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CRITIC'S PICKS | Classical And Opera Streams You Absolutely Need To See This Week: February 15 - 21

By Joseph So on February 15, 2021

Classical music and opera events happening in and around Toronto for the week of February 15 – 21.
Classical music and opera events happening in and around Toronto for the week of February 15 – 21.

Critic’s Picks (February 15 – 21) 

“We live in an extraordinary Age” – Carl Sagan. COVID 19 continues to decimate our musical life. Virtually all European opera houses are in varying states of closure, for varying lengths of time. Any livestreaming takes place in an empty hall. The Palau de Les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, Spain announced that Daniele Gatti’s Verdi Requiem is rescheduled to July 1 and the upcoming Tristan und Isolde will be replaced by Falstaff, due to the large orchestra and chorus requirements for Wagner. Falstaff, originally scheduled for February, will now be presented on March 2, 7, 11, and 14. Opéra de Monte-Carlo has announced the cancellation of a recital on Feb. 24 featuring famed British bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Interestingly, a new study by Fraunhofer Heinrich Institute & Konzerthaus Dortmund has concluded that concert halls and theatres are safe when attendance is kept to 50% of capacity. Let’s hope they are right! In Switzerland, Opernhaus Zürich, Grand Théâtre de Genève, and Theater Basel are closed until at least Feb. 28. The Italian government has declared a State of Emergency to last until April 30. The Royal Swedish Opera has extended its closure until at least March 26. If the pandemic situation allows, the opera house will reopen for the premiere of Ariadne auf Naxos on March 27.

Here’s the latest news: Wiener Staatsoper has postponed its Le nozze di Figaro (Feb. 1). The premiere of Calixto Bieito’s production of Carmen (Feb. 7) has been postponed to Feb. 21, by livestream, and with a cast change — Piotr Beczała replaces Charles Castronovo as Don José.  Castronovo was hospitalized with COVID-19, and currently recovering at home.

Opéra National de Paris has cancelled its concert of Il Trovatore at the Opéra de Bastille, as well as chamber concerts (Feb. 11-25) at the Studio and Amphithéâtre Bastille. Additionally, the ballet program scheduled for February at the Palais Garnier and the Academy concert (Feb. 17) are cancelled. La Monnaie in Brussels announced that it will remain closed in February and will stream an all-Mozart program. Toulouse’s Théâtre du Capitole will remain closed into March, cancelling the scheduled Pelléas et Mélisande.

A bit of good news — the Salzburg Easter Festival is going ahead with pandemic modifications. It opens April 2 with a Mozart choral concert conducted by Christian Thielemann, starring Golda Schultz and others. An orchestral concert of Grieg and Beethoven with Thielemann conducting pianist Denis Matsuev follows on April 3. Hilary Hahn headlines an orchestral concert of Mozart and Schumann conducted by Antonio Pappano (April 4). The festival ends on April 5 with a Gala Concert featuring Anna Netrebko, Golda Schultz and Yusif Eyvazov, performing excerpts from Turandot, conducted by Thielemann. Meanwhile, the peripatetic Netrebko returned to the Mariinsky Theatre on February 10 as Tatiana in Eugene Onegin.

The Russian diva has been the subject of some controversy lately, having appeared in a video chat with Met General Manager Peter Gelb, drawing the ire of the Met orchestra musicians who have not been paid since last April. The musicians responded by announcing a virtual concert (Feb. 21) with Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu, who has been supportive of the Met musicians. She’ll engage in a live chat at the end of the performance.

On this side of the pond, the Met’s nightly free streams continue with Franco Zeffirelli Week.

All Met streams start at 7:30 pm ET and available for 23 hours. Wiener Staatsoper also provides free streaming, with one-time free registration required. All shows are from the archives except Carmen on Feb. 21, which is live! Opera Naples — that’s Florida, not Italy — is going ahead with an in-house Under the Stars Festival, featuring a recital (Mar. 10) with tenor Joseph Calleja as well as a production of La Traviata (Mar. 11, 13). Also scheduled is a concert West Side Story (Mar. 12) starring Isabel Leonard as Maria and Alex McKissick as Tony.

