Escape Your Sense of Isolation By Streaming Splendid Music and Dance

Janos Gereben on March 17, 2020
Yuan Yuan Tan and Alexandre Cagnat in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the new production to be streamed to ticketholders | Credit: Erik Tomasson

This time of loss and curtailment is also the horn of plenty for free streaming of music and dance.

COVID-19’s devastation of performing arts (and much else) prompted some major organizations around the world to provide digital transmission of shows and concerts — many, if not all, for free.

Closest to home, the San Francisco Ballet, which performed a grand new production of George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream just one time, on March 6, before the War Memorial was closed, took quick action to save the show.

“SF Ballet received permission,” the company announced last week, “to present a limited online stream of SF Ballet in this full-length production, which will be made available via electronic streaming on a limited basis.

“Because this limited stream required an emergency waiver from SF Ballet’s union groups, the streamed performance is available only to ticket holders,” the company announced, promising instructions by email to ticket holders on how to access the stream. The video was made last week, from two special captures rather than using the archival film of the premiere.

SF Ballet also disclosed, in advance of its full 2021 season announcement, that Midsummer Night’s Dream will be included as part of its 2021 repertory season.

All other streaming services listed here are free, including such prominent and otherwise fee-based services such as those of the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, and the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall.

Before that, here’s an important broadcast event tonight, March 17, at 8 p.m. on, 90.3 FM: the San Francisco Symphony’s acclaimed concert last month, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting, featuring soprano Julia Bullock. After this broadcast, the concert will remain available on the station’s On Demand program.

The Met has launched “Nightly Met Opera Streams,” a free series of encore Live in HD presentations streamed on the company website during the coronavirus closure

All “Nightly Met Opera Streams” will begin at 4:30 p.m. PDT and will remain available via the homepage of for 20 hours. The homepage link will open the performance on the Met Opera on Demand streaming service. (You may get “The service is unavailable” message under the new load of demand.)

Juan Diego Flórez and Diana Damrau in the Metropolitan Opera production of La Traviata — available for free streaming | Credit: Marty Sohl/Met Opera

“We’d like to provide some grand opera solace to opera lovers in these extraordinarily difficult times,” said Met General Manager Peter Gelb. “Every night, we’ll be offering a different complete operatic gem from our collection of HD presentations from the past 14 years.”

On Tuesday, March 17, it’s Puccini’s La bohème, conducted by Nicola Luisotti, starring Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas. Transmitted live in 2008.

Wednesday, March 18: Verdi’s Il trovatore, conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Anna Netrebko, Dolora Zajick, Yonghoon Lee, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Transmitted live in 2015.

Thursday, March 19: Verdi’s La traviata, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, starring Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, and Quinn Kelsey. Transmitted live in 2018.

Friday, March 20: Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez. Transmitted live in 2008.

Saturday, March 21: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala, and Mariusz Kwiecien. Transmitted live in 2009.

Sunday, March 22: Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, conducted by Valery Gergiev, starring Renée Fleming, Ramón Vargas, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Transmitted live in 2007.

Gustavo Dudamel’s concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic are available for free streaming on the Digital Concert Hall | Credit: Stephan Rabold

The Digital Concert Hall announced last week: “The Philharmonie is closed — so we will come to you! Redeem the voucher code BERLINPHIL by 31 March and receive free access to all concerts and films in the Digital Concert Hall.”

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra website, starting up in 2008, was among the first large-scale websites to transmit and archive concerts. Over 40 concerts a year are streamed from the Berlin Philharmonie in high-definition video and excellent audio quality. These and hundreds of other concerts are available on the site.

The concert archive of the Digital Concert Hall consists of recent concerts, mostly directed by Simon Rattle, but also older performances such as 1990s concerts with Claudio Abbado. Concerts from other venues, for instance the “Waldbühne” (Berlin’s open-air stage), or a series of “Europakonzerte,” are also included.

The Wiener Staatsoper has also opened up its streaming service to provide audiences with daily opera without charge. Beginning this week, the company is streaming operas from its archives mostly in the same order that audiences would have seen if they attended the theater.

For lists of other free music streaming, see The New Yorker and Sonic Distancing.