Exclusive: Czechs stage first post-Covid concert with audience

Exclusive: Czechs stage first post-Covid concert with audience


norman lebrecht

May 15, 2020

We have been sent last night’s pictures from Ostrava (where Janacek died) of the first permitted concert since the lockdown.

The players wore masks, the audience was distanced.

Watch the video.


  • Steven Mendler says:

    This format kills all the industry!

    • Dragonetti says:

      Sad to say I’m inclined to agree here. Clearly everyone is doing their best in these horrible times but this can only be a very temporary measure. No room on stage for any but the smallest ensemble is one thing. However even if we know that there is a valid reason behind it, the appearance of swathes of empty seats is heart sink time for any performer. Of course the audience will be appreciative but the lack of that vital spark of a rousing ovation will be so sad.

      • SVM says:

        For those of us who are not superstar players, “the appearance of swathes of empty seats” is something to which we are well accustomed. If the superstars cannot bear the thought of a small audience, there are plenty of people willing to take their place (especially if there are superstar fees on offer?!?).

        • Dragonetti says:

          Well I’m most definitely not a superstar player on huge fees. I wish! I rarely seem to play to anything other than a decently filled house though. Perhaps SVM you’re doing the sort of gig that will only appeal to a minority of enthusiasts? You have to remember that hard though it is, he who pays the piper…
          If not then I can’t really say why you don’t attract an audience.

      • Bruce says:

        (a) Is anyone regarding this (or Zoom performances, or any of the other ideas people have come up with) as anything but a temporary measure?

        (b) Swathes of empty seats are only “heart sink time” for a performer if you are expecting/ hoping for a full house.

        Most great performers don’t need a live audience to give a great performance. I’ve lost track of the number of stunning dress rehearsals I’ve been part of where the soloist has given a performance for the ages, and then was only “very good” in the concert.

        There are those who seem to need an audience to pull their best performances from them, but in my experience they are in the minority.

        • Lausitzer says:

          (a) Perhaps some people who heard too often about “the new normal”? What’s the purpose of this appalling phrase anyway? I just don’t get it how it would make the current, extremely extraordinary situation more bearable.

          This is of course not “post-Covid”, as already the first images make abundandly clear. But: So such concerts kill the industry while instead keeping anything completely shut for an unforeseeable time would not? Again, I just don’t get it. Even after the sight of the performers and the audience reminded me of the scare I had to overcome when donning a surgical mask for the very first time. All okay with that now, just spare me the appalling phrase.

        • Donald Hansen says:

          Didn’t Toscanini say his best performances were at rehearsals?

        • Saxon Broken says:

          I am with Bruce. We will return to normality one cautious step at a time.

  • sam says:

    How much you want to bet the entire audience is made up of family members of the players?

  • Peter San Diego says:

    One could imagine an “inverse Zoom” concert, with screens in the seats, each linked to audience members at home. Artists could see the remote faces, cameras could occasionally scan the auditorium to let the home viewers know they weren’t alone, and the home microphones could be muted until time for applause. (In the latter respect, it would be ideal: no candy wrappers, no noisy fidgeting, no ill-timed coughs or electronic noises off…)

    Another far-from-ideal concept, and expensive to implement (perhaps make season subscribers pay for the tablet associated with their seat?), but perhaps a bit less sterile than broadcasts from empty auditoria or concerts with tens of people where hundreds used to be.

    • Doug says:

      You watch too many sci-fi movies.

      • Peter San Diego says:

        Actually, sci-fi isn’t a genre I pay much attention to. Hey, I said it was far from ideal… 😉

    • SVM says:

      Peter San Diego’s plan is impractical and perverse, in that it would result in money earmarked for the arts going to wealthy multinationals rather than to artists (most of whom are not very wealthy) or individuals working in roles that support/facilitate/promote the arts in a very direct way (most of whom are not very wealthy either).

      For a start, venues would need to purchase a lot of expensive tablets — as an audience-member, I would rather my money went to musicians, not to big tech companies (who are already doing *very* well out of this crisis) who make expensive tablets and dodge taxes (despite being one of the world’s wealthiest companies, Apple’s sweetheart deal with the Republic of Ireland means that it pays a far lower percentage of its EU profits in tax than the overwhelming majority of people — it was such an egregious injustice that the EU had to order the Republic of Ireland to collect more taxes from Apple… and then, rather than doing so, the Republic of Ireland went to court to defend Apple).

      Secondly, to maintain so many two-way video connections would require *far* more bandwidth than a straightforward one-way online broadcast — I would rather see concert venues spent their money on paying musicians and staff properly, and *not* pay a fortune to a telecommunications giant for the extra hyper-ultra-super-fast fibre connection that would doubtless be required. Keep in mind, moreover, that the internet connections in the homes of many audience members may struggle with the load of a two-way video broadcast (my cheap regular broadband service can cope most of the time, but I optimise its efficiency by using a wired ethernet connection, *not* wi-fi; incidentally, I live in an area where one could get a much faster connection, but my current speed is adequate for my needs, and I do not fancy paying more).

      Finally, as instrumentalists, we are trained *not* to look directly at the audience in any case. It can be disconcerting to perform to an invisible audience, but showing audience-members on screens does not really help. Maybe, it is different for singers?

  • MacroV says:

    Ya gotta start somewhere. Good for them.

  • Distance says:

    Well, the player wear a mask… except the clarinetist. Of course he cannot play with a mask, but then, if infected, becomes a source of transmission… with no published data on how far a wind player can expel virus containing particles, I would say this is not a particularly safe practice for his colleagues…