Corona crisis: Opera stars come out of isolation | Music | DW | 06.04.2020
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Corona crisis: Opera stars come out of isolation

Cultural life stands still in times of coronavirus, at least in the analog world. But a lot is happening online. Just take a look at the Instagram accounts of star opera singers.

"Corona, corona, corona, we're all now sitting at home / Corona, corona, corona, instead of visiting the theater," warbles the celebrated tenor Jonas Kaufmann to a cheerful accordion melody playing on his computer. "Concert hall and opera, everything is shut, so all we have is hope it won't take all that long." 

"It's good that you haven't lost your sense of humor," comments one Instagram friend on Kaufmann's corona serenade, which has gained 6,000-odd likes on the social media platform. 

With performances, recordings and even rehearsals canceled for the foreseeable future, Kaufmann and his fellow opera superstars from across the globe are trying to keep a positive attitude during their corona downtime. Some are now simply going on tour through their apartments.

Undaunted in times of crisis

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, Russian-Austrian diva Anna Netrebko exudes life-affirming energy online. Having performed alongside Jonas Kaufmann in Verdi's La Forza del Destino in March 2019, Netrebko is in corona isolation in her spacious apartment in downtown Vienna a year later.

She might regret that she cannot shine as Tosca on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in March and April as had been planned but is making the most of her life indoors with son, Tjago, and tenor husband Yusif Eyvazov.

: Pancakes with cream topping and berries on top, a collection of colorful hats and a poster announcing an appearance of Anna Netrebko in Tosca

Pancakes, hats, nostalgia for a different world: Anna Netrebko's Instagram in times of Corona

Netrebko's Instagram community, which has now grown to over half a million subscribers, is watching "Annuschka" with great interest as she remodels her living room: Dressed in pajama bottoms, the singer enthusiastically moves heavy furniture on her own. She also carefully sorts her impressive hat collection. And then the cooking begins.

Food is, after all, one of the singer's great offstage passions. Whether tacos with pulled beef; tagliatelle with prawns in cream sauce; pancakes with sour cream; or raspberries pureed with brown sugar, cooking à la Netrebko is as rich as her vocals. 

Netrebko believes it's important to impart her culinary know-how to her followers because, as she reminds them: "Corona doesn't mean you stop eating."

Kristine Opolais in an orange stocking cap in the sunshine, Piotr Beczala waves from a forest house

Vacation at home: Kristine Opolais says hi from Latvia, Piotr Beczala from Poland

Home sweet home 

For many international stars, the corona timeout also means an unexpected opportunity to return home in the middle of an opera season. Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais, ex-wife of conductor Andris Nelsons, is enjoying spring at Jurmala, a sophisticated spa southeast of the capital, Riga.  

In a short video message she calls on everyone to enjoy the quiet time and to reflect on the "real values" in their lives, and the "people who you really love, and understand who really loves you." 

The tenor Piotr Beczala, who raised a storm of applause as the new Lohengrin at the 2018 Bayreuth Festival, is back with family in his native Poland. Embracing the solitude in their retreat in the Giant Mountains National Park, the singer informed his 36,000 Instagram faithful of "a place that always calms us and fills us with energy." 

Piotr Beczala, clad as a mechanic, in the current Bayreuth Festival production of Lohengrin

No appearance in Bayreuth this year: Piotr Beczala (l.) as Lohengrin in 2018

"We were all suddenly forced to stop in this constant race we call life," Beczala continued in a post from April 2. "Maybe this is our chance to rethink our lives and our priorities, devote more attention to what we miss in our daily rush — the closeness of our loved ones, the beauty of the nature that surrounds us, the joy of small pleasures. Please look after yourself and each other, and try to make the most of this #timeathome."

Singing for a good cause 

Of course, many in the opera business are having a rough time. "But how to earn a living when the show's not going on? Low tide in the wallet leaves many artists fearful," continues Jonas Kaufmann's corona ditty.  

He is well aware that he and his star colleagues still have it very good compared to less renowned freelance singers, musicians, directors and others who are hired and paid exclusively for individual projects or performances. 

Jonas Kaufmann ad Kristine Opolais hold hands tightly and sing into each other's ears

Social distancing on the opera stage isn't easy: Jonas Kaufmann and Kristine Opolais (2014 in "Manon Lescaut", London)

Kaufmann thus combines his serenade with an appeal to all opera fans to especially support these opera workers via the website saengerhilfe.de (Help for singers).

"Dear opera and concert enthusiasts, wherever you are, I know there are many problems right now," he writes in the Instagram post accompanying his corona song video. "Even so, I would like to ask you: If you're interested in enjoying such a varied and high-quality range of culture in Germany in the future, please donate ... I can assure you, your ears will be grateful for it!"

Olga Peretyatko in a yellow coat, black sweater and large sunglasses, alone on concrete steps next to a river in a city

Olga Peretyatko takes a deep breath and looks forward to when it's all over

Take a deep breath  

Berlin-based singers Anna Prohaska and Olga Peretyatko are also trying to make the most of the lockdown. While Anna Prohaska rehearses new parts and sings for passersby from her balcony, Olga Peretyatko gives Instagram lessons on breathing techniques that strengthen the lungs and help to cope with stress.

People without artistic ambitions can benefit from them, too: Take a deep breath, exhale slowly, pay attention to yourself, sing silently, think positively. The techniques also help against corona depression. Now is the time to try them out.

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