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CRITIC'S PICKS | Classical And Opera Streams You Absolutely Need To See This Week:  Dec. 28 – Jan. 3

By Joseph So on December 28, 2020

Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of December 28 – January 3.
Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of December 28 – January 3.

Critic’s Picks (December 28 – January 3)

“We live in an extraordinary Age” – Carl Sagan. Now that the Holiday Season is almost history, it’s time to reflect on 2020. Sadly the verdict isn’t good, especially in the music world. COVID-19 continues to shut down our musical lives, at least in person. Thankfully we can console ourselves by turning 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.

The week between Christmas and New Year is typically quiet musically, except for shows like the National’s Nutcracker, or Massey Hall’s New Year’s Eve blockbuster. Now on the internet, we have the Met’s nightly livestream, this week is devoted to the great Luciano Pavarotti. Of the seven performances, the most memorable was the 1977 La Boheme, which marked the start of the modern era of Met opera telecasts, which evolved into the current Met Live in HD series shown in cinemas around the world. The Met streams start at 7:30 p.m. ET and available for 23 hours. A high profile show this week is the Met’s New Year’s Eve Gala, to take place in the Parktheater in Augsburg, Germany, starring Angel Blue, Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena and Matthew Polenzani. It hardly replaces the originally announced Met re-opening Gala, but it’ll have to do.

Lots of online performances to choose from. Do note that many of the shows from last week’s Critic’s Picks remain available throughout the holiday season, often with different performances. Against the Grain Theatre’s Messiah/Complex has been receiving critical acclaim and is worth watching. If you love the music of Beethoven, this is your week! There are many enticing performances and documentaries to choose from, in celebration of 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Monday 28

Met | Puccini’s La Bohème (Classic Telecast). Starring Renata Scotto, Maralin Niska, Luciano Pavarotti, Ingvar Wixell, and Paul Plishka, conducted by James Levine. From March 15, 1977. This performance marks the start of the Met’s modern-era telecasts, which evolved into the current Met Live in HD seen in cinemas around the world. Not to be missed. | Details

Tuesday 29

Met | Puccini’s Tosca (Classic Telecast). Starring Shirley Verrett, Luciano Pavarotti, and Cornell MacNeil, conducted by James Conlon. From December 19, 1978. | Details

Wednesday 30

Oper Köln | Die tote Stadt — 1:30 p.m. ET. Korngold’s masterpiece premiered in Cologne and Hamburg on Dec. 4 1920, and Oper Köln streamed it on Dec. 4, 2020, with additional performances on Dec. 30 and Jan 3. Burkhard Fritz is Paul and Ausrine Stundyte is Marietta/Marie. Gabriel Feltz conducts. | Details

Met | Verdi’s Rigoletto (Classic Telecast) Starring Christiane Eda-Pierre, Isola Jones, Luciano Pavarotti, Louis Quilico, and Ara Berberian, conducted by James Levine. From December 15, 1981. | Details

Thursday 31

Metropolitan Opera | New Year’s Eve Gala — 4 p.m. ET. The Met rings in 2021 with a gala starring sopranos Angel Blue and Pretty Yende, and tenors Javier Camarena and Matthew Polenzani, live from the Parktheater im Kurhaus Göggingen, in Augsburg, Germany. The program includes arias, duets, and ensembles from Donizetti to Puccini, as well as arrangements of operetta and Neapolitan songs. Tickets are $20 USD, and it replaces the originally scheduled concert by Yende and Camarena. | Details

Met | Verdi’s Ernani (Classic Telecast). Starring Leona Mitchell, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes, and Ruggero Raimondi, conducted by James Levine. From December 17, 1983. | Details

Friday 1

Met | Verdi’s Il Trovatore (Classic Telecast). Starring Eva Marton, Dolora Zajick, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes, and Jeffrey Wells, conducted by James Levine. From October 15, 1988. | Details

Saturday 2

Met | Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera (Classic Telecast). Starring Aprile Millo, Harolyn Blackwell, Florence Quivar, Luciano Pavarotti, and Leo Nucci, conducted by James Levine. From January 26, 1991. | Details

Sunday 3

Met | Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (Classic Telecast) Starring Kathleen Battle, Luciano Pavarotti, Juan Pons, and Enzo Dara, conducted by James Levine. From November 16, 1991. | Details

Video-on-demand performances:

1) Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg | Weihnachtskonzert aus der Hauptkirche St. Michaelis. Live-streamed on Dec. 26 and available on demand, this Christmas Concert features Kent Nagano conducting the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg, with soprano Dorothea Röschmann, in a program of Bach, Bruckner and Faure.

2) Against The Grain/Toronto Symphony Orchestra | Messiah/Complex This daring new interpretation of Handel’s Messiah is a truly cross-Canada performance — in Arabic, Dene, English, French, Inuktitut, and Southern Tutchone, and accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Streaming free of charge. Registration required; donations welcome. | Details

3) Moscow State Conservatory TV | Nikolai Lugansky. Streamed on Dec. 22 and now on demand, the marvelous pianist Nikolai Lugansky plays a program of Beethoven, Debussy and Rachmaninoff.

4) Glyndebourne Opera | No Ordinary Summer. A special documentary, telling the inside story of Glyndebourne’s battle to get back to live performance after UK theatres were forced to close, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

5) Komische Oper Berlin| Tales of Hoffmann Stage director. Barrie Kosky “tells Offenbach’s fantastic story as a disturbing nightmare of an artist who increasingly loses his sense of identity. As we dive into the obsessions of a deranged mind, the title role is shared by three performers, including an actor, while a single soprano embodies all four female lead roles.” Kosky is known as a “concept stage director,” so this is for the adventurous opera fan. Premiered on Dec. 27 and now on demand.

6) Het Concertgebouw | In Search of Beethoven. Premiered Nov. 9 and now on demand, this highly praised documentary is said to be the best ever on the composer: “(It) digs deeper than the image of Beethoven’s tortured, crabby and unhinged personality to reveal a very different and more interesting person. It brings together the worlds of leading Beethoven artists and experts to reveal new insights about this legendary composer.”

7) WDR Klassik | Oper Bonn Beethoven Jubilee Concert. The original plan of Oper Bonn to perform Beethoven’s 9th conducted by Daniel Barenboim on December 17, 2020, the 250th baptismal anniversary of the composer was scrapped because of COVID 19. It was replaced by Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and his Symphony No. 5. A very fine performance and a must-see.

8) Sinfonia Toronto | Beethoven@250. Livestreamed on Dec. 5 and now available until midnight January 4, Nurhan Arman conducts the Sinfonia Toronto forces in Beethoven’s Six Landler Dances, and Symphony No. 7, in a chamber orchestra version arranged by Nurhan Arman, based on a historic string quintet transcription by Sigmund Anton Steiner. 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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