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CRITIC'S PICKS | Classical And Opera Streams You Absolutely Need To See This Week: February 22 – 28

By Joseph So on February 22, 2021

Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of February 22 – 28.
Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of February 22 – 28.

Critic’s Picks (February 22 – 28)

“We live in an extraordinary Age” – Carl Sagan. COVID 19 continues to decimate our musical life. Most if not all European opera houses has been closed to live audiences since the new year for varying lengths of time, some to Easter and beyond. Despite the relatively high COVID numbers in Europe, a few venues are attempting to reopen for livestreaming. Here are the latest updates:

Conductor Zubin Mehta, rehearsing Salome in La Scala in Milan, was hospitalized with an unspecified ailment, and Riccardo Chailly took over the conducting duties on Feb. 20. The Polish National Opera has announced it will reopen Feb. 25, with a new program for March and April. It opens with Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet followed by Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with Aleksandra Kurzak, followed by Die Zauberfloete (March 26, 27, 28), Cardillac (April 23, 25, 27, 29), and Werther with Piotr Beczala (April 9 and 11).

In Switzerland, the Grand Théâtre de Genève and Theater Basel will remain closed until March 31, joining Opernhaus Zürich, which is closed until Easter. The Bayerische Staatsoper has cancelled its run of Judith, a concert for orchestra paired with Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle on March 5, 8 & 11, 2021. The performances were supposed to star Nina Stemme and John Lundgren, with Oksana Lyniv conducting the production by Katie Mitchell. Wiener Staatsoper, though closed to a live audience, streamed Carmen on Feb. 21, starring Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen and Piotr Beczala as Don José, replacing Charles Castronovo who’s recovering from COVID.

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 by 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 and with the proper precautions. Let’s hope they are right! 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.

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. Against all odds, Paris Opera livestreamed a radical Regieoper Aida on Feb. 18 with Sondra Radvanovsky and Jonas Kaufmann. The Opéra Comique in Paris has cancelled its upcoming La Belle Hélène in March starring Canadian mezzo Marie–Nicole Lemieux. La Monnaie in Brussels is closed in February but 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 streaming continues with Dmitri Hvorostovsky Week. The late and much lamented Siberian baritone was a great fan favourite at the Met. Torontonians had the good fortune to hear his joint concert with Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov, only months before his death. Sondra and Keri, aka the Screaming Divas, interview Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, who happens to be the spouse of Met General Manager Peter Gelb. The Vancouver Opera streams Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder with mezzo Krisztina Szabo, paired with the Siegfried Idyll. National Arts Centre Orchestra has two livestreams this week, focusing on contemporary works by women composers. Finally, do take a look at the Paris Opera Aida, puppets and all.

Monday 22

Bayerische Staatsoper | Montagsstück XV: Starry Heavens — 2:15 p.m. ET. Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, hailed as the new Kirsten Flagstad, sings Beethoven’s Six Songs based on poems by Gellert. Sophie Raynaud is the pianist. Munich Intendant Nikolaus Bachler reads the Heiligenstadt Testament. Edwin Crossley-Mercer and a musicians of the Bayerische Staatsorchester perform a selection of Scottish and Irish songs. The Praetorius Quartet plays Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op. 132. | Details

Wiener Staatsoper | Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore — 1 p.m. ET. Marco Armiliato conducts the Otto Schenk production, starring Valentina Nafornita (Adina), Stephen Costello (Nemorino), and Erwin Schrott (Dulcamara). Performance from June 13, 2016. | Details

Teatro alla Scala | Vittorio Grigolo in Recital — 2 p.m. ET. The Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo gives a recital of arias from L’Elisir d’amore, Rigoletto, Romeo et Juliette, Manon, Werther, L’arlesiana, Carmen, Tosca, and Turandot, as well as songs by Leoncavallo, De Curtis, and Tosti. Vincenzo Scalera is the pianist.

Met | Verdi’s Il Trovatore. Starring Sondra Radvanovsky, Dolora Zajick, Marcelo Álvarez, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Marco Armiliato. Production by Sir David McVicar. From April 30, 2011. | Details

Tuesday 23

National Arts Centre Orchestra | NACO at the Fourth — 8 p.m. ET. Members of the NAC Orchestra and pianist Frédéric Lacroix perform works by two 19th century women composers: Louise Farrenc’s Flute Trio (Stephanie Morin, flute / Rachel Mercer, cello / Frédéric Lacroix, piano), and Luise Adopha Le Beau’s Piano Quartet in F minor, (Yosuke Kawasaki, violin; Paul Casey, viola; Rachel Mercer, cello; Frédéric Lacroix, piano). | Details

