These are strange times, and I am still not convinced that going virtual is the way. Has it afforded us some opportunities we would not have had otherwise? Sure. Has it required us to get creative in ways we could not have imagined? Certainly.
This was a piece that did not feel as though it existed musically as a complete score but more so in the gathering of people together, in the physicality of the performance space, and in the unknowable magic that occurs in the moment of performance itself.
How do you stage something that is so static in tableau and also has so few characters? And more to the point, how does a company stage it in a time when theaters are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Renée Fleming knows her audience, or in this case, the lack of one. Creating a sense of intimate occasion in the elegant music salon at Dumbarton Oaks, a Georgetown estate with a musical pedigree of its own, Fleming made her contribution to the Metropolitan Opera's MET Stars Live streaming concert series feel like a musical get-together.
With no performances scheduled in the United States scheduled for the next six months will there still be an audience? I think so, and I hope so. Cautious performances like those put on by Northern Lights are essential to keeping the spirit of opera alive in the United States. Let us hope for more innovation and live music making in the coming months.
Chordless has created an intriguing piece of art with this Crumb video, and it'll be a neat experience to view it, and then have an immediate face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) with the folks who made it.
A total treat, though, was pianist Angela Hewitt's bit of Rameau. She was friendly and humble, and got right to the point with her camera angle, aimed at her energetic and nimble hands. Hewitt's contribution showed us how this whole thing can work well; it's solidified my hunch that finding the way to do this on-screen thing is uniquely difficult for opera singers.
Honestly, in that scene where Mr. X.E. takes a cleaver to the angels' wings, I think I had an "aha" moment. I thought I'd experienced that thing where the story is excellent and the music makes it even more excellent, but this moment was something else entirely.
Instead, composer Olga Neuwirth chose Woolf’s Orlando, her often funny faux-autobiography about a young nobleman in the court of Elizabeth I who awakens one morning as a woman and proceeds to roam about time and space for the next 300 years.
I felt like I was actually in a garden surrounded by drooping blossoms, or actually at the opening of a cavernous hole. Throughout I got the sense that this was a production that put a great deal of effort into engaging the senses all at once and imparting an aura of wonderment.