Your guide to the new world of free streaming

Your guide to the new world of free streaming


norman lebrecht

March 13, 2020

More than 160,000 people worldwide watched the free-stream of Carmen from Berlin’s Staatsoper under den Linden last night.

We don’t have numbers yet from the Philharmonie, which streamed a Simon Rattle concdert, but a decision was taken today by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to make access to its Digital Concert Hall free to all viewers until 19 April 2020, using the code below.

You can access all the concerts and films in the Digital Concert Hall free of charge for 30 days with the code BERLINPHIL. The last date to activate the code is Tuesday, 31 March 2020.

Click here for access.

The Bavarian State Opera, not to be outdone, is to make at least four performances available for free livestream, including a concert with Igor Levit and Joana Mallwitz.

After the cancellation of all performances at the Bayerische Staatsoper from 11 March to 19 April, we will try to provide individual performances as live stream or video-on-demand on STAATSOPER.TV.
On Monday, the 5th Academy Concert with Joana Mallwitz and Igor Levit will be available live and 14 days as video-on-demand, before the ballet classic Swan Lake will be broadcast live on STAATSOPER.TV on 21 March.
In addition, Il trovatore with Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros as well as Judith with Nina Stemme and John Lundgren are available as video-on-demand.
You can find the full online schedule here.

The Vienna State Opera will offer one free opera a day from tomorrow. Click here.

The Met, playing catch-up, will offer a free nightly opera online from Monday at 7.30pm

This could be the start of a behavioural revolution.



  • Norman, this is a wonderful post, a beautiful way of humanity sharing music in troubling times on a global level. I am so happy to see this for many reasons. Back in 1997, I had envisioned that classical music (among many other styles) could adapt into the next century through the use of growing technology. It may have been premature, but even with dial-up and for those with T-1 lines, I decided to create the first online cybercast video concert. It worked, from Steinway Hall in NYC and further from Amsterdam for the first European cybercast video livestream concert. The history of this is explained in the following link – In April [1997] the Philadelphia Orchestra performed live on Classical Insites, a site run by N2K, a music entertainment company on the Web. The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which ended last month, was the first major competition heard live on the Internet. And just last week, N2K presented a recorded classical and jazz piano concert, also from Steinway Hall. None of these broadcasts, however, included video. Mr. Biegel said the idea for his recital came to him in April on a flight from New York to Pittsburgh while reading the cyberlistings in USA Today. ”There were celebrity chats, rock concerts and lots of other on-line events,” he said. ”I thought, ‘My gosh, why not a classical recital?’ ” But, he added, he had no idea about the technology needed to make it happen. –

    So, to witness this incredible revolution of musical events online more than two decades since the first, is truly a wondrous sight to me. These fabulous musicians, orchestras, conductors and their staffs need to be thanked for bringing their art and the music to people throughout the troubled world in this fashion. Soothe the souls and calm the spirits. The great composers are smiling upon you.

    • jay says:

      Nonsense writ large … is not about
      technical transmission achievement and one suspects great composers are not smiling.There is a great difference between an online transmission and attending a live recital

      • V.Lind says:

        Then live in silence. People are doing their best. Don’t be so effing selfish — as if your musical experience were more important than a global pandemic.

        Some people will welcome this remote contact with what for them is the outside world.

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        At a time when live recitals are being cancelled, being able to share the music in an alternative manner is nicer than having silence. Music is about sharing the art form of human creation. It doesn’t matter, truly, if it is ‘live’, on a recording, in a video, or a computer. The music will outlive us.

      • John Wills says:

        Music is about whatever medium is available to you be it live performance(no1 choice but severely limited) cd r live stream reaching far more enthusiasts than concert halls could ever hold.

        • Jeffrey Biegel says:

          You are spot on. Naysayers ranting about this or accusing musicians of being selfish might take into account that we live concert to concert (and getting performances is tremendously challenging and competitive, as a business), concerts are now cancelled so we lose our income, and it is quite the opposite of selfishness to share music for free. It is a selfless focus on humanity to override the business of making money as a musician to share music with people when times are particularly challenging. Rather than stay at home and fret, we turn to music for the betterment of others. We are stewards of music, and utilize the genius of the composers to bring good will and a selfless heart to others with troubled hearts and angst. After all, much of the music we play after years of intense study stems from similar emotions. Anyone downplaying any musician’s kindness and gesture to perform for the betterment of others might need to evaluate their reason for doing so as in above comments. Thank you, John, for your kind comment and be safe and healthy wherever you may be.

    • Paul Carlile says:

      Very nice comment, but surely, the first piano recital ever live streamed on Internet was by Earl Wild, in March 1997! A stylish way to bookend a career, (well.. he wasn’t done with yet!), which had included the first ever live recital on US Television in 1939.

      So, be careful about that “first ever” claim!

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        That was audio only. The videos of my recitals are in YouTube. Since they were in ‘Real Player’ they were saved that way. ❤️

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        Earl’s 1997 internet recital was a live audio streaming recital from Pittsburgh.

  • Wimsey says:

    Igor Levit is just playing now live via twitter Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated.

  • Hedgehog says:

    Norman, thank you so much for this.

    What a wonderfully humane and profoundly civilized gift from the Berlin Philharmonic! In these dark days, this is a magnificent gesture of hope, inspiration and generosity.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Seattle Symphony is coming up with a free streaming program

  • I just tried the Berlin Philharmonic concert stream… nope.

    All that comes through is the repeated message that “Something took too long to load”

    Fine idea, but it doesn’t work.

