Christmas Holiday Events in New York

Posted On December 21, 2008

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RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR > Nothing says pizzazz like this populist crowd-pleaser, featuring the leggy Rockettes showing off their lithe physiques and precisely choreographed high kicks, an army of dancing Santas, and the multimedia extravaganza of “New York at Christmas”. As it has since its very first year, back in 1933, the show closes with the ecstatic “Living Nativity”, a dramatic retelling of the birth of Christ. (Radio City Music Hall, Sixth Ave. at 50th St. 212-307-1000. Through Dec. 30.)

THE NUTCRACKER > Balanchine’s 1954 version of the Christmas fantasy, performed by the New York City Ballet, is still the gold standard, featuring scores of children from the School of American Ballet, an exciting battle to the death between the toy soldiers and the seven-headed Mouse King, and a memorable “Waltz of the Snowflakes”. (David H. Koch Theatre, Lincoln Center. 212-721-6500. Nov. 28-Jan. 3.) 

For revisionists, Dances Patrelle’s “The Yorkville Nutcracker” is set in turn-of-the-century New York, beginning at a party at Gracie Mansion and ending up at the Crystal Palace of the Bronx Botanical Gardens. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier are danced by the lovely Jenifer Ringer and the very capable Jared Angle, both of New York City Ballet. (Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College, Park Ave. at 68th St. 212-722-7933. Dec. 11-14.) 

Tired parents may opt for the lively New York Theatre Ballet production, only an hour long, with inspired sets modelled after the nineteenth-century English toy theatres. (Florence Gould Hall, 55 E. 59th St. 212-355-6160. Dec. 12-21.) 

The Joffrey Ballet School offers its annual “Nutcracker” performed by students; under its new director, George de la Peña, each section will be choreographed by one of the school’s teachers. (Skirball Center, 566 LaGuardia Pl. 212-279-4200. Dec. 12-14.) 

The Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory’s version features a female Drosselmeier (played by Kozlova) and a very impressive young dancer in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy: the sixteen-year-old Whitney Jensen, who recently won a top honor at the international Varna Competition in Bulgaria. (Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th St. 212-864-5400. Dec. 13 at 4 and 8.)

TREES > More than five hundred folded-paper animals will adorn the American Museum of Natural History’s thirteen-foot origami tree this year, on display in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, representing inhabitants of the museum’s dioramas, permanent halls, and special exhibitions. Through Jan. 4. (Central Park W. at 79th St. 212-769-5100.) 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Christmas tree, located in the Medieval Sculpture Hall starting Nov. 25, is a brilliantly lit conifer laden with flying silk-robed angels and cherubim who hover above the Neapolitan Baroque crèche at its base. Tree-lighting ceremonies are held Tuesday through Sunday at 4:30, with additional lightings Fridays and Saturdays at 5:30 and 6:30. (Fifth Ave. at 82nd St. 212-535-7710. Through Jan. 6.) 

Rockefeller Center’s illustrious behemoth is illuminated for the seventy-sixth time on Dec. 3. It will be set aglow near the end of a star-studded ceremony that runs from 7 to 9. (Fifth Ave. at 50th St. Through Jan. 7.)

HANUKKAH > The Festival of Lights begins this year on Dec. 21. That afternoon, at 5:30, the first lamp will be lit atop the thirty-two-foot-tall menorah on Fifth Ave. at 59th St. There will also be live music, dancing, and hot latkes. A light will be added each night at the same time through Dec. 28, except for Friday and Saturday, when the lighting takes place at 3:45 and 8:30, respectively. (For more information, call 718-778-6000.) 

Dec. 21-28: The prolific indie rockers Yo La Tengo, led by front man Ira Kaplan, play all eight nights in their hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, at Maxwell’s, continuing a tradition held (almost) every year since 2001. A different unannounced and unusual act precedes them nightly. (1039 Washington St. 201-653-1703.) 

