How to enjoy the opera from the comfort of your home

From the MET to Cork Opera House, Cathy Desmond selects some of the best streaming options for fans

The Cork Opera House, like every other theatre, will be closed for the time being
The Cork Opera House, like every other theatre, will be closed for the time being

With opera houses and concert halls dark all over the world, many companies are reacting to the Covid-19 crisis by opening their archives and putting some of their best productions online for all to enjoy, free of charge.

Opera was never more accessible. If you are struggling to find something on Netflix, maybe now is the time to dip your toe in this grand artform.

It’s not the same as being there. In some ways it is better. No dressing up, no high bar prices, and feel free to leave your armchair whenever you please.

So, don your best pyjamas, fire up your laptop, cast to your tv, pour yourself a glass something sparkling and enjoy my pick of the best on offer.

Irish National Opera

The company has two terrific productions from the 2019 season available online. Puccini’s Madame Butterfly with Celine Byrne recorded at Cork Opera House is on RTÉ Player until April 6.

Tara Erraught’s Met Opera debut in the title role of Rossini’s La Cenerentola was a casualty of the cancellations but you can hear her sing Angelina in INO’s magical production recorded at Bórd Gais Energy Theatre Dublin, worth a view for the splendid Act 2 sets.

Opera North: Ring Cycle

Wagner’s epic cycle of four operas based on a fantasy tale of gods, dwarves, river maidens and giants is the ultimate operatic binge watch.

Opera North announced last week that the entire 16 hours of their acclaimed staging of the work are now available to watch free of charge.

Bavarian State Opera

The Munich based opera company was the first to embrace live streaming back in 2012.

The production of Il Trovatore featuring the celebrity casting of Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann is available to watch on the company website until March 28.

A Kennedy-era setting of Lucia di Lammermoor will be online from March 25 to April 8. Diana Damrau stars and Clare tenor Dean Power is in the cast.

The Met Opera

The prestigious New York company is releasing one opera each night from its back catalogue of acclaimed productions. The production is available to watch for 20 hours before the next release.

This week’s schedule is another Wagner marathon. Wednesday’s offering from 2011 is Die Walkure featuring a stellar cast starring Deborah Voigt, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel (left).

Wexford Festival Opera

If you have never been to the National Opera House, a virtual visit is a click away.

The company specialises in rarely heard works, and live-streamed one of its three main productions in 2018 and 2019. Both shows are still available to watch on YouTube. While, neither are among the best of what Wexford has produced, they are worth a look for the luxurious stagecraft as much as the singing. Il Brava has intriguing tilting sets of Venice, and Dorilla in Tempe is a flamboyant Baroque period piece.

Centenary Gala at Wigmore Hall

London’s premier chamber music venue is in the vanguard extending the platform beyond the doors of the bijou concert hall in W1. Director John Gilhooly has opened the archive of recitals streamed live over the last four years. The 2016 Centenary Gala is a good place to start. The event featured a plethora of high ranking Irish classical music artists.

New York Festival of Song

Performed behind closed doors in a historic house in Westchester County and live-streamed on March 15, 2020, this song recital, titled The Art of Pleasure, is delightful. It features songs by Rachmaninoff, Bernstein, Tom Lehrer, John Musto, and others. A perfect antidote to self-isolation blues.

Digital Concert Halls

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has made its digital archive online free to all until March 31. The archive includes the most recent event, a strange performance in an empty house with an thoughtful introduction by Simon Rattle. (digitalconcerthall.com)

Closer to home several performances by the RTE orchestras are available on YouTube.

For a blast of St Patrick’s cheer, there is a recording of September’s performance of Shaun Davey’s ‘The Brendan Voyage’, and the 19th century Irish opera Eithne with Gavan Ring as High King.

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