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Daily distraction: American Symphony Orchestra goes to the opera

Welcome to your daily distraction, our recommendations for ways to stay engaged and entertained while we socially distance ourselves to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak. You can find our past recommendations here; many of the opportunities we’ve highlighted are ongoing.

Shabbat shalom. I hope the first days of Passover have brought you a renewed sense of community, despite physical distance. This week has been an especially difficult one; I find myself oscillating between craving art (well — mostly TV) that lets me escape reality, and that which helps me confront it in all its darkness and disappointment. Today’s distraction falls in the latter category, but its tremendous beauty helps mediate its sober subject. I hope you enjoy it.

Watch an opera by a Holocaust refugee

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, an Austrian-born composer who became an American citizen after the Nazi invasion of his homeland, was one of the most formative composers in Hollywood history. But much of his work has been neglected in the years since his death in 1957, an oversight that Bard SummerScape, overseen by Bard president and music director of the American Symphony Orchestra Leon Botstein, attempted to help remedy with a 2019 program focused on his compositions.

One of the highlights of that program was Korngold’s “The Miracle of Heliane,” a prescient 1927 opera about the tragedies of life under dictatorship and the strength of human spirit needed to overcome them. That opera is now available to view through the ASO’s new endeavor, ASO Online, which is making favorite past performances free and public for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. As I said, the opera’s subject matter isn’t designed to comfort, but it’s a remarkable, engrossing achievement, especially given Korngold’s filmic credentials. Watch, and remember that beauty can persist, even through the most troubled times.


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