It is the middle of the night and I am cloistered in my apartment in downtown Washington, D.C. I am facing four screens, including my smartphone, a laptop, a Mac desktop and a large wall monitor. I am trying to make sense of the fast-changing data on the spread and deadliness of the virus around the globe, while talking to an expert in Chile. He is rightly concerned about the situation there, with heretofore low case numbers rapidly increasing. It is but one locus of worry for all of us living in such an interconnected world. And one where the response to the coronavirus has again exposed serious differences in the quality of governance and leadership across countries, as well as over time within countries—a topic to be discussed in a separate contribution.
I am no epidemiologist, even if I understand numbers. On the science and on specific measures and policy prescriptions, I defer to the experts, as I hope that politicians everywhere will. Though in all humility it does seem to me that, beyond serious social distancing, isolation measures are very important, as is much more widespread testing, given the empirical evidence at hand (including from Korea and Taiwan, and the Italian town of Vo, near Venice, which totally stopped the spread of the disease). What I want to share during these extraordinary times is neither conventional nor analytical, but of a more personal nature.
My partner and I have been pretty strict regarding staying at home (with four cats) and in incessantly cleaning our hands and surfaces. We are extra careful, in part because let’s just say that we are not millennials—decades removed from it. But we are in decent health, and we also know that people of any age can be seriously afflicted (including young adults) or be silently carrying the virus, which is why we need to take such earnest distancing measures and more widespread testing.
Yesterday I did venture out, briefly. I went to the pharmacy a block away, estimating that the weekly truck may have come to partly replenish the empty shelves. We needed an item in particularly short supply: a hand sanitizer bottle, however small. I asked at the counter whether they had any; they had just sold the last few bottles, I was told. Then, a young woman paying at the next counter turned to me, opened her bag, and quickly handed me a small bottle of hand sanitizer. I resisted at first, telling her that it was truly hers and that she also very much needed to use it. She insisted that I take it, saying that she had two more bottles, and emphasized that we needed to share. She even flatly refused my offer to pay her for it.
I warmly thanked her, observing proper social distance, and she started departing. A man well into his eighties, using a cane, limped toward me, beaming at the sight of the just-gifted little bottle in my hand. He asked me if many were still left on the shelf, and where he could find them. There aren’t any left, I replied, but he could take mine. It turns out that the kind young woman overheard this exchange as she was leaving. She came to us, opened her bag again, took her second bottle, and told him that he should take her bottle, not mine. He was also touched. So each one of us left with one precious little bottle.
Outside of the store, I saw her again and asked her name and gave her mine, and inquired whether she was Canadian. She nicely said no; she was a U.S. citizen. She asked me my background, and hearing that I was from Chile she wondered aloud why I thought she was Canadian. So I introduced her to a new term just coined in Canada, and already a movement there, which I told her she was unknowingly part of: “caremongering.” It is solidarity and mutual help turned into concrete community action, which in a few days has quickly spread through Canada. She appreciated the exchange, and she asked whether we needed any help, and likewise I asked her. We parted.
In fact we are already “caremongering” individually in our communities and organizations, and there is more we can do ahead during these times. This also includes what we can do virtually, with people and communities in our governance and accountability field, globally. The wealth of expertise and data, the online and remote learning tools and courses—existing and upcoming—offer wonderful opportunities ahead, building on what we already have while innovating attuned to the new reality. For an illustration of the combined power of fun and substantive content via online tools, you may want to try the Petronia simulation game, a cool online learning tool to help avoid the resource curse!
Caremongering can also entail sharing special ways to enjoy long stays at home, where there will be time for some spirituality and reflection. Given some of my passions, I would like to contribute to this effort right now, even if in a small way, by suggesting online musical and art performances.
It turns out that given the forced closures of most performance venues around the globe, a number of great arts organizations are streaming full-fledged and very special classical music concerts and operas. For those of you who enjoy such music, let me share my list here. Such music can have wondrous effects on our minds and souls. Mindful that some may prefer other types of music, arts, or culture, I also provide other links here. And those who know me will not be surprised to find one brief mention of soccer. I also end with a mention of beloved Italy. Here we go:
Opera and classical music
I have been fortunate to have attended concerts and operas in over a dozen of the venues below and seen live the operas listed. I am no professional expert, yet take the liberty of highlighting in bold some opera houses that I know well.
- Seattle Symphony offers some classical music concerts.
- Berlin Philharmonic makes 600+ concerts free to stream for the next month. Just sign up, first month free, no cancellation needed. What an orchestra, and they even do some avant-garde opera—their Puccini’s “Suor Angelica” project is something!
- Operavision is not an opera house per se, but Europe has a collection of free operas that can be browsed and streamed through YouTube—no sign-up needed.
- The Metropolitan Opera is now streaming a free opera every day from New York. This is big. This evening the Met will stream Verdi’s “La Traviata” with a great cast, while Friday and Saturday there will also be two great opera performances, both by Donizzetti. And a major Wagner-fest next week! More performances here.
- Teatro Regio di Torino
- Bayerische Staatsoper, from Munich, with wonderful operas and concerts already available online and more ahead.
- Teatro Massimo in Palermo.
- Vienna State Opera (Staatsoper) is one of the best opera houses in the world, Verdi’s “Falstaff” is on now.
- Budapest Festival Orchestra is led by Ivan Fischer, a great artist and democrat whose orchestra needs support.
- Teatro Liceu, Barcelona.
- Teatro Real, Madrid.
- Opera de Paris (Bastille).
- Finnish National Opera.
- Teatro Mayor, Bogota (yes, there is vibrant opera on my continent as well!).
- Finally, in this category, many U.K. organizations livestream concerts and make them available via YouTube or other channels, such as Wigmore Hall for chamber music concerts, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestraand the London Symphony Orchestra YouTube channels.
I have also attended wonderful performances in opera houses in far flung places such as Manaus (Teatro Amazonas in Brazil), Cape Town (South Africa), Prague, at the famed teatros Colon (Buenos Aires) and Municipal (Santiago), as well as in Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Kiev, Moscow, Sydney, London (2 major opera houses), and Berlin (3!), among others. As of this blog going to press, none of them are yet streaming online, but please feel free to reach out if you find additional sites streaming good stuff from any opera venue.
How about watching free online theater performances? Here are various options with links.
Want to go to a great museum, or many, over the coming weeks? Virtually of course. Here is a great list of 12. If you are ready for a binge, here’s access to 500 of them.
Yes, you read that right, soccer, aka futbol! One can be passionate about both music and soccer, and many of my friends are at a loss for not being to play or watch soccer these days. Check here for FIFA matchday on YouTube for free streaming.
Empathy with Italy
To end for now—linking the dots between the virus, virtual opera, caremongering, and soccer—our warm empathy goes to quarantined Italy, where opera originated four centuries ago. In this breathtaking amateur video, the Italian Air Force flies a single jet, representing the virus, to meet other fighter jets streaming the colors of the Italian flag, while Pavarotti sings “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot”, with the lyrics “we shall overcome.”