See the new distanced concert hall

See the new distanced concert hall


norman lebrecht

May 27, 2020

The Berliner Ensemble has shared this picture of its post-Covid auditorium.

It is no exaggeration.

The state of Bavaria has just told concert halls they may reopen in mid-June. The maximum permitted audience will be 100 outdoors, 50 inside.


  • Leo Doherty says:

    Don’t tell me but I’m sure their decision is based on science.

  • batonbaton says:

    if that’s the audience, what will seating be like on stage and do they have space backstage to maintain social distancing amongst performers? we need the other half of this picture! also, how many halls world-wide can effectively handle social distancing of everyone concerned, if this is what’s really needed? this is far from clear.

  • Eyal Braun says:

    In Israel they will allow up to 500 indoor audience since mid- June, some chamber concerts are going to be held in late June. still noinformation about larger scale concerts.

  • Sandor says:

    The virus is now in the head of people.

  • John Rook says:

    It’s a start. They have to at least pay lip service to this neurotic hysteria.

    • Brian says:

      Feel free to inform the now-100,000 U.S. victims’ families about the neurotic hysteria of which you speak. I’m sure they’ll lend you their ear.

  • George says:

    And trains and planes are fully booked. Pfff.
    Also, it does not make sense to allow 50 people for a cinema and 50 people for the Bayerische Staatsoper, which is a much bigger building. The number of people allowed should depend on the total number of available seats and size of the building.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Live classical music will become an exclusive luxury for a small number of people, maybe for some years to come. It is to be expected that ticket prices will go-up, due to financial pressures, which wil mean back to early concert life when only an elite could experienve serious music making.

    • Brian viner says:

      The elderly concert goers will not chance coming. The younger audience will come. But they are the minority. Young people will still fill an arena for a rock
      Concert ie the rolling stones at wembley.

      • geoff says:

        Are these elderly coming or going?

      • David Rohde says:

        Interesting comment, Brian. The Rolling Stones are like three times the age of the audience you’re talking about. But I think you’re reaching back to events in the 1980s and 1990s.

        For the second time I’ll refer readers here to a May 11 article at The Atlantic by rock musician Dave Grohl expressing the difficulties that the pop music industry will have coming back to life in live events in their usual venues.

        If the concern is the demographics of the classical music audience – and I agree it’s a concern in re-filling the pandemic or post-pandemic concert hall – then it’s best to realize that ALL live music and theater is off for the summer. Therein actually lies something of an opportunity. During this extraordinary period I’d love for classical music to stop “talking to itself.” That’s why I commented here on the incident at the Minnesota Orchestra where the CEO, to my mind, quite obviously tilted her public video message to a very specific demographic of subscriber/donors in an awkward attempt to get their money in advance for an uncertain next season. Far better would be some imagination on the industry’s part to get “classical” music out to a broader audience who can’t go to concerts in any of their preferred genres.

    • Nik says:

      This is missing an important point though.
      To experience first-rate classical music in a small-scale setting with a limited audience can be very nice, and this could indeed be marketed as an exclusive luxury.
      But what is being proposed here is to have a small audience spread out in a large venue, which is just awful. We all know what it’s like to be at a badly attended concert in a big hall, and how it kills the atmosphere – well, these proposals look even worse. Honestly I’m not sure I could be bothered to attend under these circumstances, and it’s not a question of price (within reason).

      • buxtehude says:

        Adding to earlier: And factor in the staggering amount, quality and depth of audio and a/v recordings now freely available, this immense virtual concert-hall in four dimensions which has presented an alternative only in the last few years.

      • violin accordion says:

        None of it will cover outgoing costs

  • annnon says:

    Let us remember that the “democratisation” of classical music was a financial invention of the 19th century to increase revenues and sales, it did nothing to better the quality of either compositions or performers.

    Let classical music be what it is, like haute cuisine, you can only put so many tables in a restaurant, you can only feed so many diners per service, beyond which you’re just becoming McDonalds.

    • Brian viner says:

      A good example of crowded concerts the Albert hall proms . It is so hot in the
      Hall i came out with a sun tan

  • buxtehude says:

    Agree. Orchestras and orchestral halls are out, now, probably for years to come. Solo recitals and small-scale chamber will fill a little of the void, delivered by net. Light corporate advertising might make it a living for the established few, but just maybe.

    The one way out is to write hits.

    • buxtehude says:

      This was posted as agreement with Nik, earlier, it seems to have been pasted into the wrong spot

    • Brian viner says:

      The music schools have lunchtime concerts which are good and not crowded
      When they reopen i will go back to them. I live near manchester which has
      3 schools and the cathedral which also has concerts.

  • Dennis says:

    Will the madness never end?

    The world destroyed for a virus that even the CDC says has an IFR of 0.26% (which most scientists still think is exaggerated and the real rate between .015-.02, in range of ordinary flu), yet now utter insanity and paranoia rule the world.

    • Brian viner says:

      I have been informed by people that live overseas and are allowed to go to cafes and restaurants it is chaos you cannot get a seat and younger people are drinking
      Like never before. We have this to look forward to.
      Stay at home with your books and cds/records. With the money you save you can
      Buy more to add to the collection.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      The fatality rate may be comparable, but the range of non-fatal symptoms is far worse, and its infectiousness is very high. The world can be rebuilt, but the lost lives cannot be revived.

  • jack says:

    Looking at that picture, I wonder what effect the removal of seats and the sparse and widely spread audience will have on acoustics in the hall.

  • Eleanor says:

    The Berliner Ensemble is not a concert hall but a theatre. Straight theatre can be programmed so the pieces performed can be done with the appropriate distance. More relevant to a piece about concert halls would be what the Musikverein is doing…