As you probably know by now, concerts have all been cancelled. Movie theaters are closed. Performing arts venues of all kinds are shuttered. So what’s a culture vulture to do?
A number of performing arts venues are opening their stages and archives to listeners and viewers for free via streaming. While the Metropolitan Opera has cancelled its current season, every night the Met is streaming an opera for free. These include La Traviata, Tristan und Isolde, Die Walküre, and Eugene Onegin. The Vienna State Opera is doing a similar program, as are the Detroit Symphony and the Malmö Symphony Orchestra of Sweden.
Popular artists, all of whom have had to cancel concerts and tours, are also taking to streaming platforms, some free, some not, to share live music with their fans. These include Indigo Girls, Natalia Zukerman, Common, Pedro the Lion, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Carsie Blanton, and Honey Badgers.
Some critics have problems with the new Amazon Prime Video TV series Hunters, starring Al Pacino leading a ragtag bunch of would-be, mortal superhero-types hunting Nazis in America in the 1970s. If you can get past the idea of applying a comic-book sensibility to a story whose origins are in the Shoah and just enjoy it as a revenge flick against some of the most heinous, evil people of all time, it’s gripping and fun to watch. Plus, Pacino is perfect.
Speaking of Nazis, HBO’s dramatization of Philip Roth’s counterfactual novel, The Plot Against America, kicked off its six-episode run this past Monday. Produced by the same team responsible for American TV’s magnum opus, The Wire, the show, like the novel, imagines an alternative history wherein aviator and popular hero Charles Lindbergh successfully challenges Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the presidency on a proto-Fascist platform of Making America Great and keeping the U.S. out of the war raging in Europe, with a campaign heavily reliant on Jew-hatred. At times the atmosphere is almost too close to our current situation for comfort, which is all the more reason to pay attention.
If you’re seeking comic relief from all this and you haven’t yet stumbled upon the Canadian comedy sitcom Schitt’s Creek, I envy you the fun you’re about to have. The sixth season is playing itself out right now (on PopTV, which I access through YouTubeTV), but if you start from the beginning, you’ve got 74 episodes to enjoy. (Seasons 1-5 are on Netflix). Some of its cringe humor takes a while to get used to, but stick with it and watch the characters grow and develop over time in this comedy about a one-time wealthy family fallen on hard times, living in a town called Schitt’s Creek, running a roadside motel, and slowly integrating themselves into their strange new world.
I put together a playlist on Spotify called Soundtrack for the Apocalypse, which includes songs carefully selected for their sonic and lyrical appropriateness for this time of great emergency. It includes songs by the Clash, Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Public Enemy, Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, U2, and Warren Zevon, meant to be listened to in shuffle mode.
Seth Rogovoy is editor of the Rogovoy Report, available at rogovoyreport.com