Opera in the Age of COVID
Updated: Jul 29, 2020
The novel Coronavirus has forced theaters across the world to temporarily shut down. It is not a concern that large opera houses such as the MET will shut down for good, but it is likely that smaller institutions might be forced to close. What impact will this have on opera in general? For at least a few months after theaters open, people will be hesitant to attend, which will have an awesome impact on even the biggest opera houses. The MET is doing everything it can to raise funds for upcoming seasons, but it seems improbable that the millions of dollars in revenue that regular performances collect can be made up through donations. The MET recently organized an At-Home Gala in order to raise funds, in which famous singers from all over the world such as Jonas Kaufmann and Diana Damrau participated. The Gala also featured the MET Orchestra and Chorus in a moving pre-recorded performance of 'Va Pensiero; as well as in a performance of the Prelude to Act 3 of Lohengrin. Although it had a few technical issues, I was very impressed with what the MET put together. It was entertaining and truly sweet.
How can someone who usually goes to the opera regularly entertain themselves during this tough time? The MET's Nightly Opera Streams on the MET website are free and easy to stream. These are a nice way to entertain oneself. You can vote on the MET website for what you want the next opera to be. Additionally, there is always MET Opera on Demand, for which you must pay, as well as the Wiener Staatsoper equivalent. For lovers of all classical music, there is also the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall, which is now completely free for anyone to use. We are lucky to live in an age in which music is so accessible.
What will happen after all this is over? The worst-case-scenario is that medium-sized theaters - not just opera houses, but concert halls as well - will be forced to close, which will have a lasting impact on all forms of performing art. I am optimistic, though, that after all this is over, opera will survive, as it has for centuries.