Met | Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. Starring Galina Gorchakova, Elisabeth Söderström, Plácido Domingo, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Nikolai Putilin, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Production by Elijah Moshinsky. From April 15, 1999. | Details

Wednesday 24

Met | Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Starring Renée Fleming, Ramón Vargas, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Production by Robert Carsen. From February 24, 2007. | Details

Thursday 25

Met | Verdi’s Ernani. Starring Angela Meade, Marcello Giordani, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Ferruccio Furlanetto, conducted by Marco Armiliato. Production by Pier Luigi Samaritani. From February 25, 2012. | Details

Friday 26

Met | Verdi’s La Traviata. Starring Natalie Dessay, Matthew Polenzani, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Fabio Luisi. Production by Willy Decker. From April 14, 2012. | Details

Saturday 27

Royal Conservatory of Music | Oscar Peterson & Friends — 3 p.m. ET. Presented in association with the Oscar Peterson International Jazz Festival, this free stream includes a compilation of select moments from “Oscar Peterson & Friends,” originally aired in 1981, and features special guests Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Lorne Lofsky, Jimmy Rowles, Butch Watanabe, and Mary Lou Williams. | Details

Met | Met Stars Live in Concert: Sonya Yoncheva — 1 p.m. ET. The Bulgarian soprano, a Met audience favourite, sings a concert streamed live from the Baroque library of the Schussenried Cloister in southwest Germany, in a wide-ranging program of arias from Aida, Il Trovatore, Rusalka, Le Villi, Dido and Aeneas, Rinaldo, Butterfly, Thais, Manon, and Carmen. She concludes with an Edith Piaf song! Julien Quentin is the pianist. Tickets $20 USD. | Details

Kindred Spirits Orchestra | Dark and Light — 8 p.m. ET. Livestreamed from the SMSV Cultural Centre in Markham, Ontario, in a program of Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 (soloist: Amahl Arulanandam), and Scriabin’s Symphony No. 2. Kristian Alexander conducts the Kindred Spirits Orchestra. The stream will include a discussion with Amahl Arulanandam and the KSO Associate Conductor Michael Berec. | Details

National Arts Centre Orchestra | Mighty River — 8 p.m. ET. Alexander Shelley conducts the NAC Orchestra in a program of contemporary works by Anna Clyne, Maurice Ravel, Zosha di Castri, Darius Milhaud, and Errollyn Wallen. | Details

Met | Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. Starring Sondra Radvanovsky, Kathleen Kim, Stephanie Blythe, Marcelo Álvarez, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Fabio Luisi. Production by David Alden. From December 8, 2012. | Details

Sunday 28

Met | Verdi’s Il Trovatore. Starring Anna Netrebko, Dolora Zajick, Yonghoon Lee, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Marco Armiliato. Production by Sir David McVicar. From October 3, 2015. | Details

Video-on-demand performances:

1) Opéra national de Paris | Verdi’s Aida. Premiered last week, this new production by Dutch director Lotte de Beer is a radical re-imagining of the Verdi classic, in an approach that neither illuminates the text nor the music. But love it or hate it, how can one resists when it is so beautifully sung, by Sondra Radvanovsky and Jonas Kaufmann? Michele Mariotti conducts. The complete opera is available from an unofficial source, so watch it before it disappears!

2) Vancouver Opera | Wagner For Valentine’s. Vancouver Opera launches its Digital Season with a free streaming of Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder (sung by mezzo Krisztina Szabo) and Siegfried Idyll. Individual tickets or a season pass at $99 is required for the rest of the digital season streams. | Details

3) Toronto Summer Music | Bach and Beethoven. A rebroadcast of a performance on July 23 last year, during its 2020 Online Festival: Bach’s Chaconne played by Montreal Symphony’s Concertmaster Andrew Wan, and Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano & Cello in A Major, played by pianist Philip Chiu and OSM Principal Cello Brian Manker. This free stream is available only until Monday Feb. 22 11:59 p.m.!

4) Screaming Divas | Keri-Lynn Wilson. Winnipeg native Keri-Lynn Wilson has conducted in many of the great opera houses in the world, worldwide, including the COC. She chats with Sondra Radvanovsky and Keri Alkema about her conducting career and life during the pandemic.

5) Symphoniker Hamburg | Martha Argerich & Sylvain Cambreling. The great Argerich is an audience favourite with the Symphoniker Hamburg, where she appears regularly. Here she performs two Ravel pieces, “Le tombeau de Couperin” and his Piano Concerto. Also on the program is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8, conducted by Sylvain Cambreling.

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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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