Singing indoors to an audience of people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder — that’s not happening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Opera will probably be one of the last things to resume the way it used to. But the Metropolitan Opera has continued to produce shows, just not in its New York theater. The Met brings opera into homes by filming singers performing in historic locations around the world. For example: Jonas Kaufmann at the Polling Abbey in Bavaria and Renée Fleming at the Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Washington.
The Met’s New Year’s Eve Gala will be a live show from Germany’s Parktheater, featuring performers such as soprano Angel Blue and tenor Matthew Polenzani.
The show will feature classics from shows like La Boheme. Blue says it’s poignant to play Mimi during the pandemic. “Mimi's a character who's constantly searching for something, searching for this love and searching for this life that makes her happy. And I think in this moment, so many of us are also searching for that thing that will bring us a bit more certainty in this uncertain time.”
Polenzani will sing one of Rodolfo’s arias, where the character introduces himself, as well as a duet with Blue.
Polenzani says due to COVID-19 protocols, the show will be stripped down: no full orchestra and only four performers will be part of the production. Actors will be tested daily, and required to wear masks and maintain social distance.
According to Blue, performing without an audience and full orchestra creates a more intimate experience. That’s due in part to her awareness that a camera can livestream everything that’s happening onstage. She says she also misses the presence of an audience.
“While I'm up singing … hearing someone chuckle or laugh at a scene that they think is funny, or hearing someone sniff at the end of La Boheme because they've been crying … those are interactions ... maybe before COVID-19 I took those things for granted.”