Mean to Merry
Old Vic: In Camera—A Christmas Carol. This version of the Charles Dickens classic, adapted by Jack Thorne, was an instant success when it premiered in 2017. It takes a minimalist approach to Scrooge (played this year by Andrew Lincoln), who despite his wealth leads a cheerless locked-in life, and a maximal approach to the living, giving world around him (which in the theater includes the audience). This year the show is livestreamed from London’s Old Vic. (December 12–24, oldvictheatre.com)
Visions of Sugar Plums
Ballet is perhaps the least socially distanced of all the performing arts, so most companies are skipping The Nutcracker this year. Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet and the Miami City Ballet, however, are presenting the ballet live (with a reduced number of tickets per coronavirus requirements).
New York City Ballet, in partnership with Marquee TV, is streaming a performance that was filmed live last year. The company also offers a batch of online goodies for the young classical dancer in your household, among them two Nutcracker Magic Pass Packages for children ages three to eight. (One of the packages includes a 15-minute semi-private Zoom face-to-face with an N.Y.C.B. dancer.) (Now available, nycballet.com)
Meanwhile, many companies around the world are streaming one of their own past performances of The Nutcracker, so check in with your local ballet.
Madonna and the Magi
Currently closed to in-person visitors, the Hong Kong Museum of Art offers audio clips on its Web site that guide viewers through star works of its latest exhibition, “Botticelli and His Times: Masterworks from the Uffizi.” Sandro Botticelli apprenticed under Filippo Lippi, one of the most admired artists in 15th-century Florence, and soon embodied Renaissance qualities of refinement and transparency. With works on loan primarily from the Uffizi Galleries, the exhibition showcases 42 paintings by Botticelli—including his Madonna and Child with St. John (circa 1500) and Adoration of the Magi (1474–75)—plus paintings by Lippi and fellow masters. (Through February 24, hk.art.museum)
Its use of perspective and a magnificent play of color and detail have made Jan Gossaert’s The Adoration of the Kings (1510–15) a holy grail of the Northern Renaissance. “Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s ‘Adoration’” is an immersive exhibition at London’s National Gallery. Balthazar, the Black king, narrates the painting for viewers, who are also guided through its hidden elements via soundscapes, digital imagery, and gesture-based interaction.(Through February 28, nationalgallery.org)
God Bless Us, Every One!
“The curtain came down,” remembers Dorene Richardson, describing the 1960 premiere of Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, in which she danced. “And there was dead silence in the audience. And as they brought the curtain up, the audience jumped to their feet, and you just heard this roar, this deafening roar.” It has been that way ever since. “The spirituals,” Alvin Ailey once said, “were the first music I could almost see.” And that’s what he makes us see—spirituality, commonality, hope. As a gift to audiences everywhere, this month the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has put its season online for free. Along with Revelations, there’s a tribute to Charlie Parker on the centenary of his birth, an Ailey and Ellington program, family matinees, and, starting on December 23, a “Revelations Through the Decades” program. (Through December 31, alvinailey.org)
A Tenor on the 12th
Filmed in the round and conceived by the former Cirque du Soleil director Franco Dragone, Andrea Bocelli: Believe in Christmas is billed as magical. Certainly, that’s a perfect description of Bocelli’s voice. This holiday concert will be livestreamed from Italy’s Teatro Regio di Parma opera house. Tickets are required. (December 12, Andrea Bocelli)
Under way since December 10—the first day of Hanukkah this year—the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 40th Anniversary Hanukkah Celebration has programmed an array of eight documentaries and features. These include When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, a 2019 film based on Judith Kerr’s semi-autobiographical wartime children’s novel, and the celebratory On Broadway. A huge archive of films is available on demand, so go exploring. (Through December 19, jfi.org)
Concerts in the City of Light
The churches and cathedrals of Paris are hosting festive concerts throughout December. Here is a trinity.
