Art, opera and French lessons: Lara Marlowe’s guide to free culture online

Our Paris Correspondent finds plenty to entertain you during the Covid-19 lockdown

Caravaggio Tableaux Vivants by Ludovica Rambelli Teatro.

Caravaggio Tableaux Vivants by Ludovica Rambelli Teatro.


Beauty will save the world, Dostoevsky wrote. And even though it may be futile as a weapon against coronavirus, beauty can help make the lockdown bearable. There are plenty of treasures to be found among the innumerable memes and videos circulating during the coronavirus crisis. An unprecedented quantity of music, art and intellectual stimulation can be found online. And it’s free.


This may be my favourite, a combination of Mozart, Caravaggio and performance art, the Caravaggio living paintings by Ludovica Rambelli Theatre. You can watch them here.

Another favourite, Philip Scott Johnson’s assemblage 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art, to the tune of Bach’s Sarabande from the Suite for Solo Cello no. 1 in G major, performed by Yo-Yo Ma. Watch here.

The British artist David Hockney has posted 10 cheerful springtime paintings from Normandy, where he is living under lockdown. You can view the paintings here.


The epidemic has inspired multiple virtual performances by choirs and orchestras, where each singer or musician is confined in his or her own home.

The Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest was perhaps the first, with this magnificent rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. You can watch the rendition here.

The International Opera Choir recorded Verdi’s Va Pensiero in honour of medical workers who are fighting Covid-19. You can watch it here.

The Orchestre National de France played Ravel’s Bolero. You can watch the performance here.

An older recording, but nonetheless brilliant, this Competitive Foursome by the German all-woman quartet Salut Salon is enjoying a revival during the epidemic. Watch here.

The Philharmonie de Paris posts the programme for its online concerts one week in advance (click here to view). There’s a different concert every evening, starting at 8.30pm French time (7.30pm Irish time). Upcoming concerts include William Christie’s Arts Florissants, the New York Philharmonic, a jazz trio, Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting Beethoven and Hayden, and Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.

The Anglo-Taiwanese pianist Kit Armstrong lives in a church in the French department of L’Aisne and posts a concert on his YouTube page every day. You can view it here.

In a completely different genre, the French copyright organisation Sacem has sponsored a live website for aspiring rap, rock and pop musicians to broadcast live online in a stay-at-home festival. See here.


The Paris Opera is showing some of its best performances online, including Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, Giselle and Rameau’s Indes Galantes. Rossini’s Barber of Seville will run online from April 6th-12th. Subsequent offers include an homage to Jerome Robbins, Cinderella, Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann and Bizet’s Carmen.Watch the performances here.

The Paris Opera’s 3e Scène website shows innovative, creative video shorts on. You can watch the videos here.

France Télévision’s Culturebox has posted Benjamin Brittain’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Festival International d’Art Lyrique at Aix-en-Provence. You can watch it here.

Britten’s Turn of the Screw can be seen on the European platform OperaVision until August 21th. Watch here.

Also on OperaVision, Garsington Opera’s production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. You can watch the performance here.

Garsington Opera’s production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.
Garsington Opera’s production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.


The Open Culture website offers 1,150 movies free online. The collection includes, comedy, drama, film noir, horror and Hitchcock, Westerns (including a lot of John Wayne), martial arts, silent films, documentaries. There are special collections of Oscar winning movies, as well as Charlie Chaplin. You can access the movies here.


Most big museums offer virtual tours of their collections, and in some cases temporary exhibitions that have been closed because of the epidemic.

You can visit the Louvre here. The Musée d’Orsay has videos about its recent exhibitions here.

The Rijksmuseum: There’s a video devoted to the Rijksmuseum’s most famous painting, Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. You can watch the video here.

You can visit New York’s Metropolitan Museum through a virtual tour here and the National Gallery of Ireland here.

The Grand Palais’s YouTube page offers numerous videos, including a visit of its exhibition on Pompei, which could not open in late March because of the coronvirus lockdown. You can view the videos here.

The Grand Palais’s soundcloud channeloffers podcasts on recent exhibitions, including Greco and Toulouse Lautrec. Click here to listen to the podcast channel.

The Pompidou Centre features its greatest 20th century masterpieces and offers podcasts (in French) about great 20th century artists here.

One can also explore more out of the way museums, such as the wonderful collection of the Musée des Beaux Arts in Rouen here.

The Château de Chantilly offers Raphael in Chantilly, the Master and His Students, the only exhibition in France marking the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death. Chantilly’s collection of Raphael paintings and drawings is the second largest in France, surpassed only by the Louvre’s. You can watch it here.

You can also discover Le Nôtre’s 18th century gardens at Chantilly (in French) here.

The city of Paris owns 14 museums, whose 325,000 artworks can be seen on here. The same website offers virtual visits to two exhibitions on Victor Hugo this season.

The National Gallery in London offers a wealth of videos and articles about its Titian exhibition, which was supposed to run from March 16th until June 14th. You can view it here.


You can purchase contemporary French art, or just watch artists at work, on the website of the Galerie 1809 in Marseille here.


France’s national theatre, the Comédie Française, has set up La Comédie Continue! in response to the epidemic. See here for the weekly theatre schedule.


The English language Paris Update and Frantastique websites are offering a month of free French lessons online.

PODCASTS (in French)

France Culture’s long list of podcasts can be found here.

I particularly recommend Jean-Noel Jeanneney’s Concordance des Temps podcast.

This one, about the history of transmission of epidemics from animals to humans, is brilliant. To listen click here.

Here’s a recent favourite, on the life of the great French poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire. To listen click here.


You can listen to lectures at the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) on their SoundCloud channel here. Or if you prefer, watch RIA videos on YouTube here.

The French Middle East institute Iremmo has posted recent lectures and panel discussions about Israel-Palestine, Iran and other Middle East topics on its YouTube page here. Of particular interest, Piotor Smolar, who just completed a five-year tour as Le Monde’s Jerusalem correspondent, talked about his book Un Mauvais Juif, at Iremmo here.

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