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CRITIC'S PICKS | Classical And Opera Streams You Absolutely Need To See This Week

By Joseph So on December 7, 2020

Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of December 7 – 13.
Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of December 7 – 13.

“We live in an extraordinary Age” – Carl Sagan. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to decimate our musical lives. The dreaded second wave is getting worse, forcing virtually all venues to close once again. Semperoper Dresden just announced all performances cancelled until Dec. 28. Surprisingly, the Opéra National de Paris where Alexander Neef is now in charge, announced that it will reopen both of its theaters starting on Dec. 15, 2020. On the program are La Bohème and concerts by the Academy and Les Arts Florissants. There will also be a recital by Julie Fuchs as well as the Ballet School’s production of Classes en scène. The performance times are moved earlier to comply with pandemic regulations. How well it will work remains to be seen.

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. According to Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc: “Instead it has cameos from Ildar Abdrazakov, Roberto Alagna, Carlos Alvarez, Piotr Beczala, Benjamin Bernheim, Eleonora Buratto, Marianne Crebassa, Placido Domingo, Juan Diego Florez, Elina Garanca, Vittorio Grigolo, Jonas Kaufmann, Aleksandra Kurzak, Francesco Meli, Camilla Nylund, Kristine Opolais, Lisette Oropesa, Marina Rebeka, Ludovic Tezier, and Sonya Yoncheva. Music director Riccardo Chailly will conduct the Scala orchestra and chorus.” Update on Dec.5: Jonas Kaufmann is “indisposed” and has withdrawn. The La Scala Orchestra, which has its own concert series, has cancelled its own opening night, on December 14.

In North America, performing arts venues are virtually shuttered. The National Ballet of Canada cancelled its entire season, as has the Metropolitan Opera and the COC. Just this week, it was announced that the National and Cineplex are joining forces to bring The Nutcracker to your local Cineplex cinemas, beginning December 4. Sadly, Toronto and Peel Region are in lockdown again, meaning all cinemas there will not open. I understand that showing of the Holiday classic in the rest of Canada not under lockdown is going ahead, and the movie is also available for streaming at home.

A piece of good news is the announcement of a livestreamed pay-per-view New Year’s Eve Gala presented by the Met — that will take place not in New York but in Germany. It features Pretty Yende and Javier Camarena, replacing their originally scheduled concert. They will be joined by Angel Blue and Matthew Polenzani, performing from the Parktheater in Augsburg, Germany. The Sonya Yoncheva concert is postponed yet again, leading to speculation that she has COVID-19. She quelled the rumour by posting on social media that she has severe bronchitis. Carnegie Hall announced it has cancelled all live performances until April 5, 2021. The Cleveland Orchestra also cancelled all of its Christmas concerts. Lincoln Centre has cancelled all performances for spring 2021, which means its Great Performers series and its 2020-21 David Rubenstein Atrium Season are gone.

Thank goodness there’s always music on the internet. The Met’s free nightly stream continues, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET and available for 23 hours. The theme this week is In Plain English, ie., all works sung in English. Many of these have already been streamed but are now packaged differently. Bryn Terfel’s concert from Wales in a program of Christmas songs is well worth watching for a $20 USD ticket. Very interesting is Against the Grain’s Messiah/Complex featuring Johannes Debus and the TSO. Also not to be missed is Opera Atelier’s Something Strange and Rich with Measha Brueggergosman and Colin Ainsworth, plus much more.

Monday 7

Bayerische Staatsoper | Montagstucke VI: Moving the World — 2:15 p.m. ET. Krzysztof Urbanski conducts with baritone Thomas Hampson singing Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder. Also Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7. Free livestream, but paradoxically archived viewing will cost 9.90 Euros. | Details

Met | Thomas Adès’s The Tempest — 7:30 p.m. ET. Starring Audrey Luna, Isabel Leonard, Iestyn Davies, Alek Shrader, Alan Oke, William Burden, Toby Spence, and Simon Keenlyside, conducted by Thomas Adès. From November 10, 2012. | Details

Tuesday 8

Met | John Adams’s Doctor Atomic — 7:30 p.m. ET. Starring Sasha Cooke, Thomas Glenn, Gerald Finley, Richard Paul Fink, and Eric Owens, conducted by Alan Gilbert. From November 8, 2008. | Details

Wednesday 9

Met | Britten’s Peter Grimes — 7:30 p.m. ET. Starring Patricia Racette, Anthony Dean Griffey, and Anthony Michaels-Moore, conducted by Sir Donald Runnicles. From March 15, 2008. | Details

Thursday 10

Met | Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel — 7:30 p.m. ET. Starring Audrey Luna, Amanda Echalaz, Sally Matthews, Sophie Bevan, Alice Coote, Christine Rice, Iestyn Davies, Joseph Kaiser, Frédéric Antoun, David Portillo, David Adam Moore, Rod Gilfry, Kevin Burdette, Christian Van Horn, and John Tomlinson. conducted by Thomas Adès. From November 18, 2017. | Details

Tafelmusik | A Tafelmusik Christmas — 8 p.m. ET. Co-curated by Ivars Taurins and Elisa Citterio, this festive program brings members of the choir and orchestra together to perform works including Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Charpentier’s Christmas Pastorale, and various baroque arrangements of Christmas carols. | Details