Dec. 21-30: The Hasidic performer Matisyahu follows suit, with his third annual eight-nights-of-reggae Hanukkah, beginning at Webster Hall. (Dec. 21-25. 125 E. 11th St.) Skipping Friday night because of the Sabbath, Matisyahu resumes the series at the Music Hall of Williamsburg for four more nights (thus making the miracle of light last a whole extra day). Special guests include Little Jackie, Brett Dennen, and Assembly of Dust. (Dec. 27-30. 66 N. 6th St., Brooklyn.)

HOLIDAY TRAIN SHOW > The New York Botanical Garden’s annual tribute to the romance of the season and the rails features model engines and cars chugging their way around the conservatory’s replicas of more than a hundred and forty New York City landmarks, all constructed from twigs, berries, leaves, seeds, and the like. Miniatures of the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space and Central Park’s Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre are new this year, joining Ellis Island, the George Washington Bridge, and Yankee Stadium. (Nov. 23-Jan. 11. Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Rd., the Bronx. 718-817-8700.)

WINTUK > The story for this Cirque du Soleil production involves a boy searching for snow. A trampoline serves as a springboard for aerialists and acrobats, who intermingle with talking lampposts and enormous puppets of dogs, birds, and ice giants. (WaMu Theatre at Madison Square Garden. 212-307-1000. Through Jan. 4.)

FOR THE TIME BEING: A CHRISTMAS ORATORIO > Michael Cumpsty directs and performs a reading of W. H. Auden’s poem from 1942. Maria Tucci narrates. (Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th St. 212-864-5400. Dec. 8.)

TAPPY HOLIDAYS > This three-year-old tradition features holiday songs performed by a jazz trio and whiz-kid tap dancers. Performers include several youth ensembles, along with pros like Ayodele Casel and Jason Samuels Smith. (Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th St. 212-864-5400. Dec. 12.)

PETER AND THE WOLF > Prokofiev’s marvellous children’s tale “Peter and the Wolf,” now in its second year at “Works & Process” at the Guggenheim, is both a cautionary tale and a witty introduction to the instruments of the orchestra, courtesy of the Juilliard Ensemble. Everyone has a favorite narrator from the past (Alec Guinness, Leonard Bernstein, Sting), but here the wry Isaac Mizrahi presides. (89th St. and Fifth Ave. 212-423-3587. Dec. 13-16 and Dec. 20-21.)

WINTER SOLSTICE > Paul Winter brings his Consort back to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The show returns to the newly renovated nave of the Cathedral, which boasts a fully restored Aeolian-Skinner Pipe Organ, to be played for the first time since the 2001 fire damaged it. Special guests include the Brazilian singer and guitarist Renato Braz, the gospel singer Theresa Thomason, and the woodwind master Paul McCandless. (Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St. 866-811-4111. Dec. 18-20.)

HOLIDAY MUSIC, CLASSICAL > MESSIAH > The St. Thomas Choir, which plies its noble trade in the luxuriant Gothic splendor of its eponymous church on Fifth Avenue, has always set a certain local standard in singing Handel’s generous “entertainment” on Christian themes: no other American choir has such a strong connection to the finest traditions of Anglican music-making. The group’s musicianship and style remain impressive under the tutelage of John Scott, who leads it in two performances accompanied by the Baroque group Concert Royal; the soloists include the renowned tenor Rufus Müller. (Fifth Ave. at 53rd St. Dec. 9 and Dec. 11 at 7:30. For tickets, visit 

Kent Tritle, the longtime director of the “Sacred Music in a Sacred Space” series at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, is the big man in the “Messiah” business this year. He leads the excellent avocational singers of the Oratorio Society (with the mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and the tenor William Ferguson among the vocal soloists) in a performance at Carnegie Hall. (212-247-7800. Dec. 15 at 8.) 

