Music Organizations Turn to the Internet for Performance Possibilities During the Quarantine

With theaters and concert halls darkened, local arts organizations have decided to put their product online. Last week I responded to an invitation from Los Angeles Opera—it simply appeared in my always overflowing email inbox one morning—to listen to an afternoon recital online that would feature two young singers from the company.

Raúl Prieto Ramiz, San Diego Civic Organist [photo (c.) Robert Lang]

LA Opera at Home is a smartly-produced, easily accessed mode that suggests that singers and their adept accompanist have simply stopped by your spacious living room—with its well-tuned grand piano, of course—to serenade you with a sampling of art songs and arias from their personal repertory. On Wednesday, March 18, soprano Alasha Fox and tenor Robert Stahley, accompanied by pianist Brendon Shapiro, streamed a joint recital that included Fox’s ravishing songs by Richard Strauss, H. T. Burleigh, and Samuel Barber, while Stahley offered a portion of a Robert Schumann song cycle and Henri Duparc’s sensual “Phidylé.

This series, easily accessed from the L.A. Opera website, is produced weekly by Los Angeles Opera, and this afternoon, March 25, soprano Erica Petrocelli and pianist Louis Lohraseb gave another joint vocal and piano program that included keyboard music by J.S. Bach and songs by the contemporary American composer Jake Heggie, whose operas have proved popular with San Diego Opera. At this time, these recitals and two others from last week are still available on the company’s website.

Although San Diego Opera has a significant number of its productions stored in its library, according to Director of Communications Edward Wilensky, the costs involved to broadcast or stream these operas in any format would be prohibitive. But the company, along with several other American opera companies, will participate in a series of pre-performance talks appended to nightly online streaming of productions by New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Nicholas Reveles, San Diego Opera’s longtime Education Director, will give such a talk prior to the April 5 broadcast of the Met’s production of Norma by Vincenzo Bellini.

Approaching the one-year anniversary of opening the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, the La Jolla Music Society (LJMS) is feeling the loss of presenting music in their two new stellar halls. But at noon this Friday, March 27, the organization is presenting Spanish classical guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas in their Digital Concert Hall through the society’s Facebook page. Sainz last performed for the LJMS at The Conrad in December 2019.

On Friday’s program he will perform works by the Spanish nationalist composer Francisco Tárrega, and those who follow online can actually ask the performer questions.

The Spreckels Organ Society has quickly changed to online recitals posted on the organization’s website at the usual 2:00 p.m. Sunday time, although they have been recorded earlier in each week. Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramirez played an all-Bach recital last Sunday, the inaugural online recital, and is slated as soloist again this coming Sunday, March 29. The recital can be heard only at the 2:00 p.m. Sunday time.

The San Diego Symphony continues its regular Sunday evening broadcast on KPBS-FM (89.5) at 8:00 p.m., a longstanding collaboration between the orchestra and the station that presents entire concerts from previous seasons. Last Sunday, the fare was a blockbuster concert of Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten, and Dmitri Shostakovich from January, 2019, conducted by Music Director Rafael Payare.

I listened to Sunday’s broadcast of that concert to see how it compared to my memory of last year’s concert. As soloist Britten’s Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, Alisa Weilerstein’s virtuosity came across with ease, although not being able to watch the soloist proved a disadvantage following the progress of the work’s opening movement, an opaque collage of overly disparate themes. But Payare’s masterful account Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony came through brilliantly, as did the muscular but highly focused sound of the orchestra. Strauss’s tone poem “Don Juan” sounded equally robust and rewarding.

Although the theater is not my beat, I should alert readers that Moxie Theatre is offering its first ZoomFest this Friday and Saturday, March 27 and 28, a performance of the play Safe Distance, featuring a cast of Andréa Agosto, Jill Drexler, Timothy L. Cabal, and Matthew Salazar-Thompson. The access to this virtual performance is via the company’s website:

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