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CRITIC'S PICKS | Classical And Opera Streams You Absolutely Need To See This Week: June 28 – July 4

By Joseph So on June 28, 2021

Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of June 28 – July 4.
Classical music and opera events streaming on the web for the week of June 28 – July 4.

Critic’s Picks (June 28 – July 4)

“We live in an extraordinary Age” — Carl Sagan. It is now summer 2021, and with the decline in COVID cases in Europe and North America, the re-opening of concert and opera venues for the summer and next season is a reality. According to Opera Wire, announcements have come from Bayerische Staatsoper, Opera National de Paris, Opéra de Metz Métropole, Teatro de la Zarzuela, Opéra de Lille, Staatsoper Berlin, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Göteborg Opera, Stadttheater Klagenfurt, Philharmonie Essen, Hungarian State Opera, and Opera de Massy. Recent additions to the list include Bilbao Opera, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Opera National de Bordeaux, Theatre Essen, Staatsoper Stuttgart, Polish National Opera, Oper Köln, Wiener Volksoper, and Staatstheater Wiesbaden. Audiences can expect various COVID precautions, possibly including proof of vaccination.

The Salzburg Whitsun Festival in Austria re-opened with a blockbuster Tosca starring Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann, replacing the originally announced Anja Harteros and Bryn Terfel. An interesting twist was that it also featured the great Cecilia Bartoli — no, not as Tosca, but as the Shepherd Boy! She made her debut in this cameo role at the age of 10. These performances feature personalized ticketing to facilitate contact tracing, a maximum of 50% capacity, proof of vaccination, and use of face masks. Glyndebourne Festival 2021 started with an opening weekend of Kát’a Kabanová and Il turco in Italia on stage, and The Cunning Little Vixen online. It continues to August 29, with 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. Austria’s Salzburg Easter Festival now takes place on November 1. The Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival is going ahead for an in-person festival (July 5 – Aug. 2).

On this side of the Atlantic, the Santa Fe Opera will take place July 10 to August 27, with in house, socially distanced audience, plus nightly simulcast in its lower parking lot. The Chicago Lyric Opera will present a film of Pagliacci in August starring Russell Thomas and Ailyn Perez. Tanglewood and Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer festivals will happen, in the case of BSO at 50% capacity. LA Opera returned to live, in-person performances with a June 6 performance of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. James Conlon conducted, with Russell Thomas, J’Nai Bridges, and John Relyea. 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 it is good to hear the once ubiquitous New York City Opera is back, with a summer season in Bryant Park. Michigan Opera Theatre will offer free summer concerts featuring its Touring Ensemble at several Detroit neighbourhoods and in parks elsewhere in Michigan.

In Canada, the Elora Festival (Aug. 5 – 28) will be an online festival. Sinfonia Toronto’s 2021-22 season, “A Joyous Reunion,” will have a hybrid format, combining in-person and virtual concerts. Toronto’s Luminato Festival, normally in June, will take place in October. The National Ballet of Canada just announced their new season a few days ago; so has the Toronto Symphony, which opens in November. Toronto Summer Music (July 15 – August 1) will be online, with a mix of chamber music, art song, and dance, all free of charge. Wellington Water Week, a music festival in Wellington, Prince Edward County is now rebranded as the BIGLAKE Festival, under the co-artistic directorship of conductor Johannes Debus and violinist Elissa Lee. It will take place August 20 – 27. The Canadian Opera Company made a vague announcement on June 7, with very little details except that the fall season is likely virtual and completely free. It promises more information in August.

On the streaming front, this is Week 68 of the Met Opera’s free nightly streaming, an astounding feat and only possible from opera companies with enormous archives like the Met. The theme of this week’s Met stream is “Celebrating American Composers.” Streams start at 7:30 p.m. ET and remain available for 23 hours. San Francisco Opera has announced streaming of Jenufa, Les Troyens, Elektra, and Luisa Miller in July, with big names the likes of Christine Goerke, Susan Graham, Karita Mattila and Michael Fabiano. Other than these big houses, there are fewer streaming initiatives from independent artists, understandable given that we have been in this pandemic now for a year and a half. With COVID numbers declining in Europe and North America, there’s hope that the Delta variant can be kept at bay and we will soon return to the concert halls and opera houses doing what we love, to make and to enjoy music.

