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For most of us, attending the Paris Opera is a distant dream but COVID-19 has a tiny silver lining. The Paris opera is making some of its productions available for us to stream. Many of them are available in France only and we have every right to complain.

Check their website for what is available in Canada. Until June 7, you can see a fascinating production of Verdi’s perennial favourite Rigoletto. It is directed by Claus Guth so you must be prepared for something unusual. Unorthodox and perhaps brilliant.

Guth’s interpretation of Rigoletto is indeed brilliant. We know that Rigoletto is two people. We see mostly the clown who must entertain the debauched Duke of Mantua and the cruel and disgusting courtiers. Behind the clown’s mask there is a father who wants to protect his daughter, a man who is disgusted with what he does for a living, but does he have a choice?

Guth presents us with Rigoletto the human being and his double the clown. We see both on the stage and the production adds a different dimension to the opera making it even more tragic because it never lets us forget the human Rigoletto.

Quinn Kelsey is Rigoletto the clown with Pascal Lifschutz as his silent double. Michael Fabiano is the carefree and debauched Duke with Olga Peretyatko as a lively and attractive Gilda. It is available for streaming until June 7, 2020 here

There is a great deal of material from the Paris Opera in addition to Rigoletto.

If the Paris Opera seems far, how about Opera Australia from Sydney Harbour? After something like a twenty-hour endurance test by airplane in flight and you will arrive in the gorgeous city of Sydney.

If that seems farfetched, opera Australia is offering five operas and some historic videos for us to stream and imagine we are in Australia.

Try Aida with Latonia Moore in the title role with Walter Faccaro as Radames and Milijiana Nicolic as Amneris directed by Gale Edwards. Done outdoors by the harbour, this is opera on a grand scale.

The Egyptian officers with their high boots, medal-bedecked chests and army hats look like the ruling class of a banana republic or perhaps Mubarak’s Egypt. Latonia Moore wears a beautiful and colourful dress that may well be Ethiopian and spectacularly large head gear. She has a powerful voice and delivers a grand Aida. Nicolic as Amneris is decked out in gold and has a lush mezzo voice.  Faccaro is an effective Radames.

It is done outside and at night and we cannot appreciate all the grandeur, but we get a pretty good idea of the director’s interpretation and the overall effect. When the victorious Radames returns to the music of the Triumphal March he has acquired a bright red uniform, a gold-trimmed cape, and more medals. He rides a camel and spectacular fireworks over the sky of Sydney harbour celebrate his return from war. What else can one expect?

Opera Australia also offers La Traviata directed by Francesca Zambello in 2012. The stage is set in the harbour with the high-rise buildings Sydney in the background. Do not expect any intimacy because this is not the place for it. But the grandeur carries you along. All the singers are seriously miked (as in Aida). When the guests at Violetta’s party sing the famous Libiamo in the first act, it is followed by spectacular fireworks.

Emma Matthews sings Violetta with Gianluca Terranova in the role of Alfredo Germont and Jonathan Summers as his father Giorgio Germont.

June 5, 2020

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