The opera house may be closed, but the Metropolitan Opera’s music — and mission — carry on.
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, organizations have been creative in continuing to share art, whether that’s through live music, digital performances (like these by the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the Ryan Opera Center), or virtual tours of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Metropolitan Opera has also responded to the challenges of accessing art during Coronavirus: it is offering free nightly streams of its operas as well as a digital gala coming this weekend. But for parents and teachers, what might be the opera company’s most interesting digital offering is its free student streams.
Now in week 3, this initiative came out of a question: in a phone interview, Met director of education Marsha Drummond recounts, “We thought, ‘How can we get to all these kids and teachers that are stuck at home?’”
Building upon more than a decade of high school-level curriculum prepared around its flagship “Met in HD” series, the organization has created an educational program for our digital day.
Each week’s module is built around a different opera. Students can stream the week’s title and then participate in planned discussions and assignments based on the opera. In addition to beefing up its support for instructors, the Met is also hosting students and teachers in a weekly Zoom session where directors, administrators, and opera stars answer questions from the audience.
This week’s opera is a 2014 performance of Lehár’s The Merry Widow, and the Artist Chat, which will take place Wednesday, April 22 at 3:00 pm CT, features the production’s director Susan Stroman and its star Renée Fleming (RSVP at this link). “They’re both really generous with their time,” Drummond commends. Coming weeks will feature encore performances of Cendrillon, Madama Butterfly, L’elisir d’amore, and Hansel and Gretel.
One upside of the initiative, Drummond shares, is that the streams attract students of all ages and backgrounds. Last week’s title was Carmen, and in an Artist Chat with production director Richard Eyre and star Elīna Garanča, “we had a fourth-grade girl from Tennessee asking that Richard Eyre why he picked Carmen. And then all the way from Cyprus, we had a young singer asking how she should pick her repertoire.”
Though all performing arts groups are “getting hit hard,” Drummond shares, “it’s so important to support teachers and parents right now. Anything that we can provide or make available at this time is in our mission.”
Even beyond the streams’ educational merit, Drummond believes that opera can provide balm for our troubled times. “People need human connection,” she declares, “and music brings everyone together. It transcends all of our human fears. All are welcome. That is the real takeaway.”
For more information about the Metropolitan Opera’s Free Student Streams, visit metopera.org. Click here to RSVP and gain access to the Artist Chat. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.