It started as an energetic day in Melbourne on Sunday. I swam at my local pool at the pre-booked time, I cycled within my permitted 5km radius (around and around a free-for-all local outdoor velodrome) and I walked to the shops to pick up a few groceries – masked, sanitised and abiding by the Victorian Government’s rules. But front of mind was a 5pm phone call I was waiting for eagerly, albeit a tad nervously, from my beloved. They called, we spoke and they sang to me Beethoven’s beautiful song cycle,  An die ferne Geliebte ( To the distant beloved).

2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in December 1770 and celebrations have obviously taken a hit. Mitigating the damage, New York-based On Site Opera conceived what was billed as “the world’s first telephone-based opera experience”, in which a personal one-on-one performance of Beethoven’s song cycle is shared over the phone. With good fortune, lines are currently open to encounter its pleasures courtesy of Gertrude Opera’s Yarra Valley Opera Festival running until 25 October.

A few days prior to the call, an email arrived,...