At this time of year, music is all around us. Choirs sing Handel’s Messiah along with a host of carols and even opera stars sing christmas hits. The theatre has its fair share of Christmas programming, classics such as A Christmas Carol are staged and the film Elf has become Elf the Musical. Operas most frequently performed around Christmas time include the romantic Eugene Onegin and ‘family’ operas such as The Magic Flute. These are not set at Christmas time, nor do they have a Christmas theme; there is however a selection of operas with a Christmas theme, here are some of them….
The Long Christmas Dinner, Paul Hindemith
A one act opera, it spans nine decades, showing the lives of several generations of the Bayard family and some of their Christmas dinners.
Cherevichki, Tchaikovsky (The Tsarina’s Slippers)
Cherevichki is based on the story Christmas Eve, which is part of a collection called Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, by Nikolai Gogol.
The story is set at Christmas time in the deep Ukranian winter. The opera includes village girls singing christmas carols, a snow storm in the first act and act four opens on Christmas morning. The ending is cheerful, as a marriage is celebrated.
The first two acts are set on Christmas Eve. The scenery sums up Christmas time, with a cold, wintery, bustling atmosphere and an adorable children’s chorus.
You can see La Bohème this month at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.
Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel has been associated with Christmas since its earliest performances, and today it is still most often performed at Christmas time. It was first performed on 23rd December 1893 and the first complete Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast of the opera was on Christmas Day in 1931.
Hansel and Gretel is showing this month at the Vienna Volksoper.
Amahl and the Night Visitors, Gian Carlo Menotti
The composer recaptures his Italian childhood at Christmas time. Instead of Father Christmas delivering his presents, they were brought to him by three Kings.
The opera tells the tale of three Kings, who visit a poor boy and his mother. The mother attempts to steal their treasure; when the kings realise how poor she is, they urge her to keep it. The boy wants to give the Kings a present but all he has to give is his crutch, when he does so, his leg is instantly healed and he goes with Kings to see baby Jesus.
Becoming Santa Claus, Mark Adamo
Set in an Elven kingdom in the Far North, the story begins with preparations for Prince Claus’ 13th birthday. His three uncles, who happen to be the three kings of the Christmas story, send word that they’ve been diverted by a star to a mysterious birth in Bethlehem.
Claus hears that they plan to present symbolic gifts to the child, he fills his sleigh with toys to take to the baby. They arrive too late, as the family has already gone on.
It received its world premiere at the Winspear Opera House this month!