RCM | Beethoven 250 Festival: James Ehnes and Charles Richard-Hamelin with New Orford String Quartet — 8 p.m. ET. Three heavy hitters unite as part of RCM’s Beethoven 250 Festival for one of the premier livestream events of the season. The program includes Beethoven: String Quartet No. 3 in D Major, op. 18, no. 3 and Ernest Chausson’s lush and vibrant Concerto in D Major for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet, op. 21. Not-to-be-missed. | Details

Friday 11

Met | The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess — 7:30 p.m. ET. Starring Angel Blue, Golda Schultz, Latonia Moore, Denyce Graves, Frederick Ballentine, Eric Owens, Alfred Walker, and Donovan Singletary, conducted by David Robertson. From February 1, 2020. | Details

RCM | Beethoven 250 Festival: James Ehnes with Stewart Goodyear — 8:00 p.m. ET. Violin virtuoso James Ehnes and RCM alumnus Stewart Goodyear descend upon an acoustically pristine Koerner Hall over three days to bring the all-Beethoven programs of Violin Sonatas. This will be an intimate concert and perfect fit for livestream. | Details (Friday) (Saturday) (Sunday)

Saturday 12

Met Stars Live In Concert | Bryn Terfel — 1 p.m. ET. Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel performs a holiday program live from Brecon Cathedral in Wales. He’s joined by harpist Hannah Stone, pianist Jeff Howard, the Welsh traditional folk group Calan, and rising young Welsh singers —soprano Natalya Romaniw and tenor Trystan Llyr Griffiths. Ticket is $20 USD. | Details

Opera Atelier | Something Rich and Strange — 7 p.m. ET. Previously postponed due to the pandemic, this show is a fully staged new creation that explores the realms of dreams, visions and the supernatural. It features soprano Measha Brueggergosman, tenor Colin Ainsworth, and artists of Atelier Ballet and musicians from Tafelmusik led by Music Director Elisa Citterio. It contains music by Handel, Lully, Locke and Purcell, plus a new creation by Edwin Huizinga for Brueggergosman. $25. Purchasers will receive from The Royal Conservatory Box office a link and password to view the show. | Details

The Elora Singers | A Nativity Festival: A Village Messiah — 8 p.m. ET. Elora Singers offer the second of three events as part of their Nativity Festival. A Village Messiah includes selections from Handel’s Messiah. Stream available Dec 12, 2020 to Jan 3, 2021. | Details

Met | Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Classic Telecast) — 7:30 p.m. ET. Starring Teresa Stratas, Astrid Varnay, Richard Cassilly, and Cornell MacNeil, conducted by James Levine. From November 27, 1979. | Details

Sunday 13

Met | John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles — 7:30 p.m. ET. Starring Teresa Stratas, Håkan Hagegård, Gino Quilico, Graham Clark, Marilyn Horne, and Renée Fleming, conducted by James Levine. From January 10, 1992. | Details

Against the Grain Theatre/Toronto Symphony Orchestra | Messiah/Complex — 8 p.m. ET. Co-directed by Joel Ivany of AtG and Reneltta Arluk, Director of Indigenous Arts at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. This 70-minute work, filmed against iconic Canadian landscapes, is Handel reimagined, featuring a diverse cast of soloists and choirs representing every province and territory across Canada, accompanied by the TSO and conducted by Johannes Debus of the COC. It honours and gives support to Indigenous and underrepresented voices from coast-to-coast. Sung in Arabic, Dene, English, French, Inuktitut, and Southern Tutchone. Free registration required. | Details

Bravo Niagara Festival of the Arts | Sounds of Hope: Menorah — 2 p.m. ET. The premiere of a new work by Christos Hatzis and commissioned by Bravo Niagara, performed by violinist Marc Djokic and pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, C.M. as part of Bravo Niagara’s Sounds of Hope program, a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust. | Details

Video-on-demand performances:

1) Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona) | Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Streamed live Dec. 4 and now available on demand for six months, with a stellar cast led by Christopher Maltman (Don Giovanni), Adam Palka (Commendatore), Miah Persson (Donna Anna), Ben Bliss (Don O ttavio), Véronique Gens (Donna Elvira), and Luca Pisaroni (Leporello), in a production directed by Christof Loy. Josep Pons conducts.

2) Hungarian National Opera | Jonas Kaufmann Gala. A concert with live audience that premiered on August 19, 2020 and now on demand, it celebrated the opening of the Eiffel Art Studios in Budapest. Though open-air, it was packed with no social distancing, and not a mask in sight.

3) Screaming Divas with Sondra and Keri | Jake Heggie. The peripatetic divas Sondra and Keri chat with American composer Jake Heggie: “about finding his inspiration to compose during these turbulent times, the joy of collaborating, the gift of new projects, and learning how to let go.”

4) Staatsoper Unter den Linden | Sonderkonzert. Premiered on Nov. 15 and now on demand, this is a scintillating performance of Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 with the great András Schiff and the Berlin Staatskapelle conducted by Daniel Barenboim. The other work is Beethoven Symphony No. 3.

5) Live With Carnegie Hall | Global Ode to Joy. Let’s end Critic’s Picks with something inspirational that lifts our spirits. To celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday, artists around the world join in for a virtual “Ode to Joy” from his Symphony No. 9. This special episode includes violinist/president of Beethoven-Haus Bonn Daniel Hope, mezzo Joyce DiDonato, conductors Marin Alsop and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and the Stay-at-Home Choir with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Also highlights by Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, Yo-Yo Ma, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and São Paulo Symphony Orchestra. Premiered on December 3 and now on demand. Not to be missed!

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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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