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CRITIC'S PICKS | Classical And Opera Streams You Absolutely Need To See This Week: December 14 – 20

By Joseph So on December 14, 2020

Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of December 14 – 20.
Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of December 14 – 20.

Critic’s Picks (December 14 – 20)

“We live in an extraordinary Age” — Carl Sagan. Sadly, COVID-19 pandemic continues to wrack havoc in our musical world. Semperoper Dresden, previously scheduled to reopen on Dec. 28, will now be closed until March 2021, its planned Ring Cycle cancelled. According to Opera Wire, Alexander Neef of the Opéra National de Paris just announced that the plan to reopen on Dec. 15 is now scuttled — “No Classes en Scène, concerts and recitals at the Palais Garnier, Carmen, La Traviata, and La Bayadère at the Opéra Bastille.” But, it is offering a newly recorded Wagner’s Ring, to be broadcast in its entirety from Dec.. 26, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2021 on France Musique.

Against all odds, the Gran Teatre Del Liceu (Barcelona), after cancelling two performances in early December, is resuming its La Traviata on Dec. 14. According to an official statement, the opera house will reopen with a 50 percent seating capacity. Two new performances will be added to the run, on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23. The opera is set to run until Dec. 30, 2020, for a total of 15 performances, with multiple casts. Meanwhile La Scala, despite a reported 50 COVID cases in its chorus, orchestra and staff, reopened on Dec. 7 with a gala concert, without an audience, and featuring big stars. The opera company spared no expense and offered a show of exceptional production values, while taking pandemic precautions. Livestreamed and telecast on RAI, it was region-restricted, but now available on demand — don’t miss it!

In North America, with COVID rates hitting new highs, performing arts venues are virtually shuttered. The National Ballet of Canada cancelled its entire season, as has the Metropolitan Opera and the COC. The Met is going ahead with a livestreamed pay-per-view New Year’s Eve Gala, to 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. With Germany facing unprecedented COVID rates, let’s keep our fingers crossed. The Sonya Yoncheva concert is now postponed till February 2021. Sadly, cancellations keep mounting, including Carnegie Hall, Cleveland Orchestra, and Lincoln Centre.

Thankfully, music lovers can find solace 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 “Epic Proportions,” focusing on the grandest of grand operas, the likes of Les Troyens and Götterdammerung. The Met also announced its first online Family Holiday Festival (December 17 -21). The annual Holiday Open House for families of previous years will be a free, all-virtual festival this year. A performance of a holiday favorite, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, will be available to stream for free beginning Thursday, Dec. 17, at 5:00 p.m. ET until Monday, Dec. 21, at 5:00 p.m. ET. The family-friendly opera has inspired a lineup of online events to celebrate the season, including arts and crafts, baking, and composing carols. The venerable Tafelmusik Singalong Messiah is virtual this year, and we’re getting a performance from 2010 – never mind, it’ll be just as festive.

Monday 14

Bayerische Staatsoper | Advent Benefit Concert — 1 p.m. ET. Vladimir Jurowski leads the Bavarian State Orchestra and Choir, joined by six soloists including soprano Mirjam Mesak and tenor Jonas Kaufmann in a performance of works by Corelli, Tartini, Mozart, Bach, and Christmas carols. | Details

Met | Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila. Starring Elīna Garanča, Roberto Alagna, Laurent Naouri, Elchin Azizov, and Dmitry Belosselskiy, conducted by Sir Mark Elder. From October 20, 2018. | Details

Brott Music | Brott to You: Messiah — 7:30 p.m. ET. Boris Brott conducts the National Academy Orchestra, the Arcady Chorus, joined by a quartet of soloists (Shantelle Przybylo, soprano; Andrea Ludwig, mezzo; Bud Roach, tenor; David John Pike, baritone) in Handel’s Messiah. Tickets are $25 per household. | Details

Tuesday 15

Met | Wagner’s Lohengrin (Classic Telecast). Starring Eva Marton, Leonie Rysanek, Peter Hofmann, Leif Roar, and John Macurdy, conducted by James Levine. From January 10, 1986. | Details

Wednesday 16

Met | Berlioz’s Les Troyens. Starring Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Karen Cargill, Bryan Hymel, Eric Cutler, Dwayne Croft, and Kwangchoul Youn, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From January 5, 2013. | Details

Thursday 17

Tafelmusik | Singalong Messiah on Screen — 7 p.m. ET. Herr Handel (aka Ivars Taurins): “For over three decades, George Frideric Handel (aka yours truly) has stepped onto the stage to lead Tafelmusik and an audience chorus of thousands through his timeless masterpiece, Messiah, in a sing-along version. This year we must come together in spirit rather than in person. So, until we can join our voices once again to “raise the roof,” I sincerely hope that our Messiah sing-along film presentation, and Handel’s music, will rekindle the flame of all that is best within us, bringing joy, peace, and hope to your homes.” The film in question is from Koerner Hall in 2010, with Mr. Handel leading soprano Suzie LeBlanc, countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor Rufus Müller, baritone Locky Chung, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. | Details

