Listen: 'Becoming Santa Claus' and other Wintry Works

Listen: 'Becoming Santa Claus' and other Wintry Works
Image: Gary McCann, The Dallas Opera
It's the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is upon us and we have put together a list of works - some old, some brand new - to put you in the spirit of winter.

This season The Dallas Opera presents the world premiere of Becoming Santa Claus, an opera by Mark Adamo. As Adamo describes, "Becoming Santa Claus casts its title character as an elfin version of the kind of struggling American child who may have been taught to confuse a parent's presence with the shiny gifts he brings….Musically, the work portrays the central royal trio in an aristocratically melismatic but harmonically skewed mode — Handelian vocalism soaring above a needle shower of quarter-tone pianos and baroque trumpets — while the Elves begin in traditional operatic vocalism but extend from quasi-percussive chorale through liquid jazz and unhinged rap as they give voice to the ever-the-more surreal and magicl toy creations." The curtain will open on December 4th revealing a magical winter setting where love and generosity become the greatest gifts of all.

We are also proud to announce the recent release of the Pentatone Album December Celebration, which features The Christmas Life by Mark Adamo and Christmas at the Cloisters by John Corigliano, both included below.

We invite you to sit by the fire, whether at home or in your heart, and to cherish our holiday favorites.


Mark Adamo
Becoming Santa Claus, an opera (2015)
In an Elven kingdom in the Far, Far North, Prince Claus will celebrate his 13th birthday with the party to end all parties; however, a bright star has signaled a momentous birth. Claus decides to dazzle this newborn with an assortment of the very latest toys before discovering that love is the most treasured gift of all. A witty, wise and wonderful addition to your holidays! — Synopsis by The Dallas Opera

Howard Blake
The Snowman (1982)

Howard Blake composed the words and music of The Snowman in 1982, when an animated film was made of the prize-winning picture book by Raymond Briggs. In 1985 Aled Jones recorded Blake's famous song, "Walking in the Air," which quickly gained popularity. The song has been re-recorded by numerous artists, such as the version by Declan Galbraith included here.

Rob Kapilow
Chris van Allsburg's Polar Express (1997)
The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg's best-selling Christmas classic, tells the story of a boy who boards a mysterious train bound for the North Pole. " The idea behind the concert is that holidays survive because they get reinvented, not replicated. . . . Constantly flitting through the composition are familiar strains of fragments of beloved Christmas music: "Deck the Halls," "Joy to the World,"" and "The First Noel" — all reinvented as part of the fabric of a new Christmas tradition. To close the program we will also teach the audience a new carol to send them on their way with a final new tradition. " — Rob Kapilow

Gian Carlo Menotti
Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951)
Menotti's music illustrates the story of a crippled shepherd boy Amahl, who offers his crutch as a present to the Christ child, is healed and joins the Three Kings on their way to Bethlehem.

Duke Ellington
Three Black Kings, Movement 1: King of the Magi (1943)
"Ellington's piece reorganizes the symphony orchestra sound. Strings are busy but largely subservient to winds and percussion. One was fascinated by the elegance of this music, the fastidious attention to every sonority, the love of delicacy even in emphatic moments." —Bernard Holland, The New York Times, (1/1/2001)

Joby Talbot
The Winter's Tale, a ballet (2013)
"The Winter's Tale is a triumph. It is contemporary and classical, traditional and modern, narrative and abstract. It feels like something entirely new….The score by Joby Talbot is equally rich; the variety of the orchestration and the momentum of the melodies make it both stirring and effective; in the second act a folk band arrives on stage without ever falling into cliche." —Sarah Crompton, The Telegraph, (4/11/2014)


Mark Adamo
The Christmas Life (for mixed chorus and chamber orchestra) (2014)

Known for his debut opera Little Women, and for his upcoming opera Becoming Santa Claus, this short holiday piece by Adamo sets the words of a poem by Wendy Cope for chamber orchestra and voice. - From the liner notes for the album December Celebration.

John Corigliano
Christmas at the Cloisters (for voice and piano) (1966)

The third of four movements in Corigliano's song cycle, The Cloisters, this song is dedicated to gospel singer Marion Williams. The text for the piece is a poem written by Corigliano's friend, the poet and playwright William M. Hoffman. The Cloisters, a museum of medieval art in Manhattan, became the inspiration for and linking motif amongst the songs.— Excerpt from the program note by Walter Simmons

Samuel Barber
Die Natali - Chorale Preludes for Christmas, Op. 37 (1960)

An arrangement of several popular Christmas carols including "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," "We Three Kings of the Orient Are," and "Good King Wenceslas," Die Natali was commissioned by the Koussevitsky Music Foundation for the seventy-fifth aniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and first conducted by Charles Munch during the 1960 premiere. — Russell Platt, AllMusic

Nicolai Berezovsky
Christmas Festival Overture (Ukrainian Noel) for Orchestra (1943)

From Russian-American composer conductor and violinist comes this 8 minute holiday overture.

Duke Ellington
The Nutcracker Suite, for jazz band

The nine movements in this suite are arrangements of the classic Tchaikovsky movements for ballet. The movements include the Overture, Toot Toot Toot (Dance of the Reed Pipes), Danse of the Floreadores (Waltz of the Flowers), Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar-Pum Fairy), and Peanut Brittle Brigade (March).

Morton Gould
Serenade of Carols for Orchestra or Chorus (1949)

From Pulitzer Prize-winner Morton Gould comes this 15 minute work in four movements. The songs woven throughout his movements include traditional favorites such as "The Holly and the Ivy," "Wassail Song," and "Coventry Carol."

Victor Hely-Hutchinson
A Carol Symphony (1927)

Christian Victor Hely-Hutchinson, born in Cape Town during the Boer War, was educated at Eton and received his Doctorate of Music at Oxford in 1941. While composing his varied and often light-hearted compositions, he lectured in music at the South African College of Music, worked for BBC in England and eventually became the Professor of Music at Birmingham University.
— This playlist was contributed by Peggy Monastra.