Oh Happy Day!

Do mi sol do! Solveig Steinhardt vo­cal­izes along to some of Berlin’s best Christ­mas con­certs.

Where Berlin - - CONTENTS -

Vo­cal­ize your Christ­mas spirit with th­ese Christ­mas con­certs.

BY SOLVEIG STEINHARDT

One Christ­mas Eve, a young girl named Clara crept down­stairs to peek at one of her presents but found her­self at the start of a night of mag­i­cal ad­ven­tures as the Christ­mas tree grew and toy sol­diers came to life to fight the Mouse King. Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, based on a story by E.T.A. Hoff­mann, is un­doubt­edly one of the most-per­formed shows of the Christ­mas sea­son be­cause it has all the el­e­ments of this fes­tive time of year: it brings back mem­o­ries of child­hood, re­calls the magic and mys­tery of the long, lit-up nights sur­round­ing the win­ter sol­stice, and through the light­ness of bal­let, it ex­presses the si­lence of win­ter.

But The Nutcracker, on this Christ­mas sea­son at the Deutsche Oper (see p.60), is only one slice of the much wider range of what we like to de­fine “Christ­mas mu­sic.” What would the yule­tide be with­out choral mu­sic, for ex­am­ple? From car­ols to gospel to Bach, most of us will swear that we can’t get into

the Christ­mas spirit with­out some good poly­phonic har­mony. If that’s the case for you, a Har­lem Gospel Night show at the Apos­tel-Paulus-Kirche in Schöneberg (5–28 De­cem­ber. www.ev-apos­tel­pauluskirchenge­meinde.de) is sure to el­e­vate the spirit as well as the mood, es­pe­cially if fol­lowed by a crisp cold walk on nearby Akazien­straße with a stop-over at bar La Ven­dem­mia for a glass of red wine.

If you are se­ri­ous about soaking up the spirit the Ger­man way, how­ever, then you must book a ticket for one of the many rep­re­sen­ta­tions of J.S.Bach’s Christ­mas Ora­to­rio, which shouldn’t be too hard a task: last time we checked, the city pro­gram listed 35 dif­fer­ent ren­di­tions by as many vo­cal groups, each per­form­ing the ora­to­rio var­i­ous times (www.musikinkirchen.de). Chances are, no De­cem­ber day will pass with­out a Christ­mas Ora­to­rio per­for­mance some­where in Berlin. Writ­ten for the Christ­mas sea­son of 1734, this joy­ous

master­piece tells the whole story of the na­tiv­ity, from the an­nun­ci­a­tion to the ar­rival of the kings, with choirs, orches­tra pieces, so­los, and ex­u­ber­ant trum­pets. Orig­i­nally meant to have an ed­u­ca­tional pur­pose, or­a­to­rios are a late-Re­nais­sance genre, com­posed in ver­nac­u­lar lan­guage rather than in Latin in or­der to reach as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble and, un­like opera, never in­clud­ing any scenic rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

But if you feel the need for some ex­tra en­ter­tain­ment, then head to the Ber­liner Dom, where con­tro­ver­sial di­rec­tor Christoph Hagel, known for mix­ing Mozart with breakdance and pro­duc­ing op­eras in U-Bahn sta­tions, has com­bined the in­tense spir­i­tual con­tem­pla­tion of Bach’s mu­sic with con­tem­po­rary dance and cin­e­matic el­e­ments, em­ploy­ing the en­tire cathe­dral as a stage for dozens of dancers and ac­ro­bats, who will be de­pict­ing the birth of Je­sus with their bod­ies. (All month at the Ber­liner Dom, Am Lust­garten, S+U Alexan­der­platz.

Far left and far right: Hagel's rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Bach's Christ­mas Ora­to­rio. Cen­ter: A gospel per­for­mance at the Apos­tel Paulus Kirche.

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