This year has been especially tough for local opera lovers, with both Opera Theatre and Union Avenue Opera cancelling their seasons. Fortunately, some major companies are making video recordings of past performances available for free. This list isn’t exhaustive—it barely scratches the surface, in fact—but it at least should give you some idea of what’s available.
|James Morris in Die Walküre|
Tonight (July 3), for example, it’s a 2011 production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” with baritone Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role. Previous freebies have included a stunning “Die Walküre” from 1989 with Jessye Norman, James Morris, Hidegard Behrens, Kurt Moll, and Christa Ludwig; a delightful “La fille du regiment” with soprano Pretty Yende and tenor Javier Camarena as the comic lovers; and a wonderfully whimsical production of Massenet’s “Cendrillon” (“Cinderella”) that I saw at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2018.
Upcoming previews include Donizetti’s comedy “Don Pasquale” on July 4. Filmed in 1979, it stars the late superstar Beverly Sills in her farewell Met performance. July 5 brings us Rossini’s “La donna del lago” (“The Lady of the Lake”), based on the 1810 narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott. Check out the Met’s Nightly Opera Streams web site for future schedules. It’s updated weekly.
|Patricia Racette in SusannahPhoto by Cory Weaver|
Previous videos have included a killer production of Busoni’s powerful “Mefistofele” with Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role and Ms. Racette as the tragic Gretchen as well as a downright disturbing "Salome" with Nadja Michael oozing deranged sexuality in the title role. It's the same production Opera Theatre gave us in 2009 with Kelly Kaduce as Salome.
Upcoming entries in the series are Rossini’s “La cenerentola” (“Cinderella”), which plays the whole story for laughs and has no supernatural elements on July 18-19, and a genuine rara avis, Janáček’s “Věc Makropulos” (“The Markopoulos Case”) on July 25-26. Based on a play by Karel Capek (author of the science fiction play “R.U.R.”) involving a complex legal case and a singer who is apparently immortal, “The Markopoulos Case” is one of those operas many of us have read about but never actually seen, so this is a great opportunity to find out what all the fuss is about.
SFO doesn’t have an app, so you’ll have to watch via their “Opera is ON” web site. That said, if your smart TV supports a webcasting app (I use Mirror for Roku myself; it’s available for both computers and devices) you can watch on your big screen with ease.
|Sara Gartland in Rusalka|
Photo by Duane Tinkey
Lest you think I’m forgetting the home team, Opera Theatre of St. Louis offers an assortment of interviews, behind-the-scenes features, and other goodies on their YouTube channel. No complete opera, alas.
There are many other digital delights available for the opera lover right now. Opera America has a complete list, which is updated on a regular basis. Check it out, but be prepared to be a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size and variety of it all.
So even though it may be a while before opera houses once again open for business, you can still turn your living room into a virtual theatre. You won’t have to pay for the drinks and you also won’t have to wait for intermission to use the toilet—a useful thing if you’re watching a marathon like “Die Walküre.”