Breaking: Covent Garden cancels tonight and shuts down

Breaking: Covent Garden cancels tonight and shuts down


norman lebrecht

March 16, 2020

The message went out to customers at 1730, minutes after Boris Johnson’s comments, urging theatres to close.

The website says: Given the developing situation with the COVID-19 virus, the Royal Opera House is currently closed

So, no Traviata tonight, no last Fidelio tomorrow.

It’s curtains.

Here’s the full public statement:

Monday 16 March 2020

Immediate closure of the Royal Opera House

The safety and security of the Royal Opera House staff, audiences and artists is of paramount importance and we take this responsibility very seriously. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken the decision with a heavy heart to close the building to the public and cancel all performances in Covent Garden with immediate effect.  

The staff and artists of the ROH are vital to the lifeblood of our art forms, without them we would simply not exist. This suspension of performances will impact not only our loyal audience but also our committed and talented workforce. We will work within the government guidelines to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff and artists during this difficult time. 

Our employees, permanent and casual, are reliant on the income which we derive through ticket purchases. Without performances it is inevitable that we will become more reliant on philanthropic support and charitable donations. 

Where possible, we ask that audiences consider donating the value of their tickets to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation rather than requesting a credit note or refund. 

You can keep up to date via the ROH social media channels for announcements on the programme of free broadcasts we will bring you during this period of closure.  

We thank you for your continued support of the ROH, it is invaluable during these uncertain times.   

Our number one priority is to support each other during this unprecedented situation. 


Alex Beard, Chief Executive 

Royal Opera House  



  • Cynical Bystander says:

    “Where possible, we ask that audiences consider donating the value of their tickets to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation rather than requesting a credit note or refund.”

    Implicit in this is an assumption that the audience can afford to do so. As the performance has been cancelled by the management will they be asking the performers to forego their fee? Many of us who go to the opera are making choices about how we spend our money and it seems to me to be a bit of a cheek, to say the least, to donate money to an organisation we are already supporting through our taxes as well as our ticket cost.

    • psq says:

      Is there a problem of English comprehension here? The ROH statement as quoted begins with “Where possible…” If it is not possible for any of the present ticket holders then so be it. I can’t detect any assumptions about anything.
      More or less the same messages were sent to me, in Berlin, regarding the cancellations of my opera and concert subscriptions. No arm had been twisted nor any guilt trip imposed.

    • Jon says:

      The Arts Council grant only provides 18% of The ROH’s income. 33% comes from ticket sales. The Opera House will still have to pay its staff, the orchestra and chorus, as well as maintaining the building even when there are no performances. Losing up to a third of its income as suddenly as this will severely compromise its ability to continue to meet these costs.

      If you can’t afford to donate the money already paid to the Opera House, you don’t have to; but if you can afford to do so, the request seems quite reasonable to me. Other theatre companies will be making similar requests (the Old Vic did so this morning when it cancelled future performances).

      • SVM says:

        What about the freelancers? What about rehearsal time? An organisation asking customers to forgo refunds/credits to which they are contractually entitled really must be *very* transparent about the extent to which it is supporting its contractors above and beyond its legal obligations. As a bare minimum, I would want to see an undertaking that all freelance artists will be paid for rehearsals already completed and will have travel/accommodation expenses met in full (for those who live overseas or far from London, returning home at short notice in the present circumstances is bound to be difficult and expensive).

        I would also want to see confirmation of the length of time any “credit” balance would be valid.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          I don’t think Kaufmann is going to starve. And I suspect he can more easily forgo his fee than I can forgo my refund.

      • Linda says:

        Paris Opera does not make similar requests, despite its financial sitaution is not good this year because of strikes. Vienna Opera does not make similar requests. Munich Opera starts from “will refund automatically” and only in the end of the long message states that donations are welcome. These opera houses get more funding from their governments than ROH, but is UK really so poor that it cannot support its royal opera house?


      People cannot afford to DONATE the value of their tickets .which in most cases run in £100s

    • As it is purely voluntary I don’t think it is a cheek around 10 to 20 says:

      As it is purely voluntary I don’t think it is a cheek

    • Insight says:

      Its worth noting here that artists will usually only be paid if they perform.This is so houses don’t have to pay flighty divas who leave halfway through a run.Obviously there will be differences between full time staff (the chorus) and guest artists

      • Saxon Broken says:

        The chorus and orchestra are salaried and get paid anyway. The guest artists will lose their fee, but they are mostly rather well paid at the top opera houses.

  • John Rook says:

    I don’t follow the news much. Is this anything to do with Brexit?

  • Bloom says:

    May Beethoven s steadfast humanism continue to inspire us in the darkest hours of our civilization.

  • Peter says:

    How can this be breaking?!
    All the opera houses and concert halls around the globe have closed since at least a few days/one week, but this is breaking news?
    Finally it happened in the UK as well, although very late considering the risk to which people were exposed to until last night.
    What could be breaking is that the decision is not a governmental one, it only comes from the government’s advice, so the ROH and all the venues closing now are not insured and will not be compensated for their loss…
    What could also be breaking is that, now with Brexit, the UK will not get any support from the EU and have to deal with this situation on its own… so good luck with that!

  • Po says:

    I can afford donate my ticket no problem. They are cheap one anyway. Just wonder if they also ask singers like Kaufmann to donate his salary for the night. It would be a bigger amount and has less impact on him than on others. Just a thought.

  • Anthony Eisinger says:

    What a shame.

    I had been looking forward to the Cinema transmission for weeks.

    Still I suppose that Florestan suffered more.

  • John Rook says:

    Bear in mind that many theatres have ‘force majeure’ insurance policies, meaning that their guest artists are paid no matter what. I’ve seen this applied in much smaller outfits tan the ROH…

    • Nik says:

      It’s not clear at the moment whether anyone will be able to claim on their insurance policies because the government hasn’t actually ordered any venues to close or any events to be cancelled. It’s a kind of soft recommendation that most venues are following voluntarily.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    ==now with Brexit, the UK will not get any support from the EU and have to deal with this situation on its own…

    Yes, a round of applause for all those geniuses who voted to leave 🙁

    • Naiomi says:

      Nasty..jumping on bandwagons. Irrelevant

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Huh? What support do you think would have been provided by the EU if Britain had remained? (Although, technically, Britain is still in, hence the EU travel ban not applying to Britain). At the moment each EU country is formulating its own plan.

      Your comment is just totally bizarre.

  • Tiddles says:

    What is Jonas Kaufmann doing in a photo with Ozzy Osbourne?


    Do we have any notion of how long the closure is for please`?

    • Saxon Broken says:

      We are very unlikely to reopen before June. I would expect the shut-down to last about 3-4 months.

      Longer is more likely than shorter, but it depends whether the spread of the virus gets contained, and the number of new cases starts to decline.