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TV REVIEW : 'Flicka' Christmas

December 18, 1987|JOHN HENKEN

There are some horses in tonight's "Christmas With Flicka" program on PBS, but the titular Flicka is American mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. Her hourlong Christmas special for "Great Performances" (at 8 p.m. on Channel 24 and at 9 p.m. on Channels 28 and 15) is as pretty as a post card--and not much livelier.

The New Jersey native visits idyllic St. Wolfgang, a lakeside village in the Austrian Alps, in the company of two local children and three guests. Taped in October without a hint of snow, the program follows her around the village and environs, looking like outtakes from an exceptionally sedate travelogue.

The musical selections are nicely sung, though the lip-syncing is often only approximate. The international carols newly arranged by Joseph Canteloube prove particularly effective, in Von Stade's smooth, silken singing and the touristy context.

Some choices, however, seem incongruous at best. Broadway's Rex Smith offers a lightly sung "Greensleeves"--with the original words. Apparently somebody considered the ballad to an Elizabethan courtesan appropriate Christmas fare.

At least Smith does not sing it at the midnight Mass. There, Von Stade sings a truncated, unembellished "He Shall Feed His Flock" from "Messiah," and rises easily to a high C in the third movement of Mozart's "Exsultate, jubilate."

Former New York City Opera director Julius Rudel accompanies Flicka at organ and piano. Melba Moore sings a bright, simple "Rise Up Shepherd, and Follow," and joins Von Stade and Smith in ensembles.

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