Finding that Valentine’s Day performance that truly delivers a romantic evening without being banal or even worse, a rip-off, can be tough. With the holiday falling on Monday when many concert halls are dark, this task can be a little more challenging. To help out, we offer a top five of surefire Valentine’s Day performances that don’t compromise quality.
1. Richard Gere and Nick Cage both serenaded their leading ladies with box seats at the opera in Pretty Woman and Moonstruck, respectively. Seats like those at the Metropolitan Opera don’t come by cheaply, but there are a number of price points in the house (especially if you don’t have a fear of heights or like to stand). And it's hard to find fault with the offering of the evening: Otto Schenk's charming production of the Donizetti romantic comedy, Don Pasquale. The stellar cast includes Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polanzani, Mariusz Kweicien, John Del Carlo and James Levine at the podium.
2. The New York Philharmonic presents the proverbial Cadillac of Valentine’s Day-themed concerts this year. Placido Domingo rolls in to sing Siegmund's aria from Die Walküre in a first half that also includes Wagner and Tchaikovsky — certainly a romantic pair who could meditate on the weightier aspects of love. Lest things get too serious, the second act will lighten the mood with pieces by Johann Strauss, Franz Lehar and Manuel de Falla.
3. A faculty recital at the Mannes College, the New School’s conservatory, might not initially sound as romantic as an evening at the Met or Philharmonic. However, when the faculty member is the luminous soprano Amy Burton singing love songs -- including ones written by her husband, the composer John Musto -- there are the makings of an enchanting evening. Add to that the free admission price and Musto as accompanist, it’s hard to top for a night out even if it weren’t Valentine’s Day.
4. Let’s face it, for some people Valentine’s Day is a dark day. Whether or not the new music and fashion group the Nouveau Classical Project wanted to hammer that point home, it will present a gloomy concert called Black at Le Poisson Rouge. Perhaps in the fashion world black is synonymous with chic. On the musical side of things are a number of works the groups says invoke thoughts of “death, melancholy and darkness” like Schubert’s “Nacht und Träume” (Night and Dreams) and Wolf’s “Vergorgenheit” (Seclusion). Any way, it should provide an antidote to Cupid.
5. Mark Glanville, who was last in New York singing A Yiddish Winterreise, returns to Symphony Space with another Yiddish translation of a beloved Schubert song cycle: Die Schöne Müllerin, or rather Di Sheyne Milnerin. In his previous performance, Glanville rewrote the German text of Winterreise to tell the Yiddish story of a Holocaust survivor. Now he’s molding the tale of a miller boy’s unrequited love. Even if the new lyrics veer from the story, the lad’s heartsickness and yearning will transcend through Schubert’s music.