Enjoy digital performing arts during the pandemic
Written by Jack (Kangmin) Lee | Published. 2020.07.27 08:47 | Count : 694

In the face of a seemingly endless shutdown, an overwhelming number of arts institutions are regrouping and finding ways to keep going virtually. Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Northern Virginia, USA, a place where I spent four years, and the only national park dedicated to the performing arts, has a long tradition of hosting live performances in the summer. As the park is located very near to the house I used to live in, I frequently visited the park and experienced a variety of live performances there, such as performances by the new age artist Yani,  and world-class cellist Yo-Yo-Ma. But Wolf Trap has not escaped from the impact of the pandemic, as it recently announced that it has canceled all 2020 summer performance programs.

The foundation’s president and CEO, Arvind Manocha, said in a recent press release that the cancellations are due to the ongoing effects of the coronavirus. He said, “For the first time in nearly 50 years, the Filene Center and Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods at Wolf Trap National Park and The Barns at Wolf Trap will not host live performances from May through September.” 

I had been looking forward to revisiting my old hometown this summer and enjoying the performances in the woods once again. This summer’s program was going to include Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Puccini’s La Bohème, as well as a song program with Steven Blier and a Puccini/Verdi aria concert with the National Symphony Orchestra! But this trip has been rescheduled, and  I have been forced to make other plans- as they say, desperate times require desperate measures. I found an alternative called “‘digital performing arts’.” The Wolf Trap program has been refashioned to continue providing training and digital performance opportunities. 

[ Opera  ‘The Touchstone’  / Photo Credit : Wolftrap YouTube video capture]

I checked the list of available digital performances, especially opera, and found  Rossini’s The Touchstone,  and Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod.  Of course, watching these performances on YouTube is different from watching them in person, but  you are still able to feel the drama, and there are some unexpected fringe benefits as well.

First, I enjoyed The Touchstone. This opera is about Count Asdrubale, a wise, wealthy, and generous man who is pursued by three women : Aspasia, Clarice,  and Fulvia. However, the corrupt journalist Macrobio loves Aspasia, who pretends to favor him only so she can make Asdrubale jealous. Then there is the hack poet Pacuvio, who is attracted to Fulvia, but she’s just using him in her scheme to snare Asdrubale. As you can see, it’s complicated… This opera premiered in June 2017, which means I am only able to watch the 2017 version. However, one of the merits of watching opera online is that I can watch it as many times as I want, savoring the parts I like and skipping the parts I don’t.

[Madison Leonard from Roméo et Juliette explains the opera / Wolftrap YouTube video capture]

Next, I watched Roméo et Juliette, which played in 2018. In this opera, two young lovers decide to take fate into their own hands after feuding families, bad timing, and fatal mistakes tear them apart. The emotion of two lovers was so strong that I could feel it even through YouTube.

Another thing I like is about this one is the self-introduction of the performer. Madison Leonard, who plays the role of Juliette, takes a few minutes to explain the story and how she feels about the opera being available online. She said, “Thinking back to the summer of 2018 brings back a lot of positive emotions for me. It was such a thrill to be able to jump into this production.” 

Although we are still in the middle of uncertainty about the pandemic,  it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to just stay indoors and can’t experience and enjoy artistic experiences. The example of Wolf Trap shows us that there are other ways to enjoy art during the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, partnership between performing institutes and IT companies needs to be encouraged to provide these kinds of digital performances, because “the show must go on.”


Jack (Kangmin) Lee
9th grade
Seoul International School

Jack (Kangmin) Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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