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CRITIC'S PICKS | Classical And Opera Streams You Absolutely Need To See This Week: December 21 – 27

By Joseph So on December 21, 2020

Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of December 21 – 27.
Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of December 21 – 27.

Critic’s Picks (December 21 – 27)

“We live in an extraordinary Age” – Carl Sagan. The upcoming Holiday Season is unlike any in memory, given the impact of COVID-19. The joyous sounds of Christmas will be mostly limited to cyberspace, in the form of various types of streams, live or on demand. Let’s hope for a better 2021, when we can once again gather together to experience the joy of music. In the meantime, I want to take this opportunity to wish all Critic’s Picks readers a peaceful and healthy Holiday Season.

Given the ever-increasing infections in Europe and North America, many venues are once again forced to close. As of now, the announced New Year’s Eve Gala by the Met to take place in the Parktheater in Augsburg, Germany will take place, even with the whole country experiencing a virus surge. Remarkably, the Gran Teatre Del Liceu in Barcelona is soldiering on with its La Traviata, albeit with a 50 percent seating capacity. There’s also a cast change, with tenor Arturo Chacon-Cruz replacing Pavel Breslik as Alfredo. Another casualty is conductor Fabio Luisi, who has been tested positive for COVID and is in quarantine. He will not lead the Concertgebouw Orchestra in their Christmas Matinee on Dec. 25 in Amsterdam.

Thankfully, there’s still 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 “Holiday Fare,” with several feel-good pieces the likes of Magic Flute, Merry Widow, and Hansel & Gretel. For those tired of the ubiquitous Handel’s Messiah, Camille Saint-Saën’s Oratorio de Noël from Munich is a great alternative. A fascinating show from Carnegie Hall is Music as Medicine. It features performances by those medical professionals on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19 who also happen to be gifted musicians. Finally, don’t forget many of the musical events in Canada announced in last week’s Critic’s Picks, such as the TSO and Tafelmusik, continue through the Holiday season.

Monday 21

Bayerische Staatsoper | Montagsstück VII: Oratorio de Noël — 2:15 p.m. ET. Livestreamed from Munich on Dec. 21, it features a terrific cast of Ailyn Pérez, Tara Erraught, Okka von der Damerau, Benjamin Bernheim and Canadian baritone Etienne Dupuis, in Camille Saint-Saëns’s Oratorio de Noël. Antonello Manacorda conducts. Free, but later on-demand viewing is 9.90 Euros. | Details

Met | Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Starring Ying Huang, Erika Miklósa, Matthew Polenzani, Nathan Gunn, and René Pape, conducted by James Levine. From December 30, 2006. This is an abridged version of the Mozart opera sung in English, that started the current Met Live in HD series in cinemas around the world. | Details

Essential Opera | Monica Pearce’s December — 7 p.m. ET. Catch the world premiere of a new one-act opera by Monica Pearce. Features sopranos Erin Bardua, Maureen Batt, Danielle Buonaiuto, with Tara Scott conducting. | Details

Tuesday 22

Met | Massenet’s Cendrillon. Starring Kathleen Kim, Joyce DiDonato, Alice Coote, Stephanie Blythe, and Laurent Naouri, conducted by Bertrand de Billy. From April 28, 2018. | Details

Wednesday 23

Met | Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Starring Isabel Leonard, Lawrence Brownlee, Christopher Maltman, Maurizo Muraro, and Paata Burchuladze, conducted by Michele Mariotti. From November 22, 2014. | Details

Thursday 24

Bayerische Staatsoper/Staatsballett | Hansel und Gretel and Swan Lake — 4 a.m. ET to Dec. 26 at 6 p.m. ET. Free streams of Hansel and Gretel and Swan Lake, but subsequent viewing for the next 30 days at 9.90 Euros each. Hansel and Gretel features Emily Pogorelc (Gretel), Kevin Conners (Crunchy Witch), and Tara Erraught (Hansel). Friedrich Haider conducts the Bayerisches Staatsorchester. In Swan Lake, Ksenia Ryzhkova is Odette/Odile. Prince Siegfried is Jinhao Zhang, and Emilio Pavan dances the Rothbart. Tom Seligman conducts. | Details

Met | Puccini’s La Bohème (Classic Telecast). Starring Teresa Stratas, Renata Scotto, José Carreras, Richard Stilwell, Allan Monk, and James Morris, conducted by James Levine. From January 16, 1982. | Details

Canadian International Organ Competition | CIOC Celebrates Christmas — 7:30 p.m. ET. Celebrate Christmas Eve with the Canadian International Organ Competition direct from the Maison Symphonique in Montreal. You’ll hear a selection Christmas carols and other festive music. Tickets $10. Stream available through Dec. 30. | Details

Friday 25

Royal Opera Covent Garden | The Magic Flute — 11 a.m. ET. David McVicar’s magical production is perfect for the Holiday Season, transporting us to a fantastical world of dancing animals, flying machines, and dazzling starry skies. Available on demand from Dec. 25, 2020 – Jan. 6, 2021.

Met | Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. Starring Christine Schäfer, Alice Coote, Rosalind Plowright, Philip Langridge, and Alan Held, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. From January 1, 2008. | Details

Saturday 26

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

Sunday 27

Met | Verdi’s Falstaff. Starring Lisette Oropesa, Angela Meade, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Paolo Fanale, Ambrogio Maestri, and Franco Vassallo, conducted by James Levine. From December 14, 2013. | Details

Video-on-demand performances:

1) DW Classical Music | A World Without Beethoven? Streamed on Dec. 16 and now on demand, this music documentary from Deutsche Welle explores how Ludwig van Beethoven’s innovations continue to have an impact far beyond the boundaries of classical music, 250 years after his birth.

2) Wigmore Hall | Mitsuko Uchida. Streamed live on Dec. 16 and now on demand, the Japanese pianist plays Schubert Piano Sonata in C D840 ‘Reliquie’ and ‘Fantasy’ Sonata in G D894.

3) Live With Carnegie Hall | Music As Medicine. Streamed on Dec. 17 and now on demand, this fascinating show features the men and women on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19. Many of the medical professionals find creative outlet as gifted musicians, showcased here. It also includes a special performance by the National Virtual Medical Orchestra and a guest appearance by violinist Joshua Bell.

4) Glyndebourne Festival | La Cenerentola. Available free on demand until Monday Jan. 4 at 1 p.m. ET, Vladimir Jurowski conducts a scintillating performance of the venerable production by Sir Peter Hall, starring Ruxandra Donose (Angelina), Maxim Mironov (Don Ramiro), Simone Alberghini (Dandini), Nathan Berg (Alidoro), and Luciano Di Pasquale (Don Magnifico). Perfect holiday fare.

5) 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

6) Performance Santa Fe | Christmas at the Cathedral. Livestreamed on Dec. 19 and available on demand until Dec. 26, this one-hour concert took place in the lovely Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, NM. The program ranges from traditional O Holy Night sung by Susan Graham to a jazzy Let it Snow by Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins to a reading by actress Ali McGraw. It will put you in the holiday mood! | Details

7) Tafelmusik | Sing-along Messiah. This was on the list last week, but it’s worth repeating. Filmed in 2010, this show is a gem. Ivars Taurins as Herr Handel leads an inspiring performance, with soloists Suzie Leblanc, Daniel Taylor, Rufus Müller, and Locky Chung, plus a great singing audience. 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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