Polish National Opera plagued by pandemic difficulties

Opera is about music and the music is played by musicians tightly packed in the orchestra pit, sung by divas and commented on by the audience, all of which makes it particularly difficult to negotiate with the prevailing regulations on social distancing. This is something that makes the head of Polish National Opera in Warsaw Waldemar Dąbrowski concerned about his house’s performance during the pandemic.

“The [epidemiological] preparation of the house is rather conventional. We will obviously respect governmental restrictions. We will introduce all means for [maintaining] hygiene and temperature taking,” Mr Dąbrowski told the Polish Press Agency (PAP), adding that “the main limitation is that we are only allowed to sell half of the seat tickets. All we can do is hope that this restriction will be lifted.”

The house can carry on to some extent with the audience halved, although it is virtually impossible to perform opera with an orchestra shrunken to satisfy epidemic safety measures.

“It is impossible to rewrite scores of Mozart and Beethoven. It is impossible to seat the musicians in the orchestra pit maintaining two-metre distance from one member to another,” the director said, adding that “opening the opera house could turn out to be unrealistic, whereas transforming it into a chamber opera would imply a thoroughly different type of an artistic and social being.”

“We are talking about a specific scope of our performances that involve 300 people on the scene and in its premises. I’m thinking about soloists, the chorus, not to mention the ballet dancers… All of that is simply undoable within the framework of the applying epidemic regime that must be observed.”

If the current epidemic situation and the restrictions continue, the opera house will suffer further financial damage. “When the opera house does not perform, it endures very serious losses. To date, we have already recorded around a PLN 5 mln [EUR 1.12 mln] loss since March 11. What the future brews for us, I am unable to tell you at the moment… we hope to inaugurate the season in September… We need to pray for the pandemic to go away.”