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CRITIC'S PICKS | Classical Music Livestreams You Absolutely Need To See This Week (Oct. 26 – Nov. 1)

By Joseph So on October 26, 2020

Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of October 26— November 1.
Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of October 26— November 1.

Critic’s Picks (October 26 – November 1)

“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 both Le Nozze di Figaro and Il Barbiere di Siviglia in Wiesbaden. 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 soprano and COVID survivor Anna Netrebko returned to La Scala on Oct 21, in an operatic recital. Her Russian tour planned for October with her husband tenor Yusif Eyvazov has been postponed to March 2021. At La Scala for a recital on Oct. 22 was tenor Jonas Kaufmann and pianist Helmut Deutsch. As it turned out they were the lucky ones, as the Italian government has just announced that due to record spikes in cases, all theatres, concert halls are closed until Nov. 24. As I understand, La Scala will re-open after that for its run of La Boheme. Similarly, Belgium, one of the hardest hit countries in the Second Wave, has ordered La Monnaie closed from Oct. 26 to Nov. 22, reopening afterwards for performances of Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor.

The news is grim on this side of the pond. Cineplex Canada cancelled its planned encore screenings of three Met HD performances. The National Ballet of Canada 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, four performances from Oct 24 to Nov.1. 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. Given it is the elections in the US, the Met is presenting a week of “Politics in Opera.” Lots of Canadians — Russell Braun in Nixon In China, and Adrianne Pieczonka in Simon Boccanegra. In The Ghost of Versailles, there are three Canadians — Teresa Stratas (Marie Antoinette), Gino Quilico (Figaro), and Tracy Dahl (Florestine). Don’t miss the concerts from World Opera Day (Oct. 25), with performances from around the world available on demand.

Monday 26

Wigmore Hall | Pavel Kolesnikov 2:30 p.m. ET The Russian pianist, who was the 2012 winner of the Honens Competition in Banff, plays a program of works by Scriabin, Liszt, Schubert, and Beethoven.

Met | Verdi’s Don Carlo Starring Renata Scotto, Tatiana Troyanos, Vasile Moldoveanu, Sherrill Milnes, and Paul Plishka, conducted by James Levine. From February 21, 1980. | Details

Tuesday 27

Canadian Opera Company | Key Change (Audio Podcast) While this column focuses on streaming videos, this new audio series of five podcasts to be released every other week is intriguing. Co-hosts Robyn Grant-Moran, a member of the COC’s Indigenous Circle of Artists, and COC Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence Julie McIsaac, explore what it’s like to attend opera, interviewing special guests from both inside and outside the opera world. Guests on Episode One include sopranos Angel Blue and Midori Marsh, visual artists Shary Boyle, and COC Music Director Johannes Debus. Details

Met | Handel’s Agrippina Starring Brenda Rae, Joyce DiDonato, Kate Lindsey, Iestyn Davies, Duncan Rock, and Matthew Rose, conducted by Harry Bicket. From February 29, 2020. The last Met Live in HD before the pandemic, this fantastic performance has great singing, vivid acting, and eye-popping staging. Not to be missed. | Details

Wednesday 28

Met | Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra Starring Adrianne Pieczonka, Marcello Giordani, Plácido Domingo, and James Morris, conducted by James Levine. From February 6, 2010. | Details

Thursday 29

Met | John Adam’s Nixon In China Starring Kathleen Kim, Janis Kelly, Robert Brubaker, Russell Braun, James Maddalena, and Richard Paul Fink, conducted by John Adams. From February 12, 2011. | Details

Friday 30

Wigmore Hall | Siobhan Stagg 2:30 p.m. ET The Australian lyric soprano gives a recital of Beethoven, Schubert, Debussy and Strauss. Jonathan Ware is the pianist.

Met | Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov Starring Ekaterina Semenchuk, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Oleg Balashov, Evgeny Nikitin, René Pape, Mikhail Petrenko, and Vladimir Ognovenko, conducted by Valery Gergiev. From October 23, 2010. | Details

Piano Lunaire | The Blue Moon Gala 8 p.m. ET In partnership with Yamaha Music Canada, pianists Adam Sherkin and Stephen Runge present a program of works by John Adams, Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninoff, Mason Bates and Adam Sherkin. Ticket is $30, 25% of which goes to the Emergency COVID-19 Appeal at the Children’s Aid Foundation. | Details

Saturday 31

Met | John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles Starring Teresa Stratas, Håkan Hagegård, Gino Quilico, Graham Clark, Marilyn Horne, and Renée Fleming, conducted by James Levine. From January 10, 1992. This production was a hit at the premiere, featuring big names including Renee Fleming, Marilyn Horne, and Teresa Stratas. | Details

Sunday 1

Met | Philip Glass’s Satyagraha Starring Rachelle Durkin, Richard Croft, Kim Josephson, and Alfred Walker, conducted by Dante Anzolini. From November 19, 2011. | Details

Video-on-demand performances:

1) Garsington Opera | Fidelio Premiered Oct. 23 and now available on demand under the auspices of Opera Vision, it stars soprano Katherine Broderick as Leonore and tenor Toby Spence as Florestan. Because of COVID, this is a semi-staged concert version. Douglas Boyd conducts. | Details

2) Screaming Divas with Sondra and Keri | Quite a coup by Sondra Radvanovsky and Keri Alkema to snag the head honcho of the Met, Peter Gelb, who gives very few interviews, for a chat. Topics discussed include his stewardship of the Met during the COVID crisis, and what the future holds.

3) World Opera Day 2020 (October 25) saw performances all over the world in celebration. Here are four streamed videos that took place Oct. 23 to 25, showcasing a mix of famous stars and new voices.

Act 1

Act 2

Act 3

Act 4

4) Concours musical international de Montréal | The CMIM just made two clips from the 2018 competition winners available on demand: Korean tenor Mario Bahg singing “Il mio tesoro” and Canadian tenor Andrew Haji singing “Una furtiva lagrima”

5) Opera XXI Awards | To coincide with World Opera Day (Oct. 25) is the second edition of Ópera XXI Awards which celebrates the best of opera in Spain. Postponed due to the pandemic from March in Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, it is now online, courtesy of OperaVision. Among the recipients are soprano Sondra Radvanovsky (Best Singer Award) – she sings “Vissi d’arte” on the video; Nicola Luisotti (Best Musical Director Award); and Cristof Loy (Best Stage Director Award).

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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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