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3 Boston music groups thinking outside the Zoom box

In early March, North End Music and Performing Arts Center (NEMPAC) was almost done casting its annual main stage opera, Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.” It was intended as homage to the North End’s history of artisans and craftsmanship, with a new bilingual Italian-Spanish libretto that nodded to the Seville setting as well as the families NEMPAC serves, many of whom speak Spanish at home.


The pandemic forced a stop to the production, but NEMPAC found a way to make the show go on. In early June, three singers used the scenery of the North End as their stage for favorite scenes from the opera. On Aug. 8, NEMPAC will repeat the performance in various locations around Charlestown and the North End.

At the beginning of the pandemic, livestreamed musical events were an easier sell. But by now, our lives are “oversaturated” with Zoom, said NEMPAC Opera Project artistic director Alexandra Dietrich. “Our working lives have acclimated to being online, and it’s very hard to ask someone after being online from 9 to 5 to then tune in to two more hours of sitting in a chair and watching on a screen.” So now, she suggests, live music is an even greater treasure.

Scenes featuring the three lead characters (Rosina, Count Almaviva, and Figaro) were blocked according to conservative physical distancing guidelines, keeping a space of 15 feet between characters while singing. It helped matters that within the story, the would-be lovebirds can’t easily meet — in some scenes, one is on a balcony and another the ground floor, or they’re otherwise separated physically. But plot magic keeps them singing together. “We’re able to sing comfortably, not physically touching one

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