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CRITIC'S PICKS | Classical And Opera Streams You Absolutely Need To See This Week: May 17–23

By Joseph So on May 17, 2021

Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of May 17–23.
Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of May 17–23.

Critic’s Picks (May 17–23)

“We live in an extraordinary Age” — Carl Sagan. COVID-19 continues to decimate the musical world. Now well into the second year of the pandemic, some venues are struggling to re-open for late spring and summer performances, despite the uncertainties. As reported in Slipped Disc, French president Emmanuel Macron has approved the reopening of concert halls and opera houses with audience starting May 19, with up to 900 attendees indoors and 1,000 outdoors, increasing to 5,000 starting June 9. The Salzburg Whitsun Festival in Austria takes place May 21-24, with personalized ticketing to facilitate contact tracing, a maximum of 50% capacity, proof of vaccination, and use of face masks. Glyndebourne opens its Festival (May 20 to August 29), with Kát’a Kabanová the first in a program of four operas and a concert series. The Czech Philharmonic performed a concert with a live audience of 350 on May 10 in Prague, conducted by Semyon Bychkov. This marked the Czech Republic’s first cultural event with a live audience since the pandemic lockdown.

Some Italian theatres are reopening, notably Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Teatro Alla Scala. Teatro dell’Opera di Roma presented Luisa Miller conducted by Michele Mariotti on April 30, in a concert performance, but without the planned live audience. Opernhaus Zurich reopened on May 1 for a ballet performance with a limited audience of 50 people. Austria’s Salzburg Easter Festival is postponed to November 1, with a revised program to be announced in May. Wiener Staatsoper will reopen on May 19 to a live audience, with COVID precautions. Teatro La Fenice reopened on April 26 with a Verdi concert, now available on its website. The Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival is going ahead for an in-person festival (July 5-Aug 2).

While things are re-opening in France, Austria, Italy and the UK, the news from Germany is grim. The German Parliament has granted Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal cabinet the power to impose more stringent measures on the federal level and the states will have to comply. Opera Wire just reported that Oper Frankfurt, Staatsoper Stuttgart, and Nationaltheater Mannheim are extending their shutdown, joining opera houses in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Wiesbaden, and Dresden.

On this side of the Atlantic, the LA Opera has announced that it will return to live, in-person performances starting with a June 6 performance of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. James Conlon conducts, with Russell Thomas, J’Nai Bridges, and John Relyea. Two orchestras have announced its summer plans: LA Philharmonic reopens the Hollywood Bowl in July, and the Cleveland Orchestra returns to the Blossom Festival on July 11. New York’s Teatro Nuovo has announced that it will put on Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on July 27 and 28 on the summer stage at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park. And Toronto’s Luminato Festival, normally taking place in June, will be moved to October this year.

The theme of Met Opera’s nightly free streaming this week is “Unhinged Mad Scenes,” which describes the operatic genre perfectly! The stars this week include Dame Joan Sutherland, Anna Netrebko, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Placido Domingo, and Juan Diego Florez. Met streams start at 7:30 p.m. ET and remain available for 23 hours. In a surprise move, the Met, in the middle of ongoing labour strife, put on A Concert for New York, an in-person concert! Two to be exact, 45 minutes each, with members of the Met Orchestra, Chorus and star soloists, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, at the Knockdown Center in Queens on May 16, at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Attendance was limited to 150 people per performance. Tickets were distributed by lottery to Met audience members and to first responders affiliated with Mount Sinai’s hospital in Queens. This represented the first Met concert with a live audience since March 2020. Soprano Angel Blue, tenor Stephen Costello, baritone Justin Austin, and bass-baritone Eric Owens featured in a program of Mozart, Verdi, and Terence Blanchard, the composer of Fire Shut Up in My Bones, a new opera to open the Met’s 2021-22 season.

