Top Picks: PBS's documentary 'Freedom Summer,' First Aid Kit's new album 'Stay Gold,' and more

PBS's 'Great Performances' airs a production of 'La Bohème' that will no doubt win over opera newbies and aficionados alike, Chrissie Hynde's album 'Stockholm' shows that the singer is still an authentic rocker, and more top picks.

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    Freedom Summer, PBS’s “American Experience"
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Swedish gold

Still sounding like home-grown Americana folk singers, with soaring harmonies and a gentle twang, Swedish duo First Aid Kit is back wowing international audiences with their third album, Stay Gold. Evoking iconic innovators from Stevie Nicks to Lana Del Rey, sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg have created a simple yet high-achieving album with elements of country and alternative genres. Their dynamic style blossoms in their psychedelic videos for signature songs “My Silver Lining” and “Stay Gold.”

World’s largest choir 

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In To Breathe As One, Robert Geary, director of California-based Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, takes 36 choristers to tiny Estonia. For two days, the singers blend their voices with 30,000 others before an audience of 100,000. Led by only one conductor, the singers say they will never forget the experience. Neither will viewers of the documentary, produced by Maureen and James Tusty. Powerful and emotionally moving, it airs on PBS June 27. Check local listings. It’s out on DVD, too.

The battle to vote

Freedom Summer brings back the Mississippi summer of 1964, which changed the course of US history. PBS’s “American Experience” fills in an important chapter in the desegregation of the South with this documentary directed by Stanley Nelson (“Freedom Riders,” “The Murder of Emmett Till”). It’s the story of dedicated workers who persevered in the face of bombings, murder, and intimidation to register as many African-Americans as possible to vote, which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It premières on PBS June 24. Check local listings. 

No longer pretending

Chrissie Hynde has always been a master of the pop hook. In her first solo effort, Stockholm, she veers slightly from the Pretenders formula to let techno grooves seep in. Meanwhile, Neil Young’s guitar in “Down the Wrong Way” keeps her rooted. “Dark Sunglasses” opens and closes on a cowbell with piercing guitar notes reverberating off the rhythm. Her trademark rasp curls around lyrics, with only slightly less snarl. Hynde remains an authentic rocker, still reaching for the stars.

Opulent opera

Puccini’s classic opera La Bohème is well known to operaphiles as one of the most performed operas in the world. Based on previous performances, the famously opulent production by Franco Zeffirelli, which reproduces the Latin Quarter of Paris in colorful detail on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, will no doubt impress newcomers and aficionados alike on PBS’s “Great Performances at the Met.” It stars Vittorio Grigolo (Rodolfo), Kristine Opolais (Mimì), and Susanna Phillips (Musetta). It airs June 27 at 9 p.m.

Border-free Music

The title of Oran Etkin’s Gathering Light perfectly captures the Israeli-born jazz clarinetist/composer’s concept of harvesting musical ideas from the globe and whipping up tasty soufflés of melody, rhythm, and joy. After a world tour that included Israel, Africa, and the Far East, Etkin gathered world music virtuosos such as African guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Ben Allison, and drummer Nasheet Waits to record this luminous collection. 

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