Although the live music was billed as a sing-along, it proved significantly more than that: a program of artful choral arrangements confidently sung by strong voices from the Opera Chorus with exuberant piano accompaniment supplied by Stasyna. Their program opened with Jason Robert Brown’s rousing “Chanukah Suite” that included the Hebrew folk song “Mi Y’Malel” and the stately synagogue hymn “Ma’oz Tzur” that recount the story behind the Jewish eight-day festival that just ended last week.
The singers’ Spanish repertory included the traditional Spanish villancico “Campana sobre campana” and José Feliciano’s popular ballad “Feliz Navidad,” currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, as the NPR commentators have been reminding listeners all week long. In my book, no holiday choral concert is complete without Leontovich’s “Carol of the Bells,” based on the traditional Ukrainian carol, and these singers gave the arrangement a most compelling account.
Mel Tormé’s evergreen “The Christmas Song” and the English carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” were the only secular songs on the program. No doubt some members of the audience sang along with “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World,” but I was so starved for good choral singing, that I chose rather to listen to every note the Opera Chorus ensemble uttered.
Watching the film of All Is Calm—the Christmas Truce of 1914 brought home how moving San Diego Opera’s 2018 production at the Balboa Theatre was. My review of the opening-night performance is included here.