Obviously, I agree to review a Christmas concert, once I discover that it falls on the date my beloved grandma would have turned almost ninety. And especially when it has been set up to raise awareness for the isolation and loneliness of our elder citizens. The Constella OperaBallet’s Christmas Gala 2020 is available to watch now online once you got a ticket – and an additional donation to support their admirable mission is optional.
There is a cellist on stage, a violinist and a clarinet player, all with painted clown faces. While the first piece of music is without doubt of high vocal and musical quality, it confirms a couple of clichés of temporary classical music, I smirk. The next track is a lot more to my liking: A powerful accordion played by Ilona Suomalainen, accompanied by a plucked cello. I am taken from a window-free, neon tube lit practicing space at the Wayne McGregor studio in East London (fit to an enlarged YouTube frame) to Paris and suddenly smell fresh croissants by the river Seine. I wish it was an actual advent afternoon, and I’d have a plate full of fruit cake, stollen and a couple of macarons in front of me, ideally with someone to share this; I cannot think of a better time to watch this together than with a shared cuppa!
Violin and harp play together music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Schubert, followed by Robin Bailey singing West Side Story’s Maria. Next is the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen, performed by Felicity Buckland – barefooted.
Constella OperaBallet’s founder, host and conductor Leo Geyer shares during the interval how he set up virtual performances for his grandma, isolated in a care home. Inspired by her feedback, he involved more artists from the contemporary classical music scene to join the Connecting Stars initiative. The result: Streamed concerts take place now daily across the United Kingdom. In a video clip, fellow artists emphasize how important both continuing to perform and to earn is, while a care worker shares the feedback of the senior resident she works with. The value of the Constella OperaBallet company has already been recognized by the British Art Council, we learn – and I love the idea of giving out gala vouchers to (not only) the elderly.
The second half of this 50 minute classic revue feels far more christmassy: Expect extracts from Handel’s Messiah and confidently modern ballet moves in scenes from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, here reinterpreted for example as a one-man-office party (including a beer bottle prop) and another performed in Christmas morning pyjamas. By now, a trombone and more strings and singers have joined the stage. If there has ever been a time to reimagine the arts, it is now – and the Constella OperaBallet delivers exactly that. Hallelujah!
**** out of 5 stars
Tickets to watch the Constella OperaBallet Christmas Gala 2020 for the whole of December, starting from £7. Further customized Virtual Performances For Care Homes can be purchased on their website: https://www.constella.org.uk/whatson