Monday 17

Wiener Staatsoper | Gounod’s Faust —1 p.m. ET Bertrand de Billy conducts Frank Castorf’s concept production starring Juan Diego Flórez, Nicole Car, Adam Palka, and Canadian baritone Étienne Dupuis. Performance from April 29. | Details

Met Opera | Bellini’s I Puritani. Starring Anna Netrebko, Eric Cutler, Franco Vassallo, and John Relyea, conducted by Patrick Summers. Production by Sandro Sequi. From January 6, 2007. | Details

Tuesday 18

Met Opera | Mozart’s Idomeneo. Starring Elza van den Heever, Nadine Sierra, Alice Coote, Matthew Polenzani, and Alan Opie, conducted by James Levine. Production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. From March 25, 2017. | Details

Against the Grain Theatre | From the Director’s Chair: Adrianne Pieczonka — 8 p.m. ET. Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka chats with AtG’s Joel Ivany, about her long and distinguished international career, as well as her position as Head of Voice at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory. | Details

Wednesday 19

Met Opera | Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. Starring Ekaterina Semenchuk, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Oleg Balashov, Evgeny Nikitin, René Pape, Mikhail Petrenko, and Vladimir Ognovenko, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Production by Stephen Wadsworth. From October 23, 2010. | Details

Thursday 20

Royal Conservatory of Music | Glenn Gould School Vocal Showcase — 3 p.m. ET. Hear the voices of tomorrow in this Vocal Showcase, where the talented GGS students present a program of songs and arias. A free online concert, available on demand after the premiere. | Details

Met Opera | Bellini’s La Sonnambula. Starring Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Flórez, and Michele Pertusi, conducted by Evelino Pidò. Production by Mary Zimmerman. From March 21, 2009. | Details

Friday 21

Met Opera | Verdi’s Nabucco. Starring Liudmyla Monastyrska, Jamie Barton, Russell Thomas, Plácido Domingo, and Dmitry Belosselskiy, conducted by James Levine. Production by Elijah Moshinsky. From January 7, 2017. | Details

Saturday 22

Met Stars Live In Concert | Three Divas — 1 p.m. ET. Three glamorous opera stars with great voices, sopranos Ailyn Pérez and Nadine Sierra and mezzo Isabel Leonard, joined by pianist Vlad Iftinca and guitarist Pablo Sáinz-Villegas, in a program of operatic arias and scenes, livestreamed from the Royal Opera of Versailles in France. Ticket $20USD. | Details

Met Opera | Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Starring Joan Sutherland, Alfredo Kraus, Pablo Elvira, and Paul Plishka, conducted by Richard Bonynge. Production by Margherita Wallmann. From November 13, 1982. | Details

Sunday 23

Met Opera | 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

Video-on-demand performances:

1) Angel Blue Channel | Faithful Friday: Frederica von Stade. Streamed May 7 and now on demand, the beloved American mezzo, affectionately called Flicka by her fans, chats with soprano Angel Blue about her long and distinguished career.

2) Canadian Opera Company | Check-In with Perryn. Third episode of the new COC General Director’s vlog. Not a lot of substance in this short communiqué, except for comments on the recent audience survey, and the promise that more details about next season will be announced on June 7.

3) Classicalia International | Janina Fialkowska 70th Birthday Recital. Renowned Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska turns 70 on May 7. To celebrate this milestone, her management, Classicalia International, filmed this short concert of Fialkowska at home in Germany, playing Weber, Chopin, and Debussy.

4) Screaming Divas with Sondra and Keri | Anthony Tommasini. Divas Sondra and Keri chat with the well-known New York Times classical music critic Anthony Tommasini. Artist rarely get to interview critics, so this makes for an interesting dynamic. Do take a look!

5) Music and the Mind Live with Renee Fleming | Episode #1: Music, Loneliness and Isolation. In this the first of a 19-episode series premiered a year ago, American soprano/arts & health advocate Renee Fleming chats with Vivek Murthy MD, the 19th US Surgeon General, on a timely subject during the pandemic. Do explore the whole series, where Fleming chats with scientists and practitioners working at the intersection of music, neuroscience, and healthcare.

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Joseph So
Joseph So
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