Top Picks: 'Otello' the opera, candid president photos, and more

Amoeba Music digitizes its record collection, PowerMobyDick.com helps you decode Melville's text, and more top picks.

AP
'Otello' on Great Performances at the Met
Cecil Stoughton/JFK Library/Reuters
The President’s Photographer
Terri Lynne Carrington's "The Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue."

Golden voices

In Otello, luminous soprano Renée Fleming and veteran Johan Botha bring Verdi's monumental opera of passion and betrayal to PBS on Great Performances at the Met Feb. 24 (check local listings). Rising tenor Michael Fabiano debuts as Cassio. Conductor Semyon Bychkov keeps the evening electric and alive. Falk Struckmann plays villainous Iago. This story never ceases to move an audience to tears.

Vinyl online

California's Amoeba Music has done a big favor for those who love hunting down rare records. They've digitized most of their vast inventory of rare and out-of-print 33-1/3, 45, and 78 r.p.m. vinyl records and made them available online at amoeba.com. So far there are more than 1,000 tracks and albums posted, ranging in price from 75 cents to $4 for a song, to $6 to $20 for a full album. Each track is available in three levels of digital sound quality and 90-second samples are just a click away.

Candid Prez

Celebrate Washington's Birthday by viewing some of the most iconic poses struck by commanders in chief. The President's Photographer on National Geographic.com is a slide show (also available as a book) of pictures of American presidents and their families caught in unexpected moments. Check out President Obama wearing 3-D glasses or first lady Betty Ford posing on top of the Cabinet Room table at http://bit.ly/natgeoprez.

All the First Ladies

C-SPAN, in partnership with the White House Historical Association, has taken on the ambitious project of bringing the nation's first ladies to life. First Ladies: Influence and Image, launches on Washington's Birthday, Feb. 18, at 9 p.m. Season 1 of the 35-part series, airing through June 10 on Monday nights, profiles these women over 44 administrations, examining their public and private lives as well as their influence on the men in the White House. It airs on C-SPAN, C-SPAN 3, C-SPAN Radio, and via live streaming on c-span.org.

Tackling Moby

"Moby-Dick" is one of those books that seem to require a college course to fully appreciate. PowerMobyDick.com can't offer you a personalized professor, but it has the full text of Herman Melville's book with excellent annotations throughout. The website's clean, simple format looks great on both PCs and tablets. And the whole package is free of charge, if you don't mind a few ads.

Money blues

It takes a lot of confidence to remake "Money Jungle," the legendary jazz album Duke Ellington made with Charles Mingus and Max Roach, but Grammy-winning jazz drummer Terri Lynne Carrington delivers on her latest release, The Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue. Through the occasional spoken word, the "art versus commerce" theme comes to the fore while maintaining Ellington's aural elegance and sophistication with a bluesy feel. Bassist Christian McBride and Gerald Clayton on keyboards animate her arrangements without quashing the genius of the original.

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