Though Peter Gelb, general director of the Metropolitan Opera since 2006, did not invent live opera onscreen, he certainly opened the floodgates. Now that the coronavirus has shut down opera houses worldwide, the Met charges to the rescue of fans everywhere with free Live in HD reruns on metopera.org (one per evening, available for 20 hours). Prophetically, the first week opened with Carmen, starring Elīna Garanča and Roberto Alagna. The formula so far seems to be All Warhorses, All the Time, led by the glamorous likes of Anna Netrebko, Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Quinn Kelsey.
The Vienna State Opera, renowned for the matchless depth and breadth of its active repertoire, has jumped in more boldly. Streaming on staatsoperlive.com, the company is replicating, as closely as possible, the schedule originally announced for the coming weeks. Free treats are being dispensed with a lavish hand. Among the temptations: a complete Ring pieced together from different seasons, Die Frau ohne Schatten, and—most strikingly of all—rival takes on evergreens like Le Nozze di Figaro, L’elisir d’amore, Tosca, and Falstaff—plus collectors’ items like the Chekhov adaptation Tri Sestri, by Péter Eötvös, and Edward Clug’s ballet Peer Gynt, after Ibsen’s epic mishmash (historically opera and ballet are sister arts, properly housed under the same roof). On staatsoper.tv, the Bavarian State Opera, Munich, is serving up just a goodie or two, but they are goodies, including a Trovatore starring Jonas Kaufmann and Balanchine’s prismatic three-act summation of French, American, and Russian classical dancing, his incomparable Jewels.
Arguably the virus’s single most grievous operatic casualty has been Sweet Land, the mythopoeic, outdoor meditation on America from The Industry, in Los Angeles. Evoking the first contact of an indigenous civilization of “Hosts” with an undreamt-of cohort of alien “Arrivals,” the piece unfolds on nonintersecting planes impossible to take in on a single viewing. Described by its multiple creators as “an opera that erases itself,” Sweet Land opened late last month to bewildered hosannas only to vanish before its time. While glimpses may already be seen online, a comprehensive video goes live on demand on March 25. Announcing the plan, The Industry’s founder Yuval Sharon said that the company would be charging “a small amount,” just to help defray the costs of an outfit whose chief asset is the courage to dream. The price has now been set at $14.99, a pittance. To pre-order, visit http://stream.sweetlandopera.com.