Tritle also conducts “Messiah” as the music director of the superb professional group Musica Sacra, where he succeeded the late Richard Westenburg. Westenburg’s Sacra style offered a modern, symphonic rendering of the work that nonetheless had a light and smooth Baroque feel; Tritle steps into some very big shoes. (Carnegie Hall. 212-247-7800. Dec. 22-23 at 8.)

NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC > The orchestra, for several years, has offered a worthy “Messiah” of its own. This season it will be led by the Dutch Baroque-music legend Ton Koopman, making his Philharmonic début. The singers Sumnae Im, Andreas Scholl, Jörg Dürmüller, and Detlef Roth are out front, assisted by the powerful Westminster Symphonic Choir. (Dec. 17-18 at 7:30 and Dec. 19-20 at 8.) 

The Phil’s impressive brass section, teaming up with the gentlemen of the Canadian Brass, begins the holiday season with an afternoon of festive music. (Dec. 14 at 3.) 

The mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, singing music by Bizet, Lehár, and Richard Strauss, will be the special guest of the orchestra’s New Year’s Eve gala, conducted by Lorin Maazel. (Dec. 31 at 7:30.) (Avery Fisher Hall. 212-875-5656.)

CARNEGIE HALL > Deborah Voigt is the latest star singer to take over Carnegie for its holiday celebration, an evening in which she will offer arias, songs, and show tunes by Handel, Schubert, Jerry Herman, and Jule Styne; Patrick Summers conducts the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. (Dec. 16 at 8.) 

The Christmas Eve concert by the New York String Orchestra, a longtime annual convocation of young virtuosos led by Jaime Laredo, is all Mozart: the “Marriage of Figaro” Overture, the Violin Concerto No. 5 (with the appealing young violinist Augustin Hadelich), and the Symphony No. 40 in G Minor (a touch grim for such a night). (Dec. 24 at 7.) 

The final concert offers a contemporary work (by John Harbison), Mozart’s Concerto for Three Pianos (featuring the esteemed Joseph Kalichstein and two exceptional young colleagues, Shai Wosner and Alon Goldstein), and Mendelssohn’s “Scotch” Symphony. (Dec. 28 at 2.) (212-247-7800.)

METROPOLITAN MUSEUM > To hear a Christmas concert in the majestic intimacy of the museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall is an essential New York experience. Chanticleer, the ebullient (and stunningly expert) San Francisco men’s chamber choir, has been drawing eager crowds for several years by offering a tempting mix of carols, spirituals, and sacred polyphony from the medieval and Renaissance periods. (Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 7 at 6:30 and 8:30.) 

The Gotham-based gentlemen of Lionheart, another admired male chorus, take over from their West Coast colleagues to offer “Christmas in Medieval Italy: Il Laudario di Cortona,” just before Christmas Eve. (Dec. 23 at 6:30 and 8:30.) (Fifth Ave. at 83rd St. 212-570-3949.)

THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS > For some reason, Bach’s chamber concertos, the bedrock of the orchestral repertoire, have become Christmastime favorites. Some of the most alluring performances can be found at the annual concerts given by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which offers them this year at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre. (Broadway at 60th St. 212-875-5788. Dec. 14 at 5 and Dec. 16 at 7:30.) 

Bargemusic, the doughty chamber-music series on Brooklyn’s Fulton Ferry Landing, is a cozy winter nook that offers spectacular views of New York Harbor and wine and cheese at intermission. The violinist Mark Peskanov, the barge’s artistic director, leads a band of New York’s finest young musicians in Bach’s masterworks on New Year’s Eve. (Dec. 31 at 7:30.) (718-624-2083.) 

Upper West Siders who want to stay close to home can bring the kids to Symphony Space’s “All-Star” Brandenburgs, featuring such estimable musicians as the flutists Eugenia Zukerman and Tara Helen O’Connor and the harpsichordist Bradley Brookshire. (Broadway at 95th St. 212-864-5400. Dec. 19 at 8.)

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