Yo-Yo Ma plays himself on ‘The Simpsons’ -- and performs theme song

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2013.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2013.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“The Simpsons” on Fox doesn’t often feature cameo appearances by classical musicians. One of the most recent examples was eight years ago when tenor Plácido Domingo snapped a towel at Homer Simpson’s buttocks in a locker room in the 2007 episode “The Homer of Seville.”

On Sunday, cellist Yo-Yo Ma made a cameo on the long-running animated series, playing himself and also performing “The Simpsons” theme over the final credits.

The new episode, titled “Puffless,” focused on sisters Patty and Selma Bouvier’s decision to give up their beloved cigarettes. They make their resolution at a party celebrating their mother’s birthday.

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Montgomery C. Burns crashes the celebration to make his affections for Mrs. Bouvier known once again -- he previously did so in 1994 -- and enlists the aid of Ma to serenade the old lady.

The cellist plays the prelude section of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, one of his signature pieces.

When asked how he persuaded Ma to make the cameo, Al Jean, the series’ showrunner and executive producer, said via Twitter, “We asked and he said yes; lucky us.”

Jean also said that he “used to live in the same dorm as Yo-Yo... his practicing was a free concert every day.” Jean and Ma attended Harvard University.

Sunday’s episode wasn’t technically the cellist’s first appearance on the series. In the 2000 episode “Missionary: Impossible,” Homer donates $10,000 to PBS in an attempt to end a pledge drive.

When the network finds out he doesn’t have the money, Homer is chased down the street by an angry mob of PBS stalwarts that included Mr. Rogers, the Teletubbies and Ma, who has been a regular guest on “Sesame Street.”

Last week, Ma appeared on CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” accompanying ballet dancer Misty Copeland to a piece by Bach. The cellist will be back in Southern California next year, with concerts at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in May.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT



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