Plenty of interesting Video-On-Demand shows this week. The great American baritone Thomas Hampson, Hadrian with the COC two seasons ago, chats with the Screaming Divas. Tafelmusik offers a free streaming of Mozart Together. Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins, in remembrance of his sister Nathalie who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2015, has commissioned a song cycle, Songs For Murdered Sisters, with music by Jake Heggie and text by Margaret Atwood. The great Italian soprano Mirella Freni passed away a year ago on Feb. 9 at age 84. Teatro Communale in Modena, her hometown, is streaming a Don Carlo in her memory.       

Monday 15 

Bayerische Staatsoper | Montagsstück XIV, The Soldier’s Tale (L’histoire du soldat) — 2:15 pm ET. Vladimir Jurowski conducts the Bayerisches Staatsorchester in Stravinsky’s drama about a soldier who outwits the devil and wins the heart of a sick princess. Bayerisches Staatsballett members Carollina Bastos, Nicholas Losada and Ariel Merkuri dance in a new choreography by Norbert Graf. | Details 

Wiener Staatsoper | Mozart’s Don Quixote (ballet) — 1 pm ET. Kevin Rhodes conducts a production choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev, starring Maria Yakovleva, Denys Cherevychko, Ketevan Papava, Roman Lazik, Olga Esina, and corps de ballet of the Vienna State Ballet. Performance of May 28, 2016. | Details

Met | Puccini’s La Bohème. Starring Angela Gheorghiu, Ainhoa Arteta, Ramón Vargas, Ludovic Tézier, and Oren Gradus, conducted by Nicola Luisotti. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From April 5, 2008. | Details

Tuesday 16

Wiener Staatsoper | Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito — 1 pm ET. Adam Fischer conducts the Jürgen Flimm production, starring Benjamin Bruns, Caroline Wenborne, Margarita Gritskova, Hila Fahima, Miriam Albano. Performance of April 4, 2016. | Details

Met | Verdi’s Falstaff. Starring Mirella Freni, Barbara Bonney, Marilyn Horne, Bruno Pola, and Paul Plishka, conducted by James Levine. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From October 10, 1992. | Details

Wednesday 17

Wiener Staatsoper | Mozart’s Die Zauberfloete — 1 pm ET. Adam Fischer conducts production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, starring Benjamin Bruns, Olga Bezsmertna, Íride Martínez, Markus Werba, Annika Gerhards, Franz-Josef Selig Performance from January 4, 2015. | Details

Met | Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Starring Tatiana Troyanos, Jean Kraft, Plácido Domingo, and Vern Shinall; Teresa Stratas, Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes, and Allan Monk, conducted by James Levine. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From April 5, 1978. | Details

Thursday 18 

Wiener Staatsoper | Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore — 1 pm ET. Marco Armiliato conducts the Otto Schenk production starring Valentina Nafornita, Stephen Costello, Marco Caria, Erwin Schrott. Performance from June 13, 2016. | Details

Royal Conservatory of Music | The Glenn Gould School New Music Ensemble: FLIPBOOK: Music and Images — 8 pm ET. Brian Current conducts the GGS New Music Ensemble, in a program of works by Corie Rose Soumah (Canada), Nicole Lizée (Canada), Pierre Jodlowski (France), and Martin Matalon (France/Argentina).  Free of charge. | Details

Met | Puccini’s Tosca. Starring Hildegard Behrens, Plácido Domingo, and Cornell MacNeil, conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From March 27, 1985. | Details

Friday 19

Wiener Staatsoper | Rossini’s La Cenerentola — 1 pm ET. Jean-Christophe Spinosi conducts the Rolf Glittenberg production starring Isabelle Leonard, Maxim Mironov, Alessio Arduini, Luca Pisaroni. Performance from February 22, 2018. | Details

Joshua Hopkins/Houston Grand Opera | Songs for Murdered Sisters — 8:30 pm ET. On September 22, 2015, Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins’s sister Nathalie was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in one of the worst cases of domestic violence in Canadian history. To honour his sister’s memory and to speak out against domestic violence, Hopkins conceived and co-commissioned this song cycle with the Houston Grand Opera, with music by Jake Heggie and text by Margaret Atwood. Available to March 19, through Marquee TV’s Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV apps or Marquee TV’s website. After the performance is a Creator’s Discussion including Atwood, Heggie and Hopkins, moderated by HGO’s Music Director Patrick Summers. | Details

