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CRITIC'S PICKS | Classical Music Livestreams You Absolutely Need To See This Week (October 19 – 25)

By Joseph So on October 19, 2020

Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of October 19 – 25.
Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of October 19 – 25.

Critic’s Picks (October 19 – 25)

“We live in an extraordinary Age” – Carl Sagan. COVID-19 pandemic continues to profoundly disrupt our musical lives. The dreaded second wave has arrived with a vengeance in Europe, leading to closures and cancellations, such as the entire run of Tannhauser in Rouen, and all of Le Nozze di Figaro and Il Barbiere di Siviglia in Wiesbaden. Boston Symphony Orchestra has cancelled the remaining concerts of its 2020-21 season. A few opera houses valiantly try to adapt. The Grand Théâtre de Genève’s upcoming run of The Makropoulos Case (Oct. 26 – Nov 6) will be performed without a live orchestra, due to limitations preventing social distancing. L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande will be pre-recorded and later played through speakers placed in the pit. Singers will be singing live, with Maestro Tomaš Netopil conducting the recording. Sadly it may be the new normal.

Yet nothing can suppress the burning desire of creativity. A case in point is Finnish National Opera’s Covid fan tutte, adapting Mozart’s sublime work with a new libretto, as a wry comment on the pandemic. A new piece has been commissioned by conductor Oliver Zeffman, Eight Songs From Isolation, exploring themes of distance. It features Zeffman conducting the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra, with artists such as Sarah Connolly, Iestyn Davies, Sophie Bevan, Toby Spence, Julia Bullock and others. Russian Anna Netrebko returns to the La Scala stage on Oct 21, in an operatic recital. However, it has just been announced that the Russian tour planned for October by her and her husband tenor Yusif Eyvazov has been postponed to March, 2021. Also at La Scala for a recital on Oct. 22 is tenor Jonas Kaufmann and pianist Helmut Deutsch, but given the rise of COVID cases in Italy, it’s likely precarious. Let’s wish them good luck.

The news is grim on this side of the pond. Cineplex has cancelled its plan to reopen with encore screenings of three Met performances beginning Oct.17. The National Ballet of Canada had to cut short its run of The Dreamers Ever Leave You. The Metropolitan Opera will stay dark for the whole of the 2020-21 season, and the COC has cancelled its entire 2020-21 season. A lone bright light is the San Diego Opera’s Drive-In La Boheme starring Ana Maria Martinez (replacing the originally announced Angel Blue) and Joshua Guerrero, slated to start this Saturday (Oct 24), with additional performances on 27, 30, and Nov. 1. Similarly, San Francisco Opera is screening Lucia di Lammermoor on Oct. 25 at Fort Mason Flix Drive-In, for those wanting to see opera on the 40’ X 20’ LED screen at the Marina District drive-in and enjoy snacks from Off the Grid food trucks! It’s a recycled 2008 performance starring Natalie Dessay and Giuseppe Filanoti.

On the virtual front, the Met continues with its free nightly stream, at 7:30 p.m. ET and available for 23 hours. This is comic opera week, with streaming of such warhorses as Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Merry Widow, La Cenerentola, and Falstaff, with major stars like Juan Diego Florez, Renee Fleming, and Cecilia Bartoli. There are also plenty of interesting video-on-demand choices. Top on my list is the Finnish National Opera’s Covid fan tutte, a fine example of creativity in the era of the pandemic. A very cute show, even if the underlying premise is rather grim.

Monday 19

Met | Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia Starring Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Flórez, Peter Mattei, John Del Carlo, and John Relyea, conducted by Maurizio Benini. Great cast and a real treat for Rossini fans. From March 24, 2007. | Details

Tuesday 20

Met | Lehár’s The Merry Widow Starring Renée Fleming, Kelli O’Hara, Nathan Gunn, Alek Shrader, and Thomas Allen, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. From January 17, 2015. | Details

Wednesday 21

Met | Mozart’s Così fan tutte Starring Amanda Majeski, Serena Malfi, Kelli O’Hara, Ben Bliss, Adam Plachetka, and Christopher Maltman, conducted by David Robertson. From March 31, 2018. | Details

Thursday 22

Wigmore Hall | Jonathan Plowright 2:30 p.m. ET The English pianist plays a recital of Brahams and Chopin. | Details

Azrieli Music Prizes | 2020 Gala Concert 8 p.m. ET World premieres of works by prize winners Keiko Devaux, Yotam Haber and Yitzhak Yedid. Larraine Vaillancourt conducts Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, with soloists Sharon Azrieli and Krisztina Szabo. | Details

