Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Holiday Concert Brings Glad Tidings to a Beleaguered City
Knowing that this year has been challenging for everyone, Opera Theatre of St. Louis is bringing glad tidings to those cooped up during this festive season with their 2020 Holiday Concert. Presented digitally as part of their virtual programming, the concert features a selection of holiday songs performed by cast members from OTSL’s forthcoming presentation of The Pirates of Penzance.
Because there’s no place like home for the holidays the concert was performed live at the Sally S. Levy Opera Center. Director James Robinson’s staging is simple yet cozy, giving the audience a sense that they are really there despite the virtual setting.
Although there is no audience the presentation is intimately warm thanks to the use of digital projections of snow, Christmas lights, snowflakes and sledding on Art Hill to help set the mood. Covered with snow and surrounded by Christmas trees, five singers stand alongside a solitary piano to bring a little light into an otherwise dark holiday season.
Mixing holiday favorites with seasonal opera pieces the concert begins softly with Carol of the Bells before picking up speed with a rousingly cheerful Deck the Halls, which finds the ensemble bringing some lively yuletide spice to the traditional Welsh carol. Deck the Halls is next, and it’s performed with much more bombastic vigor than the more nuanced God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, which celebrates the seasonin a beautifully genteel way.
From here, there is a powerful solo performance of Go Tell It on the Mountain from baritone Benjamin Taylor, who gives an uplifting and powerful performance. Not to be outdone are Angel Riley and Stephanie Sanchez, whose solo work on Joy to the World is jubilantly nestled next to some wonderful piano work from repetiteur Mauro Ronca.
Offering a wonderful break from a hectic world, Opera Theatre’s glorious celebration of the season continues with a solemn Silent Night followed by a rousing Twelve Days of Christmas, led by a phenomenal turn from tenor Alex Rosen that finds the performers vivaciously trading off verses in one of the concert’s highlights.
Every Christmas needs an angel. This is especially true for Opera Theatre of St. Louis with this dazzling solo on Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! from soprano Angel Riley.
Although the Holiday Concert is top-heavy with holiday hits, it also features seasonal selections from several operas. The set begins with Brindisi from Verdi’s La Traviata, which features the singers in a gratifyingly sublime performance. The mood lightens with another of the show’s finest moments, a mash up of Champagne Song/Sing to Love from Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus followed by Stephanie Sanchez’s exquisite singing on Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
OTSL’s plaintive rendition of White Christmas perfectly encapsulates the mood of this year’s quarantine holiday season. Wistful and nostalgic, this version of Irving Berlin’s classic resonates emotionally amidst these challenging times.
Running nearly an hour, this delightful performance is closed out by an uplifting We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Delivered with great gusto by all five performers, this frolicking reminder of what the season is all about ends with exultant melodies and snowball fights.
At a time when both the city and its arts scenes need a dose of festive cheer Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ sugary sweet Holiday Concert provides both glorious escapism and an inspirational reminder of how the power of song can raise spirits, warm hearts and make the holidays merry and bright.
Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Holiday Concert is streaming through December 31st. For tickets and more information on the 2020-2021 virtual season visit opera-stl.org.