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It's not the same as being there, but opera and classical performances are available for streaming

It's not the same as being there, but opera and classical performances are available for streaming

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St. Louis Symphony Orchestra bassoonist gives porch performance

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra bassoonist Felicia Foland plays a porch performance for neighbors gathered in front of her home April 2, 2020. 

With each passing week, more and more performances scheduled for the late spring, summer and even early fall have been canceled.

The latest of note is the Ravinia Festival, located in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs; the country’s oldest music festival, it’s the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was scheduled to present 120 performances in assorted genres between June 12 and Sept. 16. It joins a host of local, national and international attractions in losing a complete season.

It’s not the same, but for fans of classical music, there are a lot of streaming attractions to be enjoyed, from operas and symphonic performances to chamber music and individual artists. Here’s a brief sampling.

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

The musicians of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus have made videos for a series called “SLSO at Home,” brief solo appearances that give an idea of their personalities and abilities. Bassoonist Felicia Foland performs on her front porch for her neighbors; flutist Jennifer Nitchman performs a split-screen duet with her talented student Daphne Levy of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra; Roger Kaza takes his horn outdoors and performs Franz Schubert’s “Auf dem Strom (On the River)” in a kayak, on a river. You can find them on YouTube, or at slsostories.org/see-the-slso.

The Metropolitan Opera

The Metropolitan Opera in New York furloughed most of its union employees — the musicians of the chorus and orchestra, the stagehands, carpenters, wardrobe employees and others — and general manager Peter Gelb is not taking a salary for the duration. But the Met is doing something for patrons: free streaming of one “Live in HD” or Met telecast each day.

Each week's lineup is announced a week ahead of time. It has shown some pretty great performances, including soprano Patricia Racette as Cio-Cio San in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” and the immortal Leontyne Price’s farewell to opera in “Aida.” This weekend, it will offer the performance that launched the PBS series “Live From the Met:” Puccini’s “La Bohème,” starring Renata Scotto and Luciano Pavarotti. You can find the Met’s channel with your Roku or similar device, or at metopera.org.

Academy of Ancient Music

The variety of free music streams available is broad. A good sampling of early music is available from the Academy of Ancient Music, which is streaming a full-length concert, ranging from Handel’s “Messiah” and “The Art of the Lute” to a concert performance of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” at 3 p.m. Sundays on YouTube; past offerings remain available.

Apollo’s Fire

The Baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire has a variety of performances available on its website, apollosfire.org, including a dramatic production of J.S. Bach’s “St. John Passion” and a program called “Beethoven the Revolutionary” that includes the Violin Concerto in D and the Symphony No. 5, all led by founder and music director Jeannette Sorrell. And pianist Jonathan Biss, particularly noted for his performances of Beethoven, offers a daily dose of the composer on his Facebook page.

San Francisco Symphony

The San Francisco Symphony has made all of its pioneering and essential “Keeping Score” series available, with music director Michael Tilson Thomas on YouTube. Thomas, with the help of the orchestra, explores important works by significant conductors; it’s not to be missed. Also not to be missed: the equally classic six-episode BBC series “The Royal Opera House,” which demonstrates that the drama at an opera house is emphatically not limited to what happens onstage.

It’s worth noting that, while these streaming performances are being offered at no charge, classical performers and those who support them, from stagehands to administrators, are suffering from severe financial difficulties; an opera company can’t really work from home.

Most soloists are freelancers who often end up receiving nothing when an organization invokes force majeure, a clause in many contracts that allows those contracts to be canceled due to what Merriam-Webster defines as “an event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled,” including wars, earthquakes and pandemics.

Consider a donation to help the opera company, orchestra or artists. The American Guild of Musical Artists is the union for singers, dancers and production staff; a contribution to the AGMA Relief Fund (musicalartists.org/membership/agma-relief-fund) can go a long way to help them. A new charitable organization, Artist Relief Tree (artistrelieftree.com), was formed to help artists of all kinds, from singers and instrumentalists to visual artists.

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Sarah Bryan Miller is the classical music critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; she has also written on a variety of other topics.

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