In-Person or Online: Community or Convenience

Last week’s post about watching the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD broadcasts got me thinking about the frequent post-pandemic choice between attending an event in-person or viewing it online. I will explain two such choices I made in the last few days. Furthermore, I can think of four contexts in which this choice presents itself: opera (one of my passions), baseball (another), cinema (a third), and Handel’s Messiah (a fourth).


I prefer the Met’s Live in HD broadcasts because its closeup cameras give me a better view of the soloists than any in-person performance, including the best seats at the Met itself. Also, the intermission interviews often provide fascinating insights into the soloists’ careers. Fortunately, Live in HD is presented at several cinemas in Toronto. If it isn’t at The Shops at Don Mills next season – the concern I expressed in my previous post – I will choose one of the others. I haven’t subscribed to the Met, which would allow me to watch any of its Live in HD broadcasts online at home, because I prefer to watch in the company of cinematic operagoers.


I saw Maestro at the cinema last Monday. By Wednesday it had become available on Netflix. Do I regret the extra money and travel time? Upon reflection, definitely not. The large screen and darkened room provide better visuals and sound than the small screens of my computer (21 inches) or our television (31 inches). I admit that I tend to multitask, so a darkened cinema commands my attention and enables me to resist temptation. When I’m doing research that involves watching visual materials, I will accept the inferior visuals on my computer or the television, even on a bright day, because it is easier to take notes.

As an aside, Maestro is a great biopic about the fascinating life of a musical polymath, extreme extrovert, and closeted gay man. I strongly recommend it. However, it assumes a lot of background information. I have three hints for readers, which I don’t think of as spoilers, but rather as enhancers of the experience. Serge Koussevitzky and Edward R. Murrow’s voice appear as cameos. If you don’t know who they are, check them out. At one point Bernstein is wearing a sweatshirt in some language other than English. It says “Harvard” in Hebrew.


I strongly prefer watching the Blue Jays at home because convenience far outweighs the scant community I find at Rogers Centre. I have very little in common with many other fans except that we root for the Blue Jays. Unless I have seats behind the plate, which are expensive, I can no longer see the ball fly from the pitcher’s hand to the plate. I find the non-stop soundtrack and walkup music, intended to pump up the fans, excruciatingly load and cacophonous, especially when the dome is closed. Watching at home is free, I can actually see the ball, and the soundtrack is replaced by enlightening commentary, especially that of Buck Martinez.

My notion of baseball nirvana is having good seats on a nice day at Fenway Park, something I’ve done once or twice. To the best of my knowledge, Fenway skips the music, except for the singing of “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning, which I enjoy.


During the pandemic, I posted about the themes and imagery of Messiah and also about presentations I listened to and watched online, especially Against the Grain Theatre’s Messiah/Complex. Last year, my wife and I enjoyed Tafelmusik’s excellent original instruments Messiah at Koerner Hall, an elegant room with superb acoustics. As a grim aside, on a subway platform going home we crossed paths with a group of young women who were clearly up to no good and are now accused of swarming and murdering a homeless man shortly thereafter.

This year, I was trying to decide between hearing Tafelmusik again at Koerner Hall or listening to it on the CBC’s Christmas morning radio broadcast. I decided to listen at home because being among a mainly Christian and festive crowd didn’t feel right at a time when I’m concerned about the war the Israelis are fighting and the reappearance of antisemitism in Canada. The Messiah’s theology, especially the third and final part, almost all of which is taken from the New Testament, celebrates the arrival of a Messiah. We Jews are awaiting the coming of a Messiah (Orthodox) or Messianic age (liberal). And it looks like we will be waiting a long time.

I admit to the sin of multitasking during the slower choruses of the second part. I was looking at the New York Times Sunday magazine, and this week’s contained a photo essay about Palestinian refugees in Jordan and a profile of Jonathan Glazer, the director of The Zone of Interest, which deals with the family life of Rudolf Hoss, commandant of Auschwitz, living in a pleasant villa that shared a wall with the camp – a portrait of the banality of evil. Unfortunately, my multitasking brought back the grimness I was trying to avoid.

When Tafelmusik reached the final “amen” chorus, my amen was neither triumphant nor even thankful, but the conclusion of a silent prayer.

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