah Jackson said Trimble told people she was playing Secret Santa and was excited to pay the layaway balances.

>> Read more trending stories

Another shopper, Jessica Lumpkin, said she didn't even have anything on layaway, but Trimble handed her a card with $30 in it and told her to buy something for her daughter.

Trimble has ties to Northeast Florida. She went to Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville, and her mother lived in Glen St. Mary.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> The cards that held the paid layaway receipts were signed "Merry Christmas, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill Family"Posted by Action News Jacksonville on Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Met stages female composer's opera 'L'Amour de Loin'

Spanning five brief acts, "L'Amour de Loin (Love from Afar)" tells of a long-distance and ultimately doomed romance between a medieval French troubadour and the countess of Tripoli.

They fall in love not by meeting but through messages relayed back and forth across the sea by the opera's third character, the Pilgrim. And to mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford, who portrays that "trousers" role in the Metropolitan Opera's production, "he's the most interesting character in the piece."

"There's something very ambiguous, very mysterious about him," Mumford said in a recent telephone interview. "The way he connects the two lovers, it's almost as if he's living vicariously through them. He makes himself part of the love story in a way, and eventually realizes maybe he's going a little too far."

"L'Amour," with music by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and libretto by the Lebanese-born writer Amin Maalouf, will be shown Saturday in movie theaters around the world as part of the Met's "Live in HD" series.

Mumford said Saariaho, who attended rehearsals, told her that she wrote the role of the Pilgrim for a mezzo because she wanted his voice to serve as "the medium between the two lovers, with a sound that was calm and soothing." The role of the troubadour, Jaufre Rudel, is sung by bass-baritone Eric Owens and the countess Clemence by soprano Susanna Phillips.

WOMEN'S WORK IS RARELY DONE

Saariaho, a 64-year-old Finn who now lives in Paris, is only the second woman to have an opera performed at the Met, more than a century after Ethel Smyth's "Der Wald (The Forest)" received two performances in 1903. In addition, the Met's production is conducted by another Finn, Susanna Malkki, who is just the fourth woman to take the podium at the Met following Sarah Caldwell (1976 debut), Simone Young (1996) and Jane Glover (2013).

Watching the two women embrace during their curtain call "was a special moment," Mumford said. "I felt honored to be part of this. History was being made, and I can't imagine a better team."

LET THERE BE LIGHTS. LOTS OF THEM!

The production, directed by Robert Lepage, uses 28,000 LED lights strung out in 30 rows that cover the stage to conjure the sea that separates the lovers. These lights change color and rest on a giant frame that tilts and rises to simulate waves. (At the 2000 world premiere in Salzburg, Austria, real water was used onstage.)

The lights create a frequently mesmerizing effect for the audience, but Mumford said the performers onstage are in no danger of being distracted. "They have a guard, a fabric over the back," she said. "So we sometimes get little glimpses of the lights coming back at us, but that's all."

WHERE TO SEE IT

The HD broadcast of "L'Amour de Loin" will be shown starting at 12:55 p.m. EST on Saturday. A list of theaters can be found at the Met's website: http://www.metopera.org/Season/In-Cinemas/Theater-Finder/

In the U.S., it will be repeated on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 6:30 p.m. local time.

Dogs and babies among Helen Mirren's acting inspirations

Helen Mirren's acting inspirations involve fur and diapers.

The Oscar-winning actress says she hopes to capture the magic of dogs and babies in her performances because "you cannot take your eyes off them ... they are fantastic."

Mirren, 71, spoke earlier this week at a Manhattan lunch celebrating her AARP cover for December/January. The actress, who is starring as Death in this month's "Collateral Beauty," tried to offer an explanation as to how she's maintained her longevity in Hollywood. She credited her work in theater and the fact that she never had any interest in being a movie star.

But Mirren said she was able to "let go" and not focus on trying to be what she may have once been — a problem she sees for other actors her age.