Met Stars Live In Concert | Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja 1 p.m. ET Live from the Cappella Palatina of the Royal Palace of Caserta in Italy, with Vincenzo Scalera at the piano, Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja sing arias from Tosca, L’Elisir d’amore, Semiramide, Un ballo in Maschera, Carmen, and others. Ticket $20. | Details

Met | Rossini’s La Cenerentola Starring the great Cecilia Bartoli in one of her best roles. She’s joined by Ramón Vargas, Simone Alaimo, and Alessandro Corbelli. James Levine conducts. From October 27, 1997 – an oldie but goodie. | Details

Friday 23

Santa Fe Opera/Center for Contemporary Arts | Is This America? 8 p.m. ET An online screening of Is This America?, a workshop of the new opera This Little Light of Mine about the life of voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, followed by a panel discussion with the creative team and presented by the Santa Fe Opera and Center for Contemporary Arts. Viewers need to register for free via the CCA’s website. | Details

Met | Verdi’s Falstaff Starring Mirella Freni, Barbara Bonney, Marilyn Horne, Bruno Pola, and Paul Plishka, conducted by James Levine. From October 10, 1992. | Details

Saturday 24

Met | Rossini’s Le Comte Ory Starring Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Susanne Resmark, Juan Diego Flórez, Stéphane Degout, and Michele Pertusi, conducted by Maurizio Benini. From April 9, 2011. | Details

Sunday 25

Met | Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier It’s debatable whether this Strauss masterpiece is a true comedy, but this new Met production is funnier than most. A top cast with Renée Fleming, Elīna Garanča, Erin Morley, Matthew Polenzani, Marcus Brück, and Günther Groissböck, conducted by Sebastian Weigle. From May 13, 2017. | Details

Sinfonia Toronto | Beethoven & Shostakovich. Maestro Nurhan Arman leads  Sinfonia Toronto in a program that juxtaposes two masterpieces by these great composers. The virtual concert is a tribute to front-line workers and health care providers. The stream is available between Oct. 25 and Nov. 23. | Details

Video-on-demand performances:

1) Finnish National Opera | Covid fan tutte Live-streamed last month and now available on demand outside Finland, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Mozart classic. Other than the music, you won’t recognize it, now shortened and with a new libretto by Minna Lindgren, written for our pandemic times, funny yet grim. The venerable Finnish diva Karita Mattila is Despina and baritone/former Cardiff winner Tommi Hakala is Don Alfonso.

2) Screaming Divas with Sondra and Keri | Joseph Calleja How many of you remember the Maltese tenor singing Rodolfo at the COC in 2000? He was all of 22 years old, and already earmarked for greatness. On Thursday, Calleja joins Diana Damrau in a Met Stars Live in Concert for $20. Here you can watch him in action for free, with Sondra and Keri.

3) Oslo Philharmonic | Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Oslo Philharmonic and its chief conductor Klaus Mäkelä perform Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in Oslo Concert Hall on 19th August 2020, and now available on demand.

4) Belfast International Arts Festival | Piatti Quartet with Janina Fialkowska If you missed the live stream last Sunday – I only got last minute confirmation that the concert was going ahead – here’s the on-demand link, available for the next four weeks. Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska joins the Piatti Quartet in a performance of Beethoven Piano Concertos no. 3 and 4, arranged for piano quintet.

5) Daniel Vnukowski | All Chopin Recital Polish-Canadian pianist Daniel Vnukowski plays an all-Chopin recital on a Fazioli grand, live streamed last weekend, and now available on demand for 30 days. This link to his website is chockful of his many recitals which you may wish to explore. | Details

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Joseph So

Joseph So is Professor Emeritus at Trent University and Associate Editor of Opera Canada.He is also a long-time contributor to La Scena Musicale and Opera (London, UK). His interest in music journalism focuses on voice, opera as well as symphonic and piano repertoires. He appears regularly as a panel member of the Big COC Podcast.He has co-edited a book, Opera in a Multicultural World: Coloniality, Culture, Performance, published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).
Joseph So

Joseph So

Joseph So is Professor Emeritus at Trent University and Associate Editor of Opera Canada.He is also a long-time contributor to La Scena Musicale and Opera (London, UK). His interest in music journalism focuses on voice, opera as well as symphonic and piano repertoires. He appears regularly as a panel member of the Big COC Podcast.He has co-edited a book, Opera in a Multicultural World: Coloniality, Culture, Performance, published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).
Joseph So
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