Art Of Time Ensemble | To All A Good Night. For those looking for a more off-beat and irreverent take on holiday music, look no further than AofT’s To All A Good Night. You’ll hear songs by Stephen Colbert & Elvis Costello, John Prine, Steve Earle, The Pogues, Joni Mitchell, Alfred Schnittke, John Lennon & Yoko Ono and more. | Details

Soundstreams | Electric Messiah — 8 p.m. ET. Even a pandemic can’t stop what is Canada’s original reimagining of Handel’s holiday classic celebrating diversity, inclusiveness and unity. This year will be streamed as a “cinematic love letter to the city of Toronto, where we reflect this well-known music through the filter of our contemporary world.” Not-to-be-missed. | Details

Met | Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini (Classic Telecast). Starring Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil, conducted by James Levine. From April 7, 1984. | Details

Friday 18

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

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony | Yuletide Spectacular Online. Led by the dynamic Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, this concert features orchestral holiday favourites, Canadian Broadway star Chilina Kennedy performing seasonal hits, appearances by actors Mike Nadajewski and Glynis Ranney. This is a good one for the whole family. | Details

Saturday 19

Performance Santa Fe | Christmas at the Cathedral — 9:00 p.m. ET. A livestream benefit concert with over a dozen musical luminaries including mezzos Susan Graham and Beth Clayton, soprano Patricia Racette, tenor Joshua Dennis, baritone Joshua Hopkins, and pianist Robert Tweten, performing holiday classics inside the beautiful Cathedral Basilica in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A free event, although “a minimum donation of $50 per household is encouraged.” Registration required. | Details

Elora Singers | A Festival of Carols. You can’t beat the sound of a choir at this level. The Elora Singers present a collection of old and new Christmas carols. Tickets start at $15, and the stream available through Jan 3, 2021. | Details

Met | Verdi’s Nabucco. Starring Liudmyla Monastyrska, Jamie Barton, Russell Thomas, Plácido Domingo, and Dmitry Belosselskiy, conducted by James Levine. From January 7, 2017. | Details

Sunday 20

Met | Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Starring Deborah Voigt, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Waltraud Meier, Jay Hunter Morris, Iain Paterson, Eric Owens, and Hans-Peter König, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From February 11, 2012. | Details

Video-on-demand performances:

1) Wigmore Hall | Paul Lewis. Streamed on Dec. 9 and now on demand, British pianist Paul Lewis plays Haydn’s Piano Sonata in C minor, and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations.

2) Screaming Divas with Sondra and Keri | Jamie Barton. American mezzo Jamie Barton joins Sondra and Keri for a very funny, no-holds-barred chat fest. Barton is no stranger to Toronto, having sung with the COC, TSO, and Toronto Summer Music. Catch her as Julia Child, “The French Chef,” in the new comic opera by Lee Hoiby, Bon Appetit!

3) Canadian Opera Company | Key Change (Audio on demand). This is COC’s new podcast, co-hosted by Robyn Grant-Moran and Julie McIsaac, the first season of bi-weekly episodes explores the operagoing experience, with special guests from the opera field and beyond. The most recent is Episode 4, with special guests Adrienne Clarkson, Sandra Corazza, and Michael Levine. | Details

4) Toronto Symphony Orchestra | TSO On Demand: Holiday Pops! Dec. 18 – Jan. 3. The TSO annual holiday extravaganza under the baton of RBC Resident Conductor Simon Rivard is available on demand. Host is TSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke. Program includes Christmas carols and other works, including seasonal songs written and performed by celebrated Métis singer Andrea Menard and Canadian guitarist Robert Walsh. | Details

5) Teatro alla Scala | A riveder le stelle. Livestreamed on Dec. 7, it wasn’t accessible to viewers outside Italy unless you have a subscription to Medici.tv. Now it’s available on demand, and free! Riccardo Chailly conducts a stellar lineup — Ildar Abdrazakov, Roberto Alagna, Carlos Álvarez, Piotr Beczala, Benjamin Bernheim, Eleonora Buratto, Marianne Crebassa, Plácido Domingo, Rosa Feola, Juan Diego Flórez, Elīna Garanča, Vittorio Grigolo, Aleksandra Kurzak, Camilla Nylund, Andreas Schager, Francesco Meli, Kristine Opolais, Lisette Oropesa, Mirco Palazzi, George Petean, Marina Rebeka, Luca Salsi, Ludovic Tézier, and Sonya Yoncheva. Not to be missed! | 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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