"They're clinging on to what they were, and they aren't that anymore," she said.

And while Mirren is celebrated for her looks as well as her acting, she dismissed the notion of being a sex symbol: "I would argue ... I'm so not that."

"It's just something that gets hung on your backpack, and you can never get it off," she said.

Trump is Time magazine's Person of the Year

Time magazine on Wednesday named President-elect Donald Trump its Person of the Year.

"It's a great honor. It means a lot," Trump said in a telephone interview on NBC's "Today" show.

Time editor Nancy Gibbs said on the program that Democrat Hillary Clinton was the No. 2 finalist. Gibbs said the choice of Trump this year was "straightforward."

"When have we ever seen a single individual who has so defied expectations, broken the rules, violated norms, beaten not one but two political parties on the way to winning an election that he entered with 100-to-1 odds against him?" Gibbs said.

The Time cover reads, "Donald Trump: President of the Divided States of America" and the cover image features a photograph of the president-elect sitting in his private residence at Trump Tower.

In the NBC interview, Trump took issue with the "Divided States of America" description: "I didn't divide 'em," he said. "We're going to put it back together and we're going to have a country that's very well-healed."

Gibbs said Time gives the title to the person who has had the greatest influence on events "for better or worse."

Trump went from fiery underdog in the race for the GOP presidential nomination to defeating Clinton in the Nov. 8 election. Trump won 306 electoral votes, easily enough to make him president when the electors meet on Dec. 19. Clinton won the popular vote.

Gibbs said Clinton "came closer than any woman ever has to winning the White House, and in the process revealed, I think, both the opportunities and the obstacles that women face in the public square."

The No.3 finalized for the Person of the Year was "The Hackers," which Gibbs said referred to "a new cyber security threat we saw this year of state-sponsored hackers looking to delegitimize an American election." She said this was "something new this year and something very disturbing."

Trump tweets on interview when Person of the Year is named

President-elect Donald Trump is tweeting that he will be interviewed Wednesday morning on NBC amid speculation that he'll be named Time magazine's person of the year.

He tweeted moments before the expected announcement on NBC that "I will be interviewed on the @TODAYshow at 7:30. Enjoy!"

Trump is a finalist for the magazine's prestigious title after his unexpected victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Trump tweets on interview when Person of the Year is named

President-elect Donald Trump is tweeting that he will be interviewed Wednesday morning on NBC amid speculation that he'll be named Time magazine's person of the year.

He tweeted moments before the expected announcement on NBC that "I will be interviewed on the @TODAYshow at 7:30. Enjoy!"

Trump is a finalist for the magazine's prestigious title after his unexpected victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Biden not planning on 2020 bid, but will 'never say never'

Vice President Joe Biden is continuing his coy approach to a possible 2020 presidential bid. For now, it's no.

The Democrat told Stephen Colbert on CBS' "Late Show" Tuesday, "I don't plan on running again, but to say you know what's going to happen in four years is just not rational." He added, "I can't see the circumstance in which I'd run, but what I've learned a long, long time ago, Stephen, is to never say never."

The comments came a day after Biden said, with a slight smile to a reporter, "I'm going to run in 2020."

Biden told Colbert his decision not to run in 2016 was right for his family, even though he was "best prepared at this moment to lead the country."

Biden not planning on 2020 bid, but will 'never say never'

Vice President Joe Biden is continuing his coy approach to a possible 2020 presidential bid. For now, it's no.

The Democrat told Stephen Colbert on CBS' "Late Show" Tuesday, "I don't plan on running again, but to say you know what's going to happen in four years is just not rational." He added, "I can't see the circumstance in which I'd run, but what I've learned a long, long time ago, Stephen, is to never say never."

The comments came a day after Biden said, with a slight smile to a reporter, "I'm going to run in 2020."

Biden told Colbert his decision not to run in 2016 was right for his family, even though he was "best prepared at this moment to lead the country."

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