By candlelight, at the Church of Saint-Éphrem, the cellist Timothée Marcel plays Johann Sebastian Bach’s six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. Rich, warm, deep, human, the cello is perhaps the most profound “voice” in the orchestra—perfect for the mystery of Christmas Eve. (December 24, 27, and 31, Bach with Candlelights)
The Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is gladdened by Arcangelo Corelli’s beloved Christmas Concerto (Concerto Grosso in G Minor, Opus 6, No. 8) and Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. The concert is performed by the young musicians of Orchestra Hélios and conducted by Glen Rouxel. (December 26, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Corelli’s Christmas Concerto)
At the Church of Saint-Eustache, where Louis XIV made his first Communion, a vast Gothic space is host to a marvelous program of Mozart’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and Ravel’s Boléro. (December 29, Mozart’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Fifth)
Social distancing will be enforced at all concerts.
It appears that certain operas are deemed “holiday,” and they’re all included in the Metropolitan Opera’s free streaming from December 21 to 27. Among these seven operas are Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Massenet’s Cendrillon, Puccini’s La Bohème, and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. (metopera.org)
As if that weren’t enough, the Met is offering a Family Holiday Festival from December 17 to 21. A sample: New York Times food writer Melissa Clark and the countertenor (and avid baker) Anthony Roth Costanzo will teach us how to bake Deep Dark Fudgy Brownies. (December 19, metopera.org/family)
Under the Mistletoe
This year, Christmas at Kew—London’s Royal Botanic Gardens—offers a new route through the Rose Garden. Illumination is everywhere, from the Tunnel of Light to the Palm House Pond. Festive drinks, hot chocolate, and other treats are available. Tickets required. (Through January 17, kew.org)
Further afield, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield, England, the exhibition “Joana Vasconcelos: Beyond” features six outdoor sculptures that loom like large presents. The 2018 work Solitaire, for instance, is a gigantic diamond ring, its band made of gold wheel rims and its diamond created with hundreds of crystal whiskey glasses. (Through January 9, ysp.org)
In the Berkshires of Massachusetts, at the Clark Art Institute, the exhibition “Ground/work” invites you to explore the 140-acre campus, home to six new site-specific outdoor works. Available for viewing day and night. (Through October 2021, clarkart.edu)
Gifts from Uncle Albert
Handel’s Messiah is not exclusively a Christmas piece, but it is a long-standing holiday tradition. And a Messiah at London’s Royal Albert Hall is going to be populist and fun, while artistically soaring. (December 15, royalalberthall.com)
You can also see or stream “Carols at the Royal Albert Hall.” It’s said to be spectacular, and, after all, history tells us that it was Victoria and Albert—with help from Charles Dickens—who put the trimmings on the day called Christmas. (Live on December 18–23, streaming through December 31, royalalberthall.com)
Tickets required for both programs.
Chicago is home to one of the world’s early-music gems, the Newberry Consort. Perhaps the group’s biggest surprise hit was “A Mexican Christmas: Angels in the Convent, Dancing in the Streets,” a now-beloved program that re-creates the Christmas music one would have heard in 1600s Mexico City—the nuns in their cloister and the villancico bands in the plazas. This multi-media treatment of the Consort’s 2019 performance will be available for streaming. (December 17, parmarecordings.com)
There’s always room for one more Messiah, and this one has value added. Boston Baroque is offering a livestream event Holiday Special Package, a threefer that includes a performance of Messiah, a New Year’s Eve performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, and a short film of your choosing, “Reflections on Handel’s Messiah” or “A Baroque Holiday.” (Beginning December 18, bostonbaroque.com)
In 1994, Z100 hosted the inaugural “Jingle Ball,” a winter concert that featured the year’s top artists performing their hits. The event marked the biggest night of the year for many teenagers, selling out Madison Square Garden. Now helmed by IHeartRadio, “Jingle Ball” remains a teen High Holiday, and this year’s virtual show, which streamed December 10, takes viewers right into the homes of the artists. The lineup, led by teen phenom Billie Eilish, offers a range of today’s pop stylings. It’s also a great primer for anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with the charts lately. The CW is broadcasting the event as an exclusive TV special on Monday, December 14, at eight P.M.; it will be available on demand starting December 15. (iheart.com)