Distancing? Not much in Vienna

Distancing? Not much in Vienna


norman lebrecht

June 07, 2020

This was the scene after Daniel Barenboim’s Musikverein concert for an audience of 100, including Anna Netrebko.

Worth it?

Risk assessment: Man of 77 travels from one country to another to perform music for 100 privileged people.


  • CA says:

    Economically it’s hardly going to help dig out of the immense hole that most performing arts companies are now in. And we could have a vaccine, when? Or ever?

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Since the virus continues to morph it’s hard to see any vaccine. Personally, I think the ideal ‘vaccine’ is lack of fear and the desire to live, live, live. Eat my dust, Covid-19!!!

  • sam says:

    Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands mass together in Black Lives Matter protests across European capitals.

    At the Musikverein, not a single black person.

    You draw your own conclusions here:

    • Maria says:

      Yes, you draw your own conclusions at that. But it’s far more in this situation than putting in token black people into where most of us on this occasion would have felt totally out of place.

      • mary says:

        I can’t even come up with 5 “token blacks” from the entire classical music industry to put into the Musikverein.

        (Even when counting Netrebko when she’s in Black Face as Aida.)

        • Petros Linardos says:

          You are going too far. Here are five living black classical musicians who are not even close the end of their careers.

          Wynton Marsalis
          Anthony McGill
          Eric Owens
          Sheku Kanneh-Mason
          Billy Hunter, Jr.

          Will anyone include Jessye Norman in a shortlist of great 20th century sopranos in the interest of political correctness?

          • G.G. says:

            Norman played Carmen. A spanish Andaluzia woman. What’s the problem?

          • Enquiring Mind says:

            I was going to add some Black classical musicians not on your list then realized that this is an idiotic thread started by sam.

          • sam says:

            Yet here you are Declining Mind.

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            Jessye Norman was a phenomenon. She didn’t need anybody’s pity or sympathy. Her legacy continues, untarnished. Wynton Marsalis lost his father early on from Covid-19. What a musician!!!! And personality.

          • Novagerio says:

            Don’t forget Leontyne Price, who was brought to Vienna in 1962 by Karajan, and later Barbara Hendricks who sang Susanna with Böhm.

          • Anon says:

            This is Sue, trying to convince us she isn’t racist, despite her denials of systemic racism. She, as an elderly white British woman, really has more of a handle on the experience of people of color than they themselves.

        • annnon says:

          Pretty Yende
          Lawrence Brownlee
          Michael Morgan

        • Novagerio says:

          Miles Davis (and I presume many other afro-american musicians) did in fact performed in Vienna. Maybe not in the Musikverein, but in the Konzerthaus and in the Stadthalle – disregarding the comment about a “black-faced” Netrebko…

    • Alan says:

      Yes. About you.

    • Who Cares about the Audience says:

      What’s the point of this post? Everything comes back to race with these kinds of comments. Who cares who is in the audience? They are all human. Ridiculous nonsense.

    • Gustavo says:

      But at least they have a “token jew”…

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Probably plenty of Jews; they were never discriminated against. Or anything.

      • Amos says:

        No discrimination, but at the start of the 20th century “they” merely had to convert to Catholicism in order to lead the Vienna State opera (see Mahler) and later in the century were involuntarily shipped to camps for execution. Your incomprehension of the biological science of COVID-19 is idiotic but your reflexive excuses for racism and antisemitism are much viler. Just another of your typical despicable and malevolent contributions.

  • Alexander says:

    I would take this fact ontologically, and Madame Netrebko unambiguously hint at some aspects of it – “live music is back”.
    Live music due to some peculiarities cannot be substituted its electronic/digital copies in any form.Mostly because of some fine vibrations ( frequencies for connoisseurs) which are produced during the performance and are lost when in recordings.All the instruments are electric-free. So it is worth doing as a sign of a regular cultural politics comeback.
    just my opinion, of course 😉

    • Alexander says:

      … Netrebko hinted …

    • Tamino says:

      What’s lost in recordings is not “some fine frequencies” (nonsense) but the immediate bidirectional interaction between performing artists and audience, experienced together in the same one room at the same time. Simple as that.

      • Alexander says:

        have you ever thought on physical description of
        “the immediate bidirectional interaction between performing artists and audience, experienced together in the same one room at the same time” ? Don’t you think this is the same process seeing in different aspects? Any way everyone has one’s own way of vision 😉

  • Brian says:

    And not even a face mask in sight, even around 77-year-old Daniel Barenboim.

  • Suzanne says:

    There are currently 258 active cases of Covid-19 in a Vienna, a city with a population of 1.9 million – far cry from the current numbers in London. All the members of the Vienna Philharmonic and Barenboim were tested and had negative results before rehearsals began, as the Vienna Phil announced on their various social media accounts. Nothing against masks – I’m all for them – but people on this site should be aware of the context of low case numbers throughout Austria.

    • Hilary says:

      The lamentable U.K. must learn from countries like Austria, Czech Republic and others if/ when the 2nd wave of Covid strikes.

  • Peter says:

    100? And all came in by invitation only, in order to have a “group” photo? Sounds a little pathetic…

  • Alan says:

    We should all be getting on with our lives! Keep protecting the elderly and vulnerable but the rest of us can get back to normal. Ridiculous scaremongering has now taken hold.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Not scaremongering, only policies informed by the development of the pandemic, including the numbers of deaths and the second waves in countries that initially seemed to have stopped it in its tracts.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Bravo. Couldn’t agree more. The western world is inclined towards fear because it thinks most everything can be controlled. Next time you’re afraid cast your minds back to the D-Day landings when thousands of young men (of white privilege) were cut down by gunfire in the most hideous way. The anniversary of that day has just gone.

      Surely those young men going in on those boats knew they had but minutes to live. Some people are courageous, many others craven and whining.

      • Peter San Diego says:

        The men of D-Day were headed toward the likelihood of death in service of a high cause. Where is the higher cause in risking covid in order to dine out or attend a play or concert? Joining a protest against injustice may rise to such a standard, but merely enjoying ephemeral pleasures doesn’t — in my opinion.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        What in the blue moon are you talking about?

    • Karl says:

      Agreed. By now we know very well which people are most vulnerable. Half the people who get COVID have no symptoms at all. If we isolate the vulnerable and actively encourage everyone else to mingle we could reach herd immunity in a few months.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    It breaks my heart when I see “influencers” like Netrebko and Barenboim appearing in public without facemasks and proper distancing.

    It doesn’t matter if they were tested two minutes before, they have a responsibility as public figures (albeit for a rather limited universe) to demonstrate the public health norms that the world should now be practicing. None of us like this new and hopefully temporary situation, but I’d rather protect others as well as myself than trade it in for a photo op.

    Anna and Danny…you’re better than this, no?

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Sure, Barenboim and Netrebko should not invite comparisons to Trump.

      Wearing masks for this photo could have been criticized as theatrical. But why did this photograph need to be publicized in the first place?

  • G.G. says:

    I don’t know of each one has more risk for the pandemic issue, but I would think savier to be listening Baremboin regardeless.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Oh dear, we simply cannot have ‘privileged’ people. That would never do!! Oh, except those who can gather in their tens of thousands to protest, defying social distancing rules. That kind of privilege is OK.

  • Jay says:

    It’s a photo op……to quote Macbeth “signifying nothing”
    They all are nothing in the scheme of things.

  • John Rook says:

    Risk assessment: Man of 77 travels from one