  • Robin Mitchell-Boyask says:

    But if you’ve ever used a free voucher from the Berlin Phil, you are ineligible for this one. They aren’t being completely honest.

  • Westfan says:

    Philadelphia is also online for free, at least for now. Beethoven #5 and #6.

    And Detroit has made its online broadcast archive free as well.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    A totally unsatisfying way to listen to music, at least for those of us sensitive to sound.

  • Vance Koven says:

    This is definitely becoming a thing. Alex Ross posted a short list of streaming opportunities over the next few days; don’t know if he plans to update the list. It’s here:

    Also, I just “reviewed” (sort of, kind of) a streamed concert by the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra under Benjamin Zander, for the Boston Musical Intelligencer:

    I just watched the Berlin Phil, and like the BPYO stream, it had some level of technical issues (hard to get it started, a period of stuttering at the beginning, some pixellation and fuzzy sound toward the end). Still, all this is moving concert performances in the right direction. Now if only presenters could figure out how to replace the lost ticket sales…

  • Alexander says:

    Meanwhile, the Academy of Ancient Music shared a fizzing concert “Handel’s Heroines” (with sopranos Jennifer France and Mary Bevan, directed by Laurence Cummings) last night on Facebook, which remains online for those interested in seeing it. (music from c.4mins30 in)

    Tomorrow night (Saturday, 7.30pm, UK time), AAM will share “Sound The Trumpet” from Leeds Town Hall, directed by Chad Kelly, with soprano Soraya Mafi and David Blackadder displaying his mastery of the natural trumpet – also on Facebook.

    Much enjoyed by the audience watching live, both in the concert hall and online, we hope that an audience watching later will enjoy these just as much.

  • Simon A Bird says:

    Thanks so much for this!! The silver lining…

  • Larry L. Lash / Vienna says:

    Wiener Staatsoper is offering two weeks of free opera (and one ballet) on its Livestream platform ( starting with “Das Rheingold” tomorrow (Sunday) evening. The schedule sticks almost exactly to the same operas originally scheduled for those dates.

    So we get a “Ring” from four different cycles (conducted by Ádam Fischer, Axel Kober, and Simon Rattle), three doomed divas as Tosca, and a repeat of the (musically) spectacular 100th anniversary “Die Frau ohne Schatten.” Also Eötvös’ “Tri Sestri” and a bunch of warhorses.

    Each performance will be streamed for 24 hours, starting at 19:00 CET (only the three longer “Ring” operas will start at 17:00).

    I believe you have to create an account first to access the programming, but it is totally free, worldwide.

    I am rather a technophobe but I believe there is a way to bounce the broadcasts to your TV depending on the interface capabilities.

    For the complete schedule and casts, have a look at:

  • JSP says:

    I think it is a long way from the “start”; though it may be evidence of an increase in the offering available.

    Bayerische Staatsoper live-streamed Otello on 2 December 2018 after all, available to anyone who wished to tune in, no registration or personal details required.

    I watched it here in rural Wales, in front of my laptop and the only problem was the quality of my rural broadband connection.

    Not as dramatic as the local cinema’s offering on a much larger screen, but there in my own home.

    They also live-streamed 6 other productions from their 2018/19 season and always intended to run live streams from their 2019/20 season.

    Mr Lebrecht appears to be a little behind the curve on this one.

  • Max Raimi says:

    I love the motivation, but I think it is irresponsible to gather even the 80 or 100 musicians, not to mention technical staff, to create these performances. Unless it is life and death, we all should stay away from each other for now.

    • anon says:

      Bravo! Solo Bach sonatas anyone????

    • JSP says:

      Quite a bit of what is being streamed now is previously recorded – some has already been shown in cinemas.

      My local cinema has just cancelled their showing of Fidelio from the RoH this week, but I hope that I may be able to see it at some time in the future.

      If the performers have all been playing together for several weeks of rehearsal and performance their is no added risk from performing one more time to make a recording as long as no one is ill.

  • SVM says:

    But how are the royalties going to be funded? If listeners/viewers are not paying, somebody else will have to take the hit.

  • anon says:

    This is not meant as “snark” – I have a sincere question.

    If organizations that are meant to be self-supporting give away their product for free, what happens to their long-term viability?

    We in the US don’t receive sufficient on-going government support to keep orchestras – chamber groups – opera – theater – etc alive. Most organizations need donations, ticket revenue and, perhaps if lucky, a short term government grant to be used for clearly defined purposes.

    • V.Lind says:

      The answer is what people do in those other countries — pay taxes. Americans do not want to do that. So you do not only lack supported arts organisations, you lack supported health care. And, my God, is it about to cost your people.

      But presumably only the ones the political parties do not much care about.

    • JSP says:

      To answer your question equally sincerely; they are not giving away anything that they could sell. The people who watch live-stream at home are not people who can afford opera/concert/recital tickets so if there was no live-stream they simply wouldn’t see it. No company or performer would contemplate a run long enough for thousands more to attend anyway.

      Most of what is going out during the shut-down was already sold in performance.

      Potentially they create new customers for live performances if they attract young listeners/viewers who catch the “bug” and later on have the means, they want to watch the live performance and become part of it. They reward housebound ex-customers (a friend of mine thought her opera days were over and is delighted to be able to watch and listen from her bed or sofa) and they spread music to a much wider audience, which often results in more recording sales too.

      Generally streamed performances have already been sold (and often sold out).

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        Good points. But from the point of view as a musician, we often share music because it is more than a business. In times of crises, personally, I find it necessary to do so for the betterment of others.