Met | Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Starring Carol Vaness, Karita Mattila, Dawn Upshaw, Jerry Hadley, Samuel Ramey, Ferrucio Furlanetto, and Kurt Moll, conducted by James Levine. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From April 5, 1990. | Details

Saturday 20

Wiener Staatsoper | Bellini’s La Sonnambula — 1 pm ET. Guillermo García Calvo conducts production by Marco Arturo Marelli, starring Daniela Fally, Juan Diego Flórez, Luca Pisaroni, Maria Nazarova Performance of January 13, 2017. | Details

Met | Bizet’s Carmen. Starring Angela Gheorghiu, Waltraud Meier, Plácido Domingo, and Sergei Leiferkus, conducted by James Levine. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From March 25, 1997. | Details

Sunday 21

Wiener Staatsoper | Bizet Carmen — 12 pm ET (Live Stream!) Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts production by Calixto Bieito, starring Anita Rachvelishvili, Piotr Beczala, Erwin Schrott, and Olga Kulcynska. | Details

Met Orchestra Musicians | Angela Gheorghiu: Song to the Moon — 12:15 pm ET. A

fundraising concert starring Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu, who made her Met debut in 1993 and was slated to return in the cancelled 2020/21 season. The orchestra musicians will play from New York City via a live link to Bucharest’s Romanian Athenaeum where Gheorghiu will be singing. Proceeds from ticket sales goes to the MET Orchestra Musicians Fund that supports more than 150 musicians whose livelihood has been decimated during the pandemic. Gheorghiu will appear in a live chat after the concert. Available to stream until March 31, 2021. Ticket: US$15. | Details

Met | Puccini’s Turandot. Starring Maria Guleghina, Marina Poplavskaya, Marcello Giordani, and Samuel Ramey, conducted by Andris Nelsons. Production by Franco Zeffirelli. From November 7, 2009. | Details

Video-on-demand performances:

1) National Ballet of Canada | The Dreamers Ever Leave You. Originally premiered in 2016 as part of The Idea of North, a Lawren Harris exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the title of the ballet comes from Harris’ 1922 poem, Little Houses. Choreographed by Robert Binet and directed by Ben Shirinian.

2) Tafelmusik | Mozart Together. A free digital concert, in recognition of National Psychology Month. Directed by Elisa Citterio and filmed last September, Mozart Together is archived until February 28.

3) The Cliburn | Schumann Marathon. Premiered on Feb. 6 and now on demand, two and a half hours of Schumann piano pieces by various winners of the Van Cliburn Competition.

4) Den Norske Opera & Ballett | The Barber of Seville. Premiered Feb. 5 and on demand, Tobias Ringborg conducts the Den Norske Opera Orchestra in this Rossini gem, with a fine cast – Hubert Zapior (Figaro), Angela Brower (Rosina), and Jack Swanson (Almaviva).

5) Toronto Operetta Theatre | Merry Widow. Performance from April 2019, with Lucia Cesaroni (Hanna Glawari), Michael Nyby (Danilo), Daniela Agostino (Valencienne), Matt Chittick (Camille). It’s only 15 minutes but enjoyable. Guillermo Silva-Marin directs. Larry Beckwith conducts.

6) Screaming Divas | Thomas Hampson. Streamed on Feb. 12 and on demand, Sondra Radvanovsky and Keri Alkema chat with Zurich-based American baritone Thomas Hampson, about teaching voice, his foundation, social media, and much more — a lively session, as always.

7) Teatro Communale Luciano Pavarotti, Modena | Don Carlo. Live streamed on February 6, this performance was in memory of soprano Mirella Freni who passed away a year ago on Feb. 9. She and her late husband Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov were Modena residents and great interpreters of Elisabetta and Filipo. Jordi Bernacer conducts, with tenor Andrea Care (Carlo), Anna Pirozzi (Elisabetta), Luca Salsi (Rodrigo), and Michele Pertusi (Filipo).

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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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