Monday, July 13, 2009

The best free options for listening to opera online.

Earlier I talked a little bit about where to get scores online and since it was a pretty popular post, I figured I should mention where to listen to opera online too. A lot of you may know about these but hey, if you even find one new one in here, it's a win. If you have any other favourites, let us know in the comments.

Youtube: This has clearly taken over as the standard place to find specific arias, art song, or just singers in general. I'd have never figured out Songs and Dances of Death without the ability to compare and contrast different performances. This used to require trips out to the library or CD store to pick up a bunch of CDs, but can now be done at the touch of a button. Many would decry the loss of the discovery of new artists or performances, found when looking for something else but stumbling on to something new, but the "Related Videos" tab does a pretty good job of that too. This is also the place to find your favourite "cage match" where singers are pitted head to head comparing things like High "C"s, Low "D", and even the best death scream (below).

Operacast: This is possibly my favourite place to go if I just want to listen. Hundreds of international radio stations with an online presence are searched every week and a list, separated by day of the week (GMT) is compiled, noting time, station, and planned set list. Somewhere in the world there is always opera playing. Operacast finds it, lists it, and provides the links to listen. I was going to list individual radio stations that play opera regularly but every time I found one, Operacast had it indexed and scheduled. If you only check one place out, this is it.

Podcasts: I have a soft spot for podcasts as one of my first online ventures was producing and hosting the internet's very first opera podcast entitled "Your Daily Opera". (I even had a New York Times mention for it). Podcasts are periodic radio shows that, instead of being broadcast live, are recorded and then sent out either in rss feeds via a program like iTunes, or made available online in mp3 format where they can be conveniently added to your favourite mp3 player. Many large opera companies have them as a part of their outreach where they detail the goings on within the company, occasionally featuring music, but the real gold, from the standpoint of listening to opera without much talk, are the smaller podcasts by opera lovers who feature different operas or topics week to week. Premiere Opera's podcast is one of the best for both regular updates as well as for featuring recordings that you wouldn't normally be able to hear elsewhere, but there are a ton of other great ones out there.

Beethoven on Demand: The entire Naxos and Marco Polo music catalogues, along with 70 other independent classical labels on one site. Brought to you by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra by way of their email club. When you sign up you get unlimited access to over 2300 opera albums, along with 32,000 other classical, jazz, and other albums totaling almost half a million tracks. I've traded my email address for worse, to be sure!

Metropolitan Opera On Demand: I was only going to list the free options on here and the Met only kind of fits the bill. They have a 7 day free trial that is fantastic. The only downside is that you'll be tempted to stay on to the tune of $15/month. If you're going to try out a paid service, you could do worse than this beautiful, easy to navigate, fairly comprehensive offering from the Metropolitan Opera. For my money, the real value is in the "Rental" option where you can "rent" specific operas for $3.99 or $4.99 in HD (provided you have the hardware specs to pull down the video at that bandwidth.) Think of it like the Met operas in the theatres, only on demand, albeit on a smaller screen. They also have some free arias if you just want to check it out, no registration required.

Opera Radio: Temporarily offline due to the new online radio fees that were put into place earlier this year. Hopefully a recently released settlement will breathe new life back into it.

This should be a good list to get you started but, as I said, I'd love to hear more. Use the comments to let me know.

Don Giovanni scream-off via Youtube:

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