Award-winning music, a South Philly twist on an opera classic, and more

BSR Classical Music Interludes, February 16-28, 2023

4 minute read
Three people in a contemporary kitchen, one up close looks to camera, the other two as Hansel and Gretel expressing worry
Opera Ithaca’s film version of Engelbert Humperdinck's 'Hansel and Gretel,' starring Meghan Kasanders, Annie Rosen, and Marlen Nahhas, streams as part of Opera Philadelphia Channel Presents. (Image provided by Opera Ithaca.)

Valentine’s Day’s just passed, but there’s plenty of music to open your heart and lift lagging spirits, including two musical wins to celebrate: Grammy Awards for the Philadelphia Orchestra and The Crossing. Or choose from two unique opera offerings like Academy of Vocal Arts's Philly-centric Don Pasquale and Opera Philadelphia Channel’s online screening of Hansel and Gretel. Festivals of two composers—old and new—and a piano recital from Astral Artists round out this month’s preview.

Grammys galore for Philadelphia Orchestra and The Crossing

Good news from the Grammys: the Philadelphia Orchestra won two (yes, two!) Grammy Awards. And the city’s contemporary vocal ensemble The Crossing won for Born, the third award for Donald Nally and his 24 singers. They’re about to go on tour, presenting a Jennifer Higdon premiere at the American Choral Directors Association Convention (Cincinnati, February 24) and then on to concerts in Chicago and Ithaca, New York. But on March 24, they’ll be home with PRISM Quartet (the saxophone quartet with which they won their first Grammy) at Penn Live Arts. And from March 30 through April 2, these two Grammy winners will partner: The Crossing sings music of John Luther Adams with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kimmel and at Carnegie Hall.

Opera Philadelphia Channel presents Hansel and Gretel
Streaming through May 10

This Opera Philadelphia film enterprise has taken on a vibrant life, winning accolades for its rangy and bravura programming of both short and full-length operas. You can subscribe ($99/year) or purchase one-time-only views, and currently six shows are streaming (with more to come). One of the most engaging is a re-imagining of Hansel and Gretel, filmed in a bucolic woodland setting with an English libretto. This Opera Ithaca adaptation of Humperdinck's work about two children lost in the woods has a twist—the kids are captured by a celebrity chef/witch, who hosts the kids on her cooking show as both guest stars and the main ingredients.

Academy of Vocal Arts presents Don Pasquale
Thursdays, February 16, 18, 21, and 23, 7:30pm
Helen Corning Warden Theatre, Academy of Vocal Arts, 1920 Spruce Street, Philadelphia

Coming right up is another contemporary take on a classic. AVA presents the comic opera Don Pasquale, but with a hometown twist. They’ll set Gaetano Donizetti’s tale of love and marriage and duplicity in mid-1960s South Philadelphia, exploring everything from the golden age of the Italian Market to plastic furniture covers to Sunday dinner with the family. There are rotating casts under the baton of Richard A. Raub (with the AVA Opera Orchestra), and the stage direction is by Richard Troxell (AVA ’92).

Serafin Ensemble’s Hallelujah Handel!
February 23-25, 7:30pm
Grace United Methodist Church, 900 Washington Street, Wilmington

This Wilmington ensemble (affiliated with the Music School of Delaware) adds something new to its Serafin Summer Music offerings: a festival of works by Handel and his contemporaries. Three concerts this month feature a bevy of regional performers (and the choirs of two churches) in vocal and instrumental works by the titular composer and others, both well-known and not so. The first two evenings showcase works by Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Bach, Purcell, Zelenka, Mozart, and more; and the third is all Handel, ending with a sing-along of his “Hallelujah” chorus.

Astral Artists presents Christopher Goodpasture
Sunday, February 26, 3pm
American Philosophical Society, Benjamin Franklin Hall, 427 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia

This recital by a young pianist with a growing reputation will feature a wide-ranging solo piano evening that straddles the centuries. Goodpasture’s concert includes compositions by Poulenc and Schumann and transcriptions of works by Bach, Franck, and Wagner, among others. The evening will culminate in Musica ricercata by György Ligeti.

New Music Delaware: Celebrating Jennifer Margaret Barker
Wednesday, March 1, 8pm
University of Delaware, Gore Recital Hall, 110 Orchard Road, Newark
Also streaming live online

The University of Delaware School of Music’s long-standing New Music Delaware initiative has presented many works of established and emerging composers from the US and worldwide. Their series continues with an evening celebrating the work of Scottish American composer Jennifer Margaret Barker, whose compositions have been commissioned and performed by a host of American symphonies and ensembles. A former UPenn grad, Barker is also an active collaborative pianist and professor of composition at the University of Delaware. The concert, which will include solo and chamber works, is free with reserved tickets and will also be streamed live online.

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