Category Archives: Music in times of crisis

Reimagining opera during the pandemic

In the current issue of The New Yorker, music critic Alex Ross writes about the multiple ways orchestras have found to reimagine their 2020-2021 seasons (“What Does It Mean to ‘Reimagine’ an Orchestra Season?”; online Nov. 30; print issue Dec 7).  Performances have ranged from outdoor chamber concerts, to streamed concerts of live music played by a reduced number of musicians, to the NY Phil Bandwagon, which during warmer weather presented more than eighty concerts in various sites throughout New York’s five boroughs. Ross’s emphasis is on orchestras, although he does mention an intriguing drive-through “Götterdämmerung” which Michigan Opera Theatre presented in Detroit in October.

Orchestras have been able to reimagine some kind of 2020-2021 season, but opera companies have not. The logistics of assembling soloists, chorus, and orchestra in an enclosed space to produce live opera are insurmountable during a pandemic when singing is known to carry an elevated risk of transmitting COVID-19.  Many opera companies have resorted to streaming previous productions. So the launch of Opera San José’s first fully-staged digital opera production in the midst of the pandemic is particularly exciting. Continue reading

More music for a time of uncertainty

Classical music critic Michael Andor Brodeur wrote in The Washington Post this morning about why classical music is so important during this time of crisis, and why classical musicians are creating a new space for themselves in the virtual world. His article, In a time of uncertainty, classical music provides a sense of permanence, is a must-read.

Brodeur’s article links to several virtual performances including one by the Cunningham Piano Online Ensemble. Before clicking on the link, I assumed this would be a piano ensemble, but Cunningham Piano is a piano showroom and music school outside of Philadelphia.  The Online Ensemble is made up of 111 musicians from 9 countries performing Mozart’s choral motet “Ave Verum Corpus.”  The virtual ensemble includes students, amateurs, and even a few musicians from The Philadelphia Orchestra in a moving performance.  The West Australian Social Distancing Orchestra (WASDO) performs a “Bit o’ Bolero,” two and a half minutes of Ravel’s Bolero. There are also links to performances from Norway, Spain, Netherlands, Colorado, and more.   Continue reading

Music for our self-isolating times

A friend remarked yesterday that artists are really stepping up during this pandemic, aware that the arts bring people together during times of crisis.  We’ve all seen the videos of Italians singing from their balconies in solidarity and in appreciation to health care workers.  The web is full of playlists and suggestions for listening, and you may be listening to more music than you usually do as you shelter in place or self-isolate at home. Many arts organizations are providing suggestions for listening or viewing, even as they are losing substantial income by having to close down.   Continue reading