Seattle Opera Releases Digital Productions

Leah Bromagen, Staff Writer

     When the number of COVID cases began to rise, Seattle Opera decided to film a digital performance of Elixir of Love, a Gaetano Donizetti opera, releasing it to the public on November 13th of this year

    All of Seattle Opera’s productions will be online until it’s safe to perform for live audiences.This is the only way we could provide the opera to our community as we can not have live performances at all… Most other opera houses are not able to do what we can do at this time so we are all very fortunate as McCaw Hall switched to an essential business recording studio,” said Head of Artistic for Seattle Opera Aren Der Hacopian.  

    Live performances of operas, musicals, and straight plays at this point in time, due to the global pandemic, are an impossibility, much to the disappointment of both performers and viewers.  “All of my in-person concerts and operas were either canceled or amended to recordings, like this Elixir of Love with Seattle Opera, and the future is extremely tenuous as companies everywhere are simply unable to plan anything with any real certainty,” said professional soprano Tess Altiveros.  However, even though live audiences aren’t allowed, performers found the alternative was just as enjoyable, and far safer.  “I think I felt more safe in the Seattle Opera rehearsal halls than I have in any other “public” space since February.  It was very evident that Seattle Opera had gone to great lengths to think through safety protocols… 6 feet of space between non-singing people, and if ever two singers needed to sing towards each other you had to be at least 20 feet away,” said Altiveros.

    Altiveros’ fellow cast member, professional tenor Andrew Stenson, agreed.  “I found Seattle Opera, Seattle Center, and McCaw Hall had fantastic protocol in motion to reduce potential exposure to others as much as possible, and, most importantly, prevent an outbreak if someone got infected… We were tested every 72 hours, and had a health screening every day we entered either building,” said Stenson.

    Changes were also made to the production itself in order to limit any possible contamination.  Fight scenes and love scenes needed alterations, at the very least.  “The opera was cut to only the most important moments that would still tell a story… We had no choice but to cut all chorus scenes and instead of a regular orchestra we had two pianos, and for two special moments we had a trumpet, a harp, and a bassoon,” said Hacopian.

    Other performances, such as Don Giovanni and Tosca, will be available later this year and in 2021 for season ticket holders.

    Unfortunately, even with the precautions proved possible by Seattle Opera, most opera singers are struggling to find opportunities for work.  Some are even considering leaving their profession. However, there are groups that are desperate to keep the opera industry alive, such as the Decameron Opera Coalition, which Tess Altiveros is involved with.  “Essentially, 9 different opera companies from around the country joined forces and commissioned 10 new mini-operas (10 minutes each) for virtual consumption… Individually these companies may not have had the means to produce something on a large scale, but when they all decided to co-produce these pieces it gave them a platform to engage artists and audiences all over the world – something they couldn’t have afforded in the before times, but totally possible now,” said Altiveros.