RPO returns to live holiday season concerts

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The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra opens its 2021 holiday season next week, kicking off a series of performances focusing on classic stories and entertainment for the family. Joining the perennial favorites “Gala Holiday Pops” and “The Nutcracker” will be the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” and the North American premiere of “The Muppet Christmas Carol in Concert Live to Film.”

Englebert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” is an operatic retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale, and a very personal selection for the RPO’s newest musical director, Andreas Delfs. Recalling when he first saw it performed as a child, Delfs says, “for the first time in my life, I was transformed by the divine power of music.” Noting how Humperdinck’s music blends elements from many classical composers but at the same time sounds fresh and timeless, he notes that “few pieces are better suited for offering children a chance to fall in love with music.”

Delfs will conduct the two performances that start off the orchestra’s holiday season on Nov. 18 and Nov. 20. After the pandemic forced the cancellation of 2020’s performances of “The Nutcracker,” the orchestra will partner with Rochester City Ballet for their 21st year collaborating on the much-loved event. The orchestra will be led by Tara Simoncic, who conducted the 2019 production. 

Robert Gardner, Rochester City Ballet artistic director, looks forward to the return of “The Nutcracker” to the Rochester stage. 

“This collaboration brings this cherished holiday tradition to life once again,” he says.

Featuring a children’s cast of 150 young dancers from the Rochester area, the ballet opens at Kodak Hall on Nov. 24 and runs through Nov. 28.

“The Muppet Christmas Carol in Concert Live to Film” will bring a holiday twist to the RPO’s popular live film-score performances that concertgoers have been enjoying for several years. The Dec. 11 event features a screening of the 1992 film starring Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog, accompanied by the orchestra in a live performance of the musical score. 

“Every holiday season is a special time for our RPO family, but this year is extra special now that we can once again gather together in the Eastman Theatre and share our music,” says Jeff Tyzik, principal pops conductor. 

Tyzik will lead four performances of Gala Holiday Popsfinishing out the season. The shows include popular holiday music as well as some of Tyzik’s own arrangements and compositions and will feature Rochester vocalist Kearstin Piper Brown.

Tickets to all performances are available online at rpo.org or by phone at 585-454-2100. Patrons aged 12 and up are required to show proof of vaccination plus photo ID, and all patrons are required to wear masks during the entire performance. Socially distanced areas are available for those with unvaccinated children or those who feel more comfortable with social distancing.

Roblyn Powley is a student at St. John Fisher College.

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