The pandemic has offered a measure of clarity to the world of performing arts. Artists have been knocked for a loop by the lost pay due to gigs that couldn’t happen. Businesses are badly messed up by lost revenues, wondering whether they’ll recover when the threat from the virus abates and we begin to emerge from hiding places, resuming our normal lives, if at all possible.
And in the meantime we’re all relying on our computers & phones. Instead of going in to the office many work from home, relying on Zoom or other virtual tools. To keep from going crazy we’re consuming arts & entertainment through our devices rather than live.
This week I’m nostalgic as I recall the first week of March in 2020, one year ago.
On March 1st I saw the National Ballet, including Angels Atlas, in my final visit to Four Seasons Centre before the cancellations began.
On Thursday March 5th I saw my last concert in Koerner Hall, the only Beethoven 250 event I would see.
And on the Saturday night March 7th I saw my last theatre performance of the year, Toronto Operetta Theatre’s HMS Pinafore.
Since then, everything has been online. Alexander Neef has just left the Canadian Opera Company, after years of excellent productions. I remember the sadness as they closed, knowing that we couldn’t see them again. Today I watched the first installment of a Ring Cycle from the San Francisco Opera, available for free until tomorrow from their website. Next weekend they’ll offer the next opera via the same URL, and so on.
Other nights we’ve been able to watch a free recorded performance from the Metropolitan Opera’s accumulated wealth of shows, previously offered in their High Definition series or even earlier as “Live from the Met”.
And of course there’s the content that you pay for.
If we had the kind of technology of either the Met or SFO, our pandemic experience could have been lightened by locally produced work rather than foreign imports. I can’t be the only one thinking “gee I wish we had something like that here in Canada”. Sure I like the free shows, but wouldn’t it be great if the tickets were supporting a Canadian company. Imagine if they had the additional revenue stream from the virtual performances to complement live.
And let me add, I know Toronto isn’t really the centre of the world much as it may seem as though Torontonians think so. It’s a bit embarrassing when you notice that we have the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada, perhaps as vestiges of a time when we thought that no other city could support such an endeavour, notwithstanding the many cities across Canada that actually do have lots of opera, symphony, ballet etc. Thank goodness there are occasional tours, although they don’t go to the whole country anymore (if they ever did).
But wow, what if those operas or ballets were captured for virtual viewing..? Then their national names would be fulfilled, because the citizens from Cornerbrook to Cranbrook could see their so-called “national” companies in action without coming to Toronto.
So the recent announcement of federal money to provide “digital infrastructure” at the Four Seasons Centre sounds very welcome indeed, as though the folks on Parliament Hill are trying to be helpful.
For tonight, I was enjoying that SFO production of Das Rheingold, not the COC or National Ballet. I will be catching up on other virtual performances by Canadians when I get the chance.
Tapestry Opera begin offering Our Song D’Hiver, starring Mireille Asselin and pianist Frédéric Lacroix.
Toronto Operetta Theatre will again feature Gilbert & Sullivan, although in a virtual version, as they present The Gondoliers beginning March 19th; further info via this link
And of course there’s lots more available online.
In the meantime, stay safe and soon we’ll have vaccinations & sometime thereafter live performances.