Review: Constella’s Connecting Stars Christmas Gala (online)

Earlier this year Constella, the world’s only dedicated opera-ballet company, launched Connecting Stars, an initiative which provides one-to-one virtual performances to care home residents adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Now in the run up to the festive season they’ve released an online production of their Christmas Gala, which will be raising money for them to continue this valuable initiative. 

The Christmas Gala is split into two acts. The first is introduced by Ringmaster Leo Geyer (who also conducts) and includes a number of diverse performances. The gala opens with an opera-ballet performance of The Bearded Lady from Constella’s Sideshows, featuring singer Rachel Maby and dancer and choreographer Jaered Glavin. It seems like a slightly solemn choice to open a Christmas gala, particularly given the show is only 50 minutes long. Thankfully the show soon gets into gear with a solo accordion performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Adios Nonino by Ilona Suomalainen, followed by a beautiful performance from harp and violin duet Olivia Jageurs and Phillipa Mo. The first act is brought to a rousing finish thanks to tenor Robin Bailey’s rendition of Maria from West Side Story; and Felicity Buckland who sings Habanera from Carmen. 

Although it’s billed as a Christmas gala it isn’t until the second act that things get a little more festive. First up is He shall feed His flock like a shepherd’ from Handel’s Messiah, an opera-ballet blend choreographed by Jaered Glavin. Next comes a Christmas favourite, with a performance of three excerpts from Nutcracker. Dancer Matthew Perry performs Trepak, Alice Oakley-Hones takes on The Arabian Dance and the pair duet in Waltz of the Snowflakes. 

After a somewhat odd start the production picks up, and the music in particular is a joy to listen to, leaving you with a warm feeling inside. The Christmas Gala showcases some truly talented individuals. Robin Bailey’s performance from West Side Story is truly splendid, while Felicity Buckland equally impresses with Habanera. Jaered Glavin’s choreography is brought to life with great performances from the dancers; while Leo Geyer conducts the musicians well, with some truly wonderful pieces.

Sadly the constant wide-angled camera shot means that it’s hard at times to connect with the dancers; the performers feel too far away and it’s difficult to sense their emotions. Adding in some close up shots would resolve this issue and make the audience feel part of the performance rather than that they’re intruding on a private rehearsal. 

With studies proving that music has the power to lower our stress levels and lift our moods, it’s easy to see why Connecting Stars has become such a hit with care home residents during this difficult time. This is an impressive show with talented performers, some beautiful performances and all for a great cause. Since the launch of Connecting Stars, over 50 care homes have taken part ,with nearly 150 performances reaching over 2,000 residents. Long may it continue. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Constella’s Connecting Stars Christmas Gala is available to watch online now.

Photo credit: Musicarta Media

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