While there is always something amazing happening at Lincoln Center, the holiday season provides even more opportunities to attend magical, world-class events across campus.
One of the hardiest perennials on the Lincoln Center holiday schedule is New York City Ballet’s dazzling production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, which returns to the David H. Koch Theater through December 31. Balanchine’s sumptuous staging of Tschaikovsky’s classic ballet features the New York City Ballet’s entire roster (more than 150 dancers and musicians), performing along with two alternating casts of 50 young School of American Ballet students.
Recently, the New York Philharmonic has been performing seminal musical scores live to film, including Leonard Bernstein’s score for West Side Story and George Gershwin’s music for Woody Allen’s Manhattan. On December 16 and 17 in David Geffen Hall, the Philharmonic continues this popular new tradition with the disarming 1995 film Babe (you remember—the one about the talking pig): Its Nigel Westlake score—which includes musical quotes from Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Grieg, Delibes, Fauré, and even Rodgers and Hart—will be played live while the film is shown above the Orchestra, which will be conducted by Westlake himself.
The Philharmonic’s annual holiday events in Geffen Hall include another starry cast (soprano Christina Landshamer, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, tenor Matthew Polenzani, and bass-baritone John Relyea) singing Handel’s Messiah (December 13–17) and the always enjoyable Holiday Brass (December 18). There’s also the annual New Year’s Eve Concert, which this year features an “Enchanted Evening” of American favorites—including tunes by Rodgers & Hammerstein, sung by fiery mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato—led by music director Alan Gilbert.
It was a decade ago that the Metropolitan Opera introduced its family-friendly holiday presentations—abridged, English-language performances suitable for audiences of all ages—with Julie Taymor’s visually opulent staging of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which returns this season with performances from December 20 to January 5. And for its New Year’s Eve Gala, the Met brings back the superstar who graced its stage last December 31 in Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles: Diana Damrau heads the cast in the premiere of Bartlett Sher’s new production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, with Vittorio Grigolo as her Roméo. After the Gala performance, the Met will ring in 2017 with dinner, dancing, and fireworks on the Mercedes T. Nass Grand Tier.
At Alice Tully Hall, the annual Baroque Festival of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is, once again, highlighted by Bach’s complete Brandenburg Concertos, keeping the musical freshness year after year with new casts of musicians and changes to the performing order of the concertos (December 16, 18, 20). For Baroque Collection: Italian Splendor, an all-star cast of musicians—featuring guest artists mandolinist Avi Avital and trumpet player Gabor Boldoczki—performs Baroque music from Italy, including vital works by Corelli, Marcello, Vivaldi, Torelli, and Geminiani (December 11, 13).
Jazz at Lincoln Center begins a month’s worth of holiday-themed events with its annual WeBop Family Jazz Party, this year titled “Holiday Jazz Jam” (December 10, Ertegun Atrium). The intimacy of Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola is the perfect place for Sherman Irby: A New Christmas Story (December 21–24), which features the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s saxophonist; and an appearance by the exciting young vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant (December 26–January 1). There’s also the return of Big Band Holidays (December 14–18, Rose Theater), in which the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis—joined by special guest vocalist Catherine Russell—puts that swing and soul into familiar festive favorites.
The (free!) holiday events at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts begin on December 8 with Navidad Flamenca, which thrills its audiences with the diversity of national traditions of holiday music, carols, and dance, while also reflecting the broad influence of Spanish culture in the Western Hemisphere. The following evening is something you don’t hear about every day, at least on this coast: a Holiday Hula Party, in which the New York City Ballet’s shoe supervisor Dara Faust—who teaches for Nā Lehua Melemele, a New York City Hui (Hawaiian for "group" or "club") of individuals united by a common love of the hula—leads an interactive evening that explores the infinitely expressive art of Hawaiian dance.
The David Rubenstein Atrium on Broadway and 62nd Street is not only the place to get information about Lincoln Center performances, take a guided tour of the campus, buy discount tickets to Lincoln Center events (there’s even a TKTS booth for discounted Broadway and off-Broadway performances), or just take a welcome break from the seasonal hustle and bustle: There are also free programs offered throughout the year. One of these, December 22’s Joey Arias: Naughty & Nice, presents the noted jazz vocalist, whose singular style and salacious wit will electrify a program that’s been designed to chase away those holiday blues.