Critic’s Picks (March 8 – 14)
“We live in an extraordinary Age” – Carl Sagan. For a second year, COVID-19 continues to decimate our musical lives. Virtually all European opera houses are closed to live audiences, for varying lengths of time, some to Easter and beyond. A case in point: L’Opéra Grand Avignon just announced it will stay closed until the beginning of the new 2021-22 season in the fall. Others are reopening for limited livestreaming, some even planning ambitious in-person events in the summer. The situation is fluid and frankly confusing.
Despite the extremely high COVID rates in the Czech Republic, the Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival hopes for the best with an in-person festival (July 5 – Aug 2). In Austria, the Salzburg Easter Festival (April 2 – 5) is going ahead. It opens April 2 with a Mozart choral concert conducted by Christian Thielemann, starring Golda Schultz, followed by an orchestral concert of Grieg and Beethoven with Thielemann conducting pianist Denis Matsuev. 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.
The Polish National Opera has announced 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 are 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. However, it has just announced a livestream of Der Rosenkavalier on March 21. The news at La Scala is not good — there has been an outbreak of COVID cases in the Corps de Ballet, with 35 dancers and 3 staff members tested positive. The planned recording of the Tribute to Nureyev was suspended.
Wiener Staatsoper streamed Carmen on Feb. 21 without an audience, starring Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen and Piotr Beczala as Don José, replacing Charles Castronovo who is recovering from COVID. The Palau de Les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, Spain has rescheduled Daniele Gatti’s Verdi Requiem 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.
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. It has just announced it will stream a Tosca with Malin Byström available throughout March.
Opéra National de Paris has cancelled all live performances until April 5. One of the last things before shutting down was the livestreaming of a radical Regieoper Aida on Feb. 18 with Sondra Radvanovsky and Jonas Kaufmann, now available on YouTube. It will however stream Faust from the Opéra Bastille on March 26, accessible on France 5, and will then be made available on Culturebox for six months. 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. Opéra de Rouen Normandie has cancelled all performances in March.
On this side of the pond, there are tentative signs of a resumption. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a limited reopening in New York starting April 2. Houston Grand Opera will present My Favorite Things: Songs from The Sound of Music on May 8, a singalong and fundraiser featuring members of the principal cast from the full production. The Merola Opera Program will present a virtual charity gala, scheduled on April 10. Un Gala In Maschera is a tribute to Merola’s artistic director, Sheri Greenawald. San Francisco Opera is streaming its Ring Cycle throughout March. The Met’s nightly free streaming continues with Verismo Passions. All Met streams start at 7:30 p.m. ET and remain available for 23 hours. Canadian content this week includes Tafelmusik, Toronto Wagner Society, Women’s Musical Club of Toronto, RCM/ARC Ensemble and Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. A COVID casualty is Toronto Symphony’s streaming of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which will be rescheduled.
Bayerische Staatsoper Montagsstuck XVII: Das Lied von der Erde — 2:15 p.m. ET. Baritone Christian Gerhaher and tenor Klaus Florian Vogt join forces with pianist Gerold Huber in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. | Details
Met | Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. Starring Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo, Pablo Elvira, and Renato Capecchi, conducted by James Levine. Production by Gian Carlo Menotti. From March 29, 1980. | Details
Met | Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Starring Eva-Maria Westbroek, Jane Bunnell, Marcelo Álvarez, and George Gagnidze; Patricia Racette, Marcelo Álvarez, George Gagnidze, and Lucas Meachem, conducted by Fabio Luisi. Production by Sir David McVicar. From April 25, 2015. | Details
Toronto Wagner Society | Robert Carsen — 11:00 a.m. ET. TWS interviews internationally renowned Canadian stage director Robert Carsen. Usually members only, but TWS is making it available to the public. You must register and get the link to Zoom by emailing Toronto Wagner Society at firstname.lastname@example.org
Met | Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur. Starring Anna Netrebko, Anita Rachvelishvili, Piotr Beczała, and Ambrogio Maestri, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. Production by Sir David McVicar. From January 12, 2019. | Details
Met | Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini. Starring Eva-Maria Westbroek, Marcello Giordani, Robert Brubaker, and Mark Delavan, conducted by Marco Armiliato. Production by Piero Faggioni. From March 16, 2013. | Details
Royal Conservatory of Music | ARC Ensemble — 8 p.m. ET. RCM’s own ARC Ensemble (Artists of The Royal Conservatory) performs an all-Beethoven program, and a selection of folk songs, joined by soprano Monica Whicher. | Details
Met | Giordano’s Fedora. Starring Mirella Freni, Ainhoa Arteta, Plácido Domingo, Dwayne Croft, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, conducted by Roberto Abbado. Production by Beppe De Tomasi. From April 26, 1997. | Details
San Francisco Opera Die Walkure — 7 a.m. ET. The second opera of the San Francisco Ring Festival, Die Walkure this week. Free stream available only for 24 hours, while on demand requires a pass for $99 USD, but it gives you lectures and other content. Excellent cast! | Details
Met | Giordano’s Andrea Chénier. Starring Maria Guleghina, Wendy White, Stephanie Blythe, Luciano Pavarotti, and Juan Pons, conducted by James Levine. Production by Nicolas Joël. From October 15, 1996. | Details
Met | Puccini’s Tosca. Starring Sonya Yoncheva, Vittorio Grigolo, Željko Lučić, and Patrick Carfizzi, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume. Production by Sir David McVicar. From January 27, 2018. | Details
1) WMCT | Music in the Afternoon: Eric Lu. Chinese American pianist Eric Lu, a 2018 Leeds Gold Medal winner, plays Chopin and Schubert. Available until March 25.
2) Tafelmusik | Tafel Talks. Chi-chi Nwanoku explores her career as a double bassist, the role of musical mentors, and the importance of championing diversity in classical music in interview with Tafelmusik double bassist Pippa Macmillan, a former student of Nwanoku’s.
3) WQXR/Metropolitan Opera | Aria Code (Audio podcast). The third season of this series starts on March 10, featuring performances recorded live from the Met stage by opera stars including Renée Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, Deborah Voigt, Latonia Moore, Franco Corelli, Gerald Finley, Erin Morley, and Will Liverman. Opening episode on “Nessun dorma,” an aria that has become a global symbol of hope and resilience over the past year. Watch the trailer here.
4) Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra True North: Story + Symphony. Premiered on March 6 and available on demand, this award-winning documentary is followed by the performance of “True North: Symphonic Ballet”. The film is a behind-the-scenes look at the yearlong process in creating the work, featuring composers Hal Eagletail, Dinuk Wijeratne, Derek Charke, Maxime McKinley, Dorothy Chang, Gary Kulesha (conductor), and Vincent Ho. Streaming is free with registration. | Details
5) Wigmore Hall Tim Horton. Streamed February 26 and now on demand. Classical Piano might not be the first thing that comes to mind when Canadians hear the name ‘Tim Horton,’ but if you are a pianophile, this may convert you. Mr. Horton plays Mozart, Chopin and Szymanowski.
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