The holiday season is upon us, and nowhere is the cheer more palpable than at Lincoln Center. The world's premier performing arts center, located in the cultural heart of New York City, offers dozens of events across its campus that will awaken the magic of the holidays in all of us.
On par with visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center and ice-skating in Bryant Park, the Metropolitan Opera's production of Mozart's enchanting fairy tale, The Magic Flute, has become a New York holiday tradition. Julie Taymor's stunning production—in a family-friendly abridged and English-language version—returns to delight audiences young and old, with performances from December 19 to January 5. And if you're looking to ring in the New Year in style, the Met will be presenting a new staging of Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur on December 31.
The sumptuous production, starring soprano Anna Netrebko, and conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, will be followed by dinner, dancing, and fireworks as part of its New Year's Eve Gala. (Regular performances run through January 26.)
For many of us, the holidays would not be complete without Nat King Cole's velvety voice. On December 14 and 15, vocalist Sachal Vasandani honors the crooner's legacy at a centennial event presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center. Though not specifically holiday-themed, this evening in the intimate Appel Room will fill you with a warm nostalgia for holiday seasons past. Then, for a true holiday extravaganza, look no further than Big Band Holidays (December 19 to 23) as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guest vocalists Vuyo Sotashe and Veronica Swift perform big-band arrangements of holiday favorites.
What would the holidays be if we were not graced by a visit from the Sugar Plum Fairy? Join Marie, her Prince, and an array of toy soldiers and mischievous mice for New York City Ballet's stunning production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker®, which returns to the David H. Koch Theater from November 23 through December 30.
At David Geffen Hall, the New York Philharmonic offers a month packed with events, starting with its annual production of Handel's Messiah, sung by soprano Lauren Snouffer, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, tenor Andrew Stables, bass-baritone Neal Davies, and the Westminster Symphonic Choir, conducted by Jonathan Cohen (December 11 through 15). On December 16, Holiday Brass returns with beloved former principal trumpet, conductor, and host Philip Smith leading the New York Philharmonic Brass and Percussion in a virtuosic holiday fête. If you've got kids in your life—or if you want to experience Home Alone anew—don't miss a screening of the holiday blockbuster as the Philharmonic performs John Williams's iconic score live (December 21 & 22). And then there is the Phil's always highly anticipated New Year Eve's concert, this year with music director Jaap van Zweden leading his orchestra in a celebration of Viennese and popular classics. American superstar soprano Renée Fleming joins van Zweden and the Phil, singing classics from Broadway musicals and beloved operettas.
Head over to Alice Tully Hall for The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's Baroque Collection featuring noted Handel interpreter Joélle Harvey in a program that also includes Bach, Vivaldi, and Telemann (December 9). Then, on December 18, include Bach in your holiday celebrations with the Chamber Music Society's annual performance of the Brandenburg Concertos.
Also taking place on the warm, wood-veneered stage of Alice Tully Hall, clarinet star Martin Fröst joins the winter festivities, accompanied by pianist Henrik Måwe. This joyful program explores one of the great masterpieces of the clarinet repertoire and Brahms' final chamber work—his luminous Sonata in E-flat major—as part of Lincoln Center's Great Performers series (December 12). Earlier in the month (December 2), charismatic pianist Federico Colli lends his lyricism to Great Performers in a Sunday Morning Coffee Concert featuring Beethoven's transcendent "Appassionata" sonata. Followed by coffee and conversation with Colli himself, this is the perfect way to spend a cozy winter morning.
Don't forget about the free holiday events offered across Lincoln Center's bustling campus. Stop by The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on December 12 for a special screening that complements New York City Ballet's presentation of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker®. Part of the library's Dance Rewind series, which is dedicated to the recording of live dance performance, this presentation will feature American Ballet Theatre's rendition of the holiday classic from December 2013, with choreography by former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet and ABT artist-in-residence Alexei Ratmansky. And the Performing Arts Library's Holiday Songbook is back with new holiday music penned by Broadway composers and lyricists and performed by the Great White Way's talented vocalists.
No visit to Lincoln Center is complete without a trip to the David Rubenstein Atrium, where you'll find amazing artists year-round—and all for free. On November 26, Combo Chimbita blends rock, funk, cumbia, funaná, kompa, and dub as part of Winter's Eve, an annual neighborhood festival that celebrates the start of the holiday season on the Upper West Side. Then be sure to catch the kid-friendly R&B band Shine & the Moonbeams (December 1); a celebration of today's most exciting new composers from Nouveau Classical Project (December 6); Russian-born, New York–based composer and performer Ljova with members of the PUBLIQuartet (December 13); and a Latin dance party with the Grammy-nominated salsera Miss YaYa.
Kaitlyn Zafonte is associate editor at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
See the calendar for a complete list of programs.