As COVID-19 lockdowns slowly begin lifting around the world, life outside the home has hopes of resuming, although still far from ‘normal.’ After several concerts were shut down across the globe, the musical world is tentatively preparing to come offline and back into concert halls, but now with the social distancing measures that the new ‘normal’ kept in place. From members of audiences in masks to musicians staying a safe distance apart, concert hall contingencies are being used to ensure concerts can go ahead safely. Here are examples that hint at how the future of concerts might look like as the world comes out of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Ballet and Social Distancing
As Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet is looking towards re-opening in September, the General Director of the Bolshoi, Vladimir Urin, believes rehearsals could begin in late July. The audience will be required to wear masks and stay apart, although it would be challenging to enforce similar social distancing rules for the ballet on stage. Recently, three singers performed the ‘trio’ from Massenet’s Cinderella featuring Cinderella and her two stepsisters, moving just enough to generate some action for the story – but never enough to come close to each other and endanger anyone’s health.
At the beginning of May, the Berlin Philharmonic announced it would be returning to its home concert hall, the Philharmonic, for a special live concert; the first since venues in Germany closed in March and confined musicians to the safety of their homes. As concert halls start to invite audiences to return, patrons are being asked to sit significant distances apart. Most halls are allowing only 20-25 percent capacity for the events. While it may be a while before concerts can host performances to full capacity, it won’t stop these venues from hosting concerts and live-streaming the performances.
We have seen live stream performances have some success in the past. Beyoncé had 458,000 people watch her YouTube Livestream performance of her Homecoming concert at the 2018 Coachella festival. Artists like Erykah Badu, who started her own live streaming business, and Travis Scott, who staged a virtual performance on the videogame Fortnite, are pushing the creative boundaries of online performances. Unfortunately, this type of live stream concert is the closest most music fans will get to a real concert for months.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in many ways, and although lockdowns around the world are slowly lifting, it will be a while before things go back to ‘normal.’ One aspect of our life that will take a while before it returns to ‘normal’ is seeing concerts. Full concert halls with audiences and performers won’t be safe. Whether it’s members of the audience wearing masks, performing concerts on live stream, or holding concerts with a limited audience, there are ways to make sure concerts come back safely.