Maybe the least of our problems in the middle of a pandemic is boredom. Call it cabin fever, self-confined to your home as a good citizen who’s also acting out of self-preservation. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go out, virtually, and catch a show like way back when—last week or so—to a movie at the multiplex, a concert at the Avalon, your kid’s play or art show at school.
Forget sitting around watching alarming TV news or “Law & Order” reruns. Transport yourself to even the world’s coronavirus hot spots, such as Italy and New York City, without the slightest health risk. All you need is an Internet-connected laptop or a streaming port on the tube.
The Metropolitan Opera shut down early in March at its Lincoln Center home. You can’t even catch its “Live in HD” simulcast series at the Avalon or other venues across the country. But you can see and hear encore Met performances nightly at 7:30, and for 20 hours after the original stream, for the duration of the shutdown. Enjoy performances for free on the website from the company’s “Live in HD” catalog, including Verdi’s “La Traviata” March 19 and Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” March 22, starring Renee Fleming.
The deadly virus first struck the U.S. hardest in Washington state where concerts by the Seattle Symphony, like most other orchestras everywhere, have been canceled until further notice. But the Seattle Symphony began streaming smaller ensemble performances by its musicians and rebroadcasting past full-orchestral concerts through its social media links on YouTube and Facebook. See what’s coming up by going here and signing up for email alerts on upcoming online concerts.
Other orchestras offer audio-only streamed recordings of past concerts, such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, while the New York Philharmonic presents audio rebroadcasts of past concerts and video clips. Both are free.
For restless kids unaccustomed to being homebound in the spring, Easton’s Academy Art Museum, while closed for its usual programs, is presenting a series of art-at-home activities, starting with a free download of “Australian Aboriginal Dot Art” available on its site.
Access to the visual arts through virtual tours of the greatest museums in the world have been available for years. But technology has greatly enhanced the experience. Right now, you can be admitted to the Uffizi Gallery while the streets outside are deserted as Florence is in lockdown. Inside, you’ll encounter Michelangelo’s David and one of the world’s top collections of Renaissance art. While touring Europe, don’t miss the Louvre in Paris, where you can skip the crowds around “Mona Lisa” for a private audience with her. Then stop by the Musee d’Orsay, a former railroad terminal on the Seine now home to arguably the most captivating array of Impressionist paintings anywhere. Next, skip over to Amsterdam for a feverish tour of the Van Gogh Museum followed by a Rembrandt-highlighted visit to the Rijksmuseum. In London, antiquity, by American standards, is the focus of the British Museum. And then you’re free to return closer to home with a seat-of-the-pants tour of the voluminous Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan and a whirlwind look at the National Gallery of Art and its Smithsonian neighbors in Washington, D.C. But don’t neglect the West Coast. The J. Paul Getty Museum survived the most recent California inferno, and its treasure was rescued—at least until the next disaster.
Go to individual museum sites for virtual tours or window shop among 2,500 available sites. For shortcuts, try this. But don’t kid yourself (snob alert!). Assuming there are future opportunities, seeing the art for real is digitally non-replicable. Meanwhile, you can’t get a better view.
Broadway is shut down, probably past Tony Awards season. With no live streaming of shows now, Broadway World is posting “Living Room concerts” featuring currently out-of-work actors doing solo or duo concerts from their apartments, hotel suites—whatever… Writers, actors, singers, and dancers are sharing glimpses of their talents nightly at 7:30 on Instagram, while the Actors Fund is planning to raise money for performers-in-need with daily videos on its site featuring theater stars singing from home.
Even high school and college students are getting in on the act. Broadway Tony winner Laura Benanti went on Twitter to invite kids to post video clips on #SunshineSongs of rehearsals and performances of canceled shows. College theater seniors are posting showcases of their canceled work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in hopes they’ll be noticed by agents and industry professionals.
To see full-length musical classics, go to Broadway HD, a subscription service that invites you to pluck any play or musical from its library. Among its “must-see” shows are Cats (I’m waiting for the Dogs sequel), Carousel, my favorite Rodgers-and-Hammerstein, the 2013-14 Tony-winning best musical Kinky Boots, among its most recent offerings, and the original Sweeney Todd (superb Sondheim) and The King and I. Shows taped for PBS and other outlets can be found on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube, including a Sondheim troika—Company, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods—plus Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate and Disney’s Newsies. Most are by subscription or at roughly $6.99 a pop.
If you’re out and about in a few months, itching to see a show live on Broadway or in Baltimore, D.C., or Philly, just cancel the above subscriptions and apply your savings toward those expensive ticket prices.
Look for more suggestions this month, including TV and streaming recommendations, and where you can see Best Picture Oscar nominees you might have missed as movie theaters closed.
Steve Parks is a former New York arts critic, writer, and editor now living in Easton.