Joyce DiDonato and Piotr Beczala made sure the show went on, albeit in an unusual format and venue — from the living room of DiDonato’s New York City apartment. The American mezzo-soprano and Polish tenor had been scheduled to star in Massenet’s Werther at the Metropolitan Opera starting Monday (March 16).
The Met’s shutdown because of the coronavirus outbreak caused the cancellation of the first five of six scheduled performances through March 31. Accompanied by Met assistant conductor Howard Watkins at the piano and principal harp Emmanuel Ceysson, the pair performed excerpts for nearly 90 minutes Sunday that were streamed live on DiDonato’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
Given that many artists have lost at least two months of income because of force majeure provisions in their contracts, they used the livestream to ask for donations for the American Guild of Musical Artists relief fund and Artist Relief Tree. Beczala, singing the title role, was in a suit and open collar shirt, and DiDonato, as Charlotte, wore a black dress.
“Since we can’t sing on Monday night, we thought let’s get together in this salon, like they used to do in the old days, which we might have to do in the new days, too,” she said. “Just two of us,” Beczala interjected. “Who needs baritones and sopranos?” she added. He grabbed a flower from a vase atop the upright piano, and they danced in the first act.
“Technically, this is not a Metropolitan Opera live in HD,” she said. “This is literally an iPhone and a laptop.” Judging from the thousands of comments, the stream was watched by people around the world. One even wrote it was nice to hear no applause interrupting the third act following Werther’s big aria, “Pourquoi me reveiller (Why do you awaken me)?” “Everybody should have the chance to have a harp in their house at one time,” she said, adding, “and a tenor — I meant Piotr.”
Beginning, the Met Opera will stream titles from its “Live in HD” series through its website. The first offering will be a 2010 performance of Bizet’s Carmen. The daily streams will begin at 7:30 p.m. and be available for 20 hours. “We’d like to provide some grand opera solace to opera lovers in these extraordinarily difficult times,” Met general manager Peter Gelb said in a statement. “Every night, we’ll be offering a different complete operatic gem from our collection of HD presentations from the past 14 years.”