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Seattle arts learning to adjust in the age of the pandemic

McCaw Hall in downtown Seattle. (Bob B. Brown, Flickr Creative Commons)

To quote Seattle Opera, the show must go online. With elaborate stage productions canceled and performing arts on pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle Opera is one of many artistic groups having to get … well, creative.

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One online concert — courtesy of video conferencing technology — featured Mezzo soprano Sarah Larsen singing in her home, while pianist Jay Rozendaal accompanied her from his house.

Sunday Songs with Sarah and Jay – Part 1

Enjoy part one of our recital series "Sunday Songs with Sarah and Jay." Mezzo-soprano Sarah Larsen (last seen as Hansel in Hansel and Gretel) is joined by Coach/Accompanist and Orchestra Librarian, Jay Rozendaal for a three-part recital series of songs. These two wonderful musicians had prepared a full recital for our audiences, but due to current circumstances had to cancel. Now we can bring you their program digitally!#SOConnectedProgram for April 19, 2020:Fables de la Fontaine Sarah and Jay perform three of the Fables de la Fontaine. This series of fables written by Jean de la Fontaine run the gamut from light-hearted and fun, to slightly darker and more sinister, but always with a moral at the end. Translations are provided as subtitles in the video recording. Le corbeau et le renard (The raven and the fox) by Charles LecocqLe loup et l'agneau (The wolf and the lamb) by Charles LecocqLa cigale et la fourmi (The grasshopper and the ant) by Charles TrenetYour financial support powers Opera at Home and also sustains us until we can join each other as a community to enjoy opera together again.Support Opera at Home: Editing by Bill Mohn

Posted by Seattle Opera on Sunday, April 19, 2020

“We’ve never had a situation like this,” says Seattle Opera General Director Christina Shepplemann. “This is completely new.”

Like Seattle Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet is also offering performances online, but they’re productions that were recorded in the past.

Artistic Director Peter Boal says, as long as social distancing rules are in place, “most of the repertory that we know, for ballet companies, is not possible. Excerpts are, but entire ballets are really challenging.”

The ballet company is also offering its dancers online classes so they can stay toned while staying home.

But ballerina Sarah Villwock says that, too, has its challenges.

For instance, there’s no ballet bar to hold onto, in her home.

“I’ve actually been using my cat tree, as my bar to hold onto. I have three cats that always get in the way of my class,” Villwock said. “For flooring, I’ve been using my husband’s desk chair mat. I’ve just moved that over to the cat tree, and that’s my little class setup.”

Despite the challenges, artists say they will continue to perform, not just because it’s how they make a living, but how they live.

“Regardless of what’s going on in the world, in that moment, when you dance, you are all encompassed in that activity,” Villwock described. “I just think that it’s a beautiful art form to be able to express yourself.”

Robert McPherson, who’s preparing an online concert for Seattle Opera adds, “When you feel like you have something to say, even at times when it’s challenging, there’s still this thing that burns inside of you. There’s still something you have to say so that’s why I have felt this need to continue and soldier on in spite of everything going on. Or sometimes maybe because of it.”

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