Navigating Covid Having remained closed throughout the spring, many major opera houses have announced plans to reopen in May. Few, however, will do so with their originally planned programmes, and the reconfigurations of recent weeks have brought some pleasant surprises as well as disappointments. Dutch National Opera, for instance, having just cancelled the rest of its season up to and including June’s planned new production of La Damnation de Faust, raised hopes again by announcing a new production in cooperation with the Holland Festival of Rudi Stephan’s Die ersten Menschen, in what will be the first Dutch staging of this neglected work; it is due to open on June 3 with a live streaming, and if by then audiences are allowed in several more performances will be added to the schedule.
Pragmatism rules for now, and those British and American summer festivals able to move outdoors (or to open up their theatres to fresh air) remain scheduled. Some of the biggest festivals of the spring, however, have had to be rescheduled. The Baden-Baden Easter Festival has announced a postponed and truncated edition from May 6 to 9, and the originally planned new production of Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa will be given in concert form. Having scaled down its plans in anticipation of a reduced season, the Salzburg Easter Festival has now decided instead to move to the weekend of All Saints (October 29 to November 1) and will reveal a new programme soon. Making this announcement on March 15, the Salzburg Easter Festival’s Intendant Nikolaus Bachler said, ‘Right up to today, we have been endeavouring with all the means at our disposal to ensure that the festival will be able to take place at Easter
2021. We have twice changed our programme in order to adapt it to the expected situation with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it has now become clear that holding the Easter Festival in April will be impossible, given the current provisions of the federal government.’
Festivals that normally take place at the end of the summer remain on track. The Bayreuth Baroque Festival has confirmed its intention of running from September 1 to 15 and promises to announce its programme in May. The Enescu Festival in Bucharest has announced a full programme for August 28 to September 26, including five operas in concert; but, without the usual late-night performances in the Athenaeum, Baroque opera will have less than its customary presence. The Operalia competition has also confirmed it will return in 2021, with the event now scheduled to take place in Moscow from October 18 to 24.
Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House has promised to reopen its doors from May 17, but full details are still awaited on its programme for the early summer, which is due to include a new production by Richard Jones of La clemenza di Tito. The ROH has also revealed the outline of its 2021-2 season, which will open in September with a new production of Rigoletto by Oliver Mears, the ROH’s Director of Opera, and include new stagings of Theodora, Jenůfa, Peter Grimes and Samson et Dalila. Full details will be announced on June 1. English National Opera has yet to announce plans for the summer or next season, but it collaborated with BBC Two over Easter on a broadcast of an hour-long version of Messiah. Snape Maltings, which last autumn was more
Opera, May 2021