Hansel & Gretel Royal Opera House, 11th to 29th December
Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is an enchanting musical fairytale that combines brightly coloured folk melodies with lavish, late-Romantic lyricism. Originally conceived for a family entertainment, the opera retains that homespun spirit, combining innocence and optimism with a streak of darker drama. Antony McDonald’s new production promises to return to the tale’s storybook origins, with designs drawing on traditional German illustrations. An enticing young cast includes Jennifer Davis (Gretel) and Christina Gansch as the Dew Fairy, with Polish mezzo-soprano Hanna Hipp as Hansel. A sophisticated Christmas treat for all the family.
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 2nd December
A jukebox musical avant la lettre, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio brings together many of the composer’s best choruses, chorales and arias in a joyous collage. Despite this the work has been unaccountably eclipsed by Handel’s Messiah. Jeffrey Skidmore and chamber choir Ex Cathedra are one of the Midlands’s greatest musical assets. The singers are young, and the emphasis will be very much on collective musical storytelling, not starry soloists.
Steven Isserlis’s 60th Birthday, Wigmore Hall, 17th December
Britain’s greatest living cellist celebrates his 60th birthday in style, with help from violinist Joshua Bell, baritone Simon Keenlyside and pianists Radu Lupu and András Schiff in a concert that roams through three centuries of music from Bach to György Kurtág, and includes songs by Fauré, piano music by Schubert, Brahms and Mozart and Grieg’s Violin Sonata No 2.