Monday 28

Met Opera | Nico Muhly’s Marnie. Starring Isabel Leonard, Iestyn Davies, Christopher Maltman, Janis Kelly, and Denyce Graves, conducted by Roberto Spano. Production by Michael Mayer. From November 10, 2018. An operatic iteration of the Winston Graham 1961 novel and the 1964 Hitchcock film, this stylish and spookily entertaining opera is a worthy descendent of that lineage. | Details

Tuesday 29

Met Opera | John Adams’s Doctor Atomic. Starring Sasha Cooke, Thomas Glenn, Gerald Finley, and Richard Paul Fink, conducted by Alan Gilbert. Production by Penny Woolcock. From November 8, 2008. A contemporary masterpiece by an American composer, with productions in Amsterdam, San Francisco, Santa Fe, the Met, and ENO (London). Oppenheimer has become Canadian baritone Gerald Finley’s signature role. Not-to-be-missed. | Details

Wednesday 30

Met Opera | John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles. Starring Teresa Stratas, Håkan Hagegård, Gino Quilico, Graham Clark, Marilyn Horne, and Renée Fleming, conducted by James Levine. Production by Sir Colin Graham. From January 10, 1992. Corigliano’s tuneful and accessible score, coupled with a stellar cast and opulent production was well received 29 years ago. Such is the passage of time that all six principals are retired and the conductor passed away. A performance worth revisiting. | Details

Thursday 1

Met Opera | Philip Glass’s Satyagraha. Starring Rachelle Durkin, Richard Croft, Kim Josephson, and Alfred Walker, conducted by Dante Anzolini. Production by Phelim McDermott. From November 19, 2011. A story on the life of Gandhi and his nonviolent resistance to injustice, Satyagraha is considered a seminal operatic creation and a great 20th century work. | Details

Friday 2

Met Opera | John Adams’s Nixon in China. Starring Kathleen Kim, Janis Kelly, Robert Brubaker, Russell Braun, James Maddalena, and Richard Paul Fink, conducted by John Adams. Production by Peter Sellars. From February 12, 2011. | Details

Saturday 3

Met Opera | Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Starring Teresa Stratas, Astrid Varnay, Richard Cassilly, and Cornell MacNeil, conducted by James Levine. From November 27, 1979. One could dispute calling Kurt Weill an “American” composer, even though he did move to the US in late career. This opera was composed earlier and premiered in Leipzig in 1927. Subsequently banned by the Nazis, it’s a satire on German society of the time, but also applicable as commentary on America. A brilliant cast led by Stratas as a memoriable Jenny. | Details

Sunday 4

Met Opera | Philip Glass’s Akhnaten. Starring Dísella Lárusdóttir, J’Nai Bridges, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Aaron Blake, Will Liverman, Richard Bernstein, and Zachary James, conducted by Karen Kamensek. Production by Phelim McDermott. From November 23, 2019. | Details

Video-on-demand performances:

1) Royal Conservatory of Music | Music of My Life: Steve Paikin. In this, episode #2 of the RCM Series, journalist/author/documentary producer Steve Paikin talks about the music that inspires him. Free to watch but donations welcome. | Details

2) Screaming Divas with Sondra and Keri | Michael Fabiano. Calling all tenor fans: following the wonderful recent chat with Matthew Polenzani is this new episode (June 25) with the terrific Michael Fabiano, currently singing Cavaradossi at the Paris Opera. With disarming candor, the tenor shares his thoughts on his career and his personal life, and his brainchild, ArtSmart, an initiative for nurturing young talent. A fun-filled yet heartfelt and serious hour of conversation.

3) Tafelmusik | The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres. In memory of Jeanne Lamon, Tafelmusik offers a free streaming of The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres (June 25 – July 2). Conceived by double bassist Alison Mackay, it is a highly acclaimed multimedia show that toured Canada and internationally.

4) BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2021 | Main Prize Final. Live streamed on June 19 but region-restricted and thus not available in Canada. It is now on YouTube and well worth watching, for an exceptional display of voices of the future. Petroc Trelawny and Josie d’Arby co-hosts from St David’s Hall, Cardiff, alongside guests from the opera world offering their insight on the performances.

5) Toronto Symphony Orchestra | Sarah Jeffrey Plays Mozart. An All-Mozart program where Principal Oboe Sarah Jeffrey is the soloist in Mozart’s beautiful Oboe Concerto in C Major, K. 314/271k, available online until June 29. It is paired with Symphony No. 29 in A Major, K. 201/186a. | Details

6) Wiener Philharmoniker | 2021 Sommernachtskonzert Schönbrunn Schloss Wien. Daniel Harding conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in a program of Verdi, Rachmaninoff, Bernstein, Elgar, Sibelius, Debussy, and Holst. Igor Levit is the pianist. Great music and a visual treat, typical of these summer concerts at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.

7) Klaipėda State Music Theatre | Der fliegende Hollander. Streamed on OperaVision on 2 April and it’s now available for 3 months. A largely Lithuanian cast not yet well known internationally. The singing is variable, and the outdoor production, located near the Baltic Sea where the Flying Dutchman story begins, is striking.

8) National Ballet of Canada | The Sleeping Beauty Variations. This latest episode of National Ballet’s Spotlight Series stars Sonia Rodriguez as Princess Aurora and Naoya Ebe as Prince Florimund, plus a full complement of splendid soloists in the many variations. David Briskin conducts the National Ballet Orchestra.

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Joseph So
Joseph So
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