How Opera’s Major Stars are Using their Platforms to Keep the Music Going

By Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Lena Kern/Sonya Garza/Yan Bleney)

With the opera world as we know it going silent, opera houses have begun streaming performances from their archives. Companies have released dress rehearsals, archival audio, and in many cases launched streaming services that show off today’s greatest performers. It’s been, in many ways, a group effort to keep opera fans continuously entertained in this moment as we await the return of live opera once again.

Many artists, including some of the most renowned, have taken their own steps to maintain interaction with their fanbase.

Some have recorded recitals like Francesco Meli and Luciano Ganci, while Joyce DiDonato and Piotr Beczala performed excerpts from “Werther” which was supposed to be showcased at the Metropolitan Opera earlier this month. There was also a live recital from Ainhoa Arteta, while Renee Fleming and Evgeny Kissin shared an “Ave Maria” from their living rooms dedicating it to the healthcare workers.

Tenor Arturo Chacon-Cruz has offered daily concerts on Facebook live from his home in Miami sharing his passion for mariachi, rock and opera. Those concert have even caught the attention of the Latin American press.

“I was talking to my team MV Talent in Mexico and I proposed that I should upload videos of me on guitar and I would accept requests. However, they suggested I do it live on facebook and that way I could connect directly with my audience. At the beginning I had to get used to the live experience, reading the comments and the requests but I slowly got accustomed to it and I realized the value of connecting with people directly. We had a wonderful response and it was great to share music and good energy for those who are in quarantine . It also gave me the opportunity to release my new single “Hallelujah”  and express expresar my solidarity and support in melancholic and difficult time,” said the Mexican tenor.

And there are those who have made sure to share a song everyday with their fans. Angela Brower and Tara Erraught have uploaded duets singing from separate countries, while Etienne Dupuis has written new songs and recorded them daily playing on the guitar, piano or the Ukulele. His wife, soprano Nicole Car, has made two special appearances singing alongside the baritone.

“I challenged myself to write a song everyday.  With a 3-year-old, it was a hard feat. It forced me to not judge myself and go with what I had,” Dupuis told OperaWire. “I found inspiration here and there, but I always end up talking about my wife and my son I think.  Nicole decided to join in on day four and it almost derailed the whole thing: I got so overly emotional having her voice right in my ear, singing those words I had written.

“The most amazing thing that happened to me in the process though, was people’s reactions to them,” the Canadian baritone continued. “I would write something simple and sweet, a bit funny, and I felt like I was moving people tuning in. In a way, I found again the whole reason I commit to singing opera: moving people.  There is no greater reason for me to do any form of art.  If you can bring an emotion, a smile, a tear, a thought even because of something new, surprising, heartfelt and true.”

Brower noted about her collaboration with Erraught, “Right after we agreed to do it- we already had so many song ideas; songs that were uplifting; that would create positive content for people to digest- even if they were just 1-minute videos of two singers trying to harmonize with each other on an app with bad doing quality- we knew we had to do it.”

The mezzo-soprano was also inspired by Yo Yo Ma who had started Songs of Comfort. She stated, “I had seen Yo-Yo Ma start the hashtag #songsofcomfort, so I suggested that we use that tag on our videos. Yo-Yo Ma even featured us on the PBS news hour in the states during an interview he gave about his initiative.”

“Doing these videos together helped Tara and I out more than I  think we realized they would. For me, it helped me have motivation to get myself ready every day- knowing I would be recording a video that would be shared.  It also helped me find positive songs we could record together that would share a positive message. The response has been amazing. Through all social media platforms we posted on, Facebook, Twitter and instagram, so many people commented and thanked us.

We have plans to create more duets- little bonus videos as long as this crisis continues. It’s so important, and Tara agrees, to be creating good content and continue sharing the gift of music during this time,” she added.

But artists have also used their platforms to educate and inform.

Earlier this month Matthew Rose and cellist Steven Isserlis created a daily challenge where they would introduce music to each other from the operatic and string repertoire. Over the course of two weeks they have uploaded videos to their Twitter accounts where they describe and talk about their daily choices.

Soprano Olga Peretyatko is using her platform to show helpful breathing exercises to strengthen muscles, while Angel Blue has launched Faithful Friday where she speaks with different artists and focuses on a different topic.

Blue noted, “I had actually been thinking about doing ‘Faithful Fridayfor a few years now. With performances cancelled I finally had the time to give it the attention that was needed. I want it to be an opportunity for connecting with people, to share some happiness and positivity during this crazy, tough time. My guests are all people that I take inspiration from and I want people to hear their insights. 

“As well as ‘Faithful Friday’ I’m planning a ‘virtual recital’ with young singers on Facebook and Instagram for this Sunday. Just like us professional singers, there’s many students out there who have lost amazing opportunities that they had been working towards at their universities or colleges or wherever. So I’ve invited them to send me clips of them performing the work they were supposed to be presenting live. And I am going to share a platform with them online for a different kind of recital,” she added.

Isabel Leonard has used her platform to launch Isa Chats where she speaks with different artists about music, the business, family and more. The mezzo also launched a Youtube channel.

And finally Lucas Meachem used the time to lead the wahsing your hands challenge that soon after took off leading to diverse singers using different arias as they washed their hands. He also gave a recital in collaboration with the Dallas Opera.