Culture live despite Corona – Madrid Opera with performances in front of an audience

The opera is slowly filling up. Although you are legally allowed to occupy 75 percent of the seats, the Teatro Real only offers 65 percent. At the entrance, the audience is guided over disinfecting floor mats. The body temperature of each spectator is measured. If the temperature control works, a dedicated nurse is available. The face masks must not be removed at any moment. There is disinfectant gel in every corner. In addition, the audience will be divided into different sectors even during the breaks so that a maximum of 30 people will run into each other. Contact details are required from every visitor so that contact tracing can be carried out quickly in the event of positive cases. So far there has only been one case. In January, a woman reported who had tested positive the day after the performance. The next 25 seat neighbors from their sector were informed immediately and tested by the Teatro Real. The result was negative.

Since April last year, the Madrid Opera House has had a medical advisory committee that is constantly revising and monitoring the hygiene and safety concepts. “If a source of infection became known here, the damage to our image would hardly be reparable. That is why we have invested over a million euros in Covid protection measures. We were able to keep the opera open and, despite the corona pandemic, did not need to fire anyone or put them on short-time work,” says Ignacio García-Belenguer General Director of the Teatro Real, proud.

Ventilation as in airplanes

UV lamps disinfect the hall and almost all rooms overnight. All of the faucets were changed to make them contactless. Even the ventilation system was rebuilt in such a way that it completely exchanges air 27 times an hour. The law requires seven times an hour. “We installed a ventilation system similar to that in airplanes, in which the ventilation outlets are individually located under each seat and move the air from bottom to top,” assures opera director García-Belenguer.

But what about the artists? “For my part, I feel absolutely safe. Everyone here respectfully adheres to the distance rules and hygiene measures. We are very careful because if someone is infected, there is a risk for everyone. We are also tested weekly for Covid-19,” explains the opera singer Yolanda Auyanet before she slips into her “Norma” costume.

While Auyanet and the other protagonists sing without a face mask, the relatively large choir from the Bellini Opera wears transparent masks specially made by the Teatro Real on the stage. Behind the stage there is a separate hook with a name tag for everyone. Everyone receives a plastic bag for personal items. So far there has not been a single case of infection at the Teatro Real.

Andreas Schlager sings in front of an audience in Madrid

“Madrid and especially the Teatro Real show that theater and music performances are possible and safe even in pandemic times,” says Austrian star star Andreas Schager. For him it was almost a blessing to be able to stand on stage again in front of an audience after a month-long Covid break. Until last week Schager performed at the Teatro Real under the direction of Pablo Heras-Casado in Richard Wagner’s “Siegfried”. An unparalleled popular success. Every performance was sold out. “In the two months that I was in Madrid, the corona numbers even went down, despite the fact that the theaters, cinemas and operas were open,” said Schager. The official incidence figures prove him right. In the past few months, the 7-day value has fallen from over 300 to 108 new infections. “That of course calls into question the proportionality of our culture lockdown in Austria,” says Schager. For him, Madrid is undoubtedly the European Capital of Culture at the moment.

Culture lockdown before the Constitutional Court

The Teatro Real also takes the “Florestan Initiative” as an example of “the fact that a serious health policy approach can definitely be reconciled with opening scenarios for culture”. The initiative initiated by the pianist Florian Krumpöck, which is supported by artists such as actress Nina Proll, singer Angelika Kirchschlager and cabaret artist Alfred Dorfer, wants the Austrian Constitutional Court (VfGH) to clarify whether the ongoing cultural lockdown contradicts guaranteed freedom the art and actually represents a mild and proportionate means of protection against the coronavirus.

For Pilar López, the answer is already clear: “With all these measures I feel safer than in the supermarket or at the hairdresser’s. It’s really nice to be able to enjoy opera again in such an atmosphere,” says the 74-year-old pensioner and cheers “Norma” cast members too. But shorter than usual. She wants to go quickly. The Corona exit lock begins in Madrid at 11 p.m. (Apa)

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