Arbeit Opera kickoff

A refugee flees a totalitarian country, leaving behind his family. He waits for a visa, which is never issued. Gian Carlo Menotti's 1950 opera "The Consul" remains bitingly topical today. Arbeit Opera Theatre, a brand-new Twin Cities company, presents a rare opportunity to see "The Consul" in a staging directed by David Radam├ęs Toro. (7 p.m. Thu. & Fri., Wellstone Center, St. Paul.; suggested ticket price $20, brownpaper tickets.com)

Opera star gets arty

Ducks, turkeys, mice, a warthog, an armadillo. They all feature into "Carnival of the Animals," a themed song recital by outstanding baritone Christopher Maltman. Best known as an opera singer, Maltman starred in the Metropolitan Opera's recent premiere of Nico Muhly's "Marnie." But he also has strong credentials as an interpreter of art song. His Schubert Club program is sure to be a delight, with music by Poulenc ("Le Bestiaire"), Ravel ("Histoires Naturelles"), Schumann, Reger and Chabrier. (7:30 p.m. Thu., 10:30 a.m. Sat., Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul, $26-$68, 651-224-4222 or schubert.org)

British baroque

Richard Egarr has emerged over the past decade as a leading performer of baroque music, equally at home as a harpsichord soloist or at the conductor's lectern. Taking a break from his directorship of England's prestigious Academy of Ancient Music, Egarr leads four St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts that focus squarely on English baroque composers. That includes works by Purcell, Locke and Avison as well as selections from "Water Music" by Handel, an adoptive son of London. (7:30 p.m. Thu., Temple Israel, Mpls.; 7 p.m. Fri., Humboldt High School Auditorium, St. Paul; 8 p.m. Sat., Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul; 2 p.m. Sun., Ted Mann Concert Hall, Mpls.; $11-$50, 651-291-1144 or thespco.org)

Welcome Christmas

VocalEssence has a long tradition of performing new Christmas choral music. The group revisits the best commissions from its first 50 years with "Welcome Christmas 2018." The program includes carols by winners of the 21st annual Welcome Christmas Carol Contest as well as a world premiere by Nico Muhly. (7:30 p.m. Sat., Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Apple Valley; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, Roseville Lutheran Church, Roseville; 4 p.m. Dec. 8-9, Plymouth Congregational Church, Mpls.; $20-$40, 612-371-5656, vocalessence.org)

Fresh takes on Christmas classics

"Three Nativity Carols" by the late Twin Cities composer Stephen Paulus form the centerpiece of "What Sweeter Music," a Christmas program by the Singers. The program promises fresh takes on familiar material, including two specially arranged carols by artistic director and conductor Matthew Culloton. (7:30 p.m. Sat., Annunciation Catholic Church, Mpls.; 3 p.m. Sun., Westwood Lutheran Church, St. Louis Park; 2 p.m. Dec. 9, Nativity of Our Lord, St. Paul; $22-$36, singersmca.org)

TERRY BLAIN