Critic’s Picks (November 16 – 22)
“We live in an extraordinary Age” — Carl Sagan. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to decimate our musical lives. The dreaded second wave shows no sign of waning, forcing virtually all venues to close once again. The venerable Teatro alla Scala reportedly has 50 COVID cases in its chorus, orchestra and staff. It has cancelled its fabled opening night on Dec. 7, 2020, when it was supposed to stage a new production of Lucia di Lammermoor with Lisette Oropesa and Juan Diego Florez.
However, La Scala won’t be silenced, according to Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc. “La Scala will not remain silent this 7 December either. In the next few days we will announce the program of a concert conducted by Riccardo Chailly in which some of the greatest international singers will participate together with our orchestra, choir and ballet. We will not be able to have an audience in the hall but RAI will allow us to be seen by a wider, international audience broadcasting our 7 Dicembre on channel 1 and on some of the main international TVs. It will be a message of will and hope for Italy and for all the theatres and artists affected.” That said, the day after this announcement, the La Scala Orchestra, which has its own concert series, announced that its autumn concerts are cancelled, including the opening night on Dec. 14. What this means for the Dec. 7 concert is unclear.
Francisco Salazar of Opera Wire has reported that the closures have led to some protests. In front of the Teatro alla Scala and Teatro Comunale di Bologna, hundreds of artists protested with signs that read “Opera is Work” and “Music is Work”. In Milan, baritone Simone Piazzola participated in the protest. In Bologna, singers Federica Vitali, Cristina Melis, Mariangela Sicilia, Angelo Veccia, Franco Vassallo, Luca Gallo, Marina Ogii, Marco Miglietta, and Lorenzo Giossi demonstrated against the government’s decision. In Barcelona, 600 people protested the closures of all theatres and auditoriums in Catalonia. The protest was held at the Passeig de Gràcia, which stopped traffic. Workers held up signs asking for government help and stating that “Culture is secure”.
In North America, performing arts are virtually shut down. The National Ballet of Canada cancelled the rest of its season, as has the Metropolitan Opera and the COC. The Met Stars Live in Concert series has seen many changes. One concert featuring soprano Pretty Yende and tenor Javier Camarena, scheduled for Nov. 7, has been postponed, “due to the non-COVID illness of Camarena”. The next show will be soprano Sonya Yoncheva, scheduled to perform on Nov. 21 from the Schussenried Cloister in southwest Germany. Carnegie Hall just announced it has canceled all live performances until April 5, 2021. Lincoln Centre has canceled all performances for spring 2021, which means its Great Performers series and 2020-21 David Rubenstein Atrium Season, as well as the annual American Songbook series are all gone.
Thankfully, music lovers can turn to the internet for solace. Now that the Wiener Staatsoper is shut down again, it is opening its archives for nightly free streaming. As of Monday morning, the schedule is not yet on the Staatsoper website but can be found on Slipped Disc. And how appropriate that the Met’s streaming this week is “Yannick Week” — the Canadian maestro is the 2020 Rubies (Opera Canada Awards) recipient. The Rubies can be enjoyed on Monday, Nov. 23 in a virtual gala which you can watch on YouTube. (Link will be included in next week’s Critic’s Picks.) The Met’s free nightly stream starts at 7:30 p.m. ET and is available for 23 hours. Tops on demand shows this week are such heavyweights as Don Carlo, Faust, Don Giovanni, La Traviata and Rigoletto, with megastars Jonas Kaufmann and Renee Fleming. Many great Canadian artists are featured, including Adrianne Pieczonka, John Relyea, Orfra Harnoy and Gerald Finley.
Wigmore Hall | Diary of One Who Disappeared — 1 p.m. ET. Scottish tenor Nicky Spence is joined by pianist Julius Drake in a performance of Janácek’s enigmatic song cycle.
Met | Verdi’s Don Carlo. Starring Marina Poplavskaya Anna Smirnova, Roberto Alagna, Simon Keenlyside, and Ferruccio Furlanetto, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From December 11, 2010. | Details
Wiener Staatsoper | Arabella — 1 p.m. ET. From 17 March 2016. Peter Schneider, conductor. Camilla Nylund, Bo Skovhus, Chen Reiss, Herbert Lippert, Daniela Fally. Free registration required. | Details
Met | Gounod’s Faust. Starring Marina Poplavskaya, Jonas Kaufmann, and René Pape, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From December 10, 2011. | Details
Wiener Staatsoper | Salome — 1 p.m. ET. From 24 January 2020. Michael Boder, conductor. Lise Lindstrom, Michael Volle, Waltraud Meier, Herwig Pecoraro. Free registration required. | Details
Met | Dvořák’s Rusalka. Starring Renée Fleming, Emily Magee, Dolora Zajick, Piotr Beczała, and John Relyea, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From February 8, 2014. | Details
Wiener Staatsoper | Les Troyens — 1 p.m. ET. From 4 November 2018. Alain Altinoglu, conductor. Joyce DiDonato, Brandon Jovanovich, Anna Caterina Antonacci, Adam Plachetka, Jongmin Park, Szilvia Vörös. | Details
Los Angeles Opera | Living Room Recital — 5 p.m. ET. Tenor Joshua Guerrero, bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee and pianist Christopher Allen present a program of arias and scenes from Carmen, Das Rheingold, and La Bohème.
Met | Verdi’s La Traviata. Starring Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, and Quinn Kelsey, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From December 15, 2018. | Details
Wiener Staatsoper | Der Rosenkavalier — 1p.m. ET. From März 1994. Carlos Kleiber, conductor. Felicity Lott, Anne Sofie von Otter, Kurt Moll, Barbara Bonney, Gottfried Hornik, Heinz Zednik. Free registration required. | Details
NSO Music | Mellow Cello — 6:00p.m. ET. The Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra presents cellist Ofra Harnoy in concert, playing Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major. It’s paired with Mendelssohn’s Overture for Winds and Brahms’ Serenade No. 2, op. 16. Marc David conducts. A bonus is a Newfoundland folk song performed by Harnoy, from her new album, On the Rock. Students $10 / Senior $15 / Regular $20 plus fees. Ticket buyers will receive a secure link to the NSO’s digital concert hall. | Details
Art Gallery of Ontario: AGO Live | Toronto Symphony Orchestra — 2 p.m. ET. This fall series of live concerts at the AGO given by TSO, National Ballet, Soundstreams and the COC continues with the TSO, featuring Theresa Rudolph (viola) and John Rudolph (percussion). Program details not available at press time. Free with admission, these socially distanced performance takes place in Walker Court and in Galleria Italia.
[Update, Nov 17, 2020. Please advise this event has been cancelled]
Met | Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites. Starring Isabel Leonard, Adrianne Pieczonka, Erin Morley, Karen Cargill, Karita Mattila, David Portillo, and Jean-François Lapointe, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From May 11, 2019. | Details
Wiener Staatsoper | Ariadne auf Naxos — 1 p.m. ET. From 29 November 2017. Peter Schneider, conductor. Lise Davidsen, Stephen Gould, Markus Eiche, Rachel Frenkel, Erin Morley, Peter Matic. Free registration required. | Details
Met Stars Live in Concert | Sonya Yoncheva — 1 p.m. ET. The Bulgarian soprano sings from the Schussenried Cloister in southwest Germany, in a program of arias by Verdi, Puccini, Dvorak, Handel, Bizet, Purcell, and Bellini, with pianist Malcolm Martineau. $20US, performance available on-demand for 14 days. | Details
MET ADVISORY UPDATE: The “Met Stars Live in Concert” performance featuring soprano Sonya Yoncheva, scheduled for this Saturday, November 21, has been rescheduled for Saturday, November 28, as Ms. Yoncheva is ill (with a non-Covid illness). The concert, live from the Schussenried Cloister in southwest Germany, will take place at 1pm EST/7pm CET.
Opera North | Seven Deadly Sins — 1 p.m. ET. This Kurt Weill piece is billed as a “ballet with singing,” in this new staging by HK Gruber and Christian Muthspiel, ahead of its scheduled UK premiere at the Royal Opera in spring 2021. It features Canadian mezzo Wallis Giunta and dancer Shelley Eva Haden as the two Annas. Ticket is £10 for the livestream, and will remain available for 48 hours. | Details
Met | Puccini’s Turandot. Starring Christine Goerke, Eleonora Buratto, Yusif Eyvazov, and James Morris, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From October 12, 2019. | Details
San Francisco Opera | Rigoletto — 1 p.m. ET. The Verdi classic stars Serbian baritone Željko Lučić as the court jester, Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak as his daughter Gilda, and Italian tenor Francesco Demuro as the Duke. Nicola Luisotti conducts. Available until Sunday Nov 22 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. | Details
Wiener Staatsoper | Don Carlos — 1 p.m. ET. From 4 October 2020. Bertrand de Billy, conductor. Malin Byström, Jonas Kaufmann, Eve-Maud Hubeaux, Igor Golovantenko, Michele Pertusi, Virginie Verrez. Free registration required. | Details
Met | Berg’s Wozzeck. Starring Elza van den Heever, Tamara Mumford, Christopher Ventris, Gerhard Siegel, Andrew Staples, Peter Mattei, and Christian Van Horn, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From January 11, 2020. | Details
1) Teatro Real Madrid | La Traviata. Streamed on November 14 and now available on demand for six months, this semi-staged concert performance was taped in July, one of the first live opera productions that took place after the lockdown. It stars an excellent trio – soprano Marina Rebeka (Violetta), Michael Fabiano (Alfredo) and Artur Ruciński (Germont), conducted by Nicola Luisotti.
2) Canadian Opera Company | MindBodyMusic. Streamed on Oct 14 and now available on demand, MindBodyMusic is hosted by COC Composer-in-Residence Ian Cusson, joined by a panel of artists and scientists to explore music’s impact on our minds and bodies. Panellists include soprano Jamie Groote, Dr. SarahRose Black (psychotherapy), Dr. Charles Limb (neuroscience), and Dr. Swathi Swaminathan (psychology).
3) Gran Teatre del Liceu | Don Giovanni. Recorded October 22 before the lockdown due to the Second Wave, this Christof Loy production stars British baritone Christopher Maltman (Don G), Luca Pisaroni (Leporello), Miah Persson (Anna), Veronique Gens (Elvira), Ben Bliss (Ottavio). Josep Pons conducts. A staged production with physical distancing – interesting that the maestro was the only one wearing a mask. | Details
4) Screaming Divas with Sondra and Keri | Isabel Leonard. Canadian opera fans may well have heard the American mezzo sing Adalgisa in a COC Norma. She’s also Blanche in Dialogues of the Carmelites this Friday on the Met stream. Leonard joins Sondra and Keri to chat about life, singing, and motherhood.
5) Staatsoper Hannover | Carmen. Streamed live on OperaVision on 10 November and now available for the next six months, this concept production – which traditionalists would likely use the “E” word — features Evgenia Asanova (Carmen), Rodrigo Porras Garulo (Don Jose), Barno Ismatullaeva (Micaëla), and Germán Olvera (Escamillo). Stephan Zilias conducts.
6) Royal Opera House | Insights: Masterclass with Gerald Finley. The great Canadian baritone coaches the ROH’s Jette Parker Young Artist Programme members Germán E. Alcántara and Blaise Malaba as part of a Royal Opera Masterclass, accompanied on piano by David Gowland. Not-to-be-missed.
8) Zachary Rioux | La Serenata Recital (Part 1: Tosti). Promising young Canadian tenor Zachary Rioux sings a recital of Italian songs by de Curtis, Leoncavallo, Liszt, Nutile, Puccini and Tosti. The livestream of part 1 took place November 15 and is now available on demand. Jennifer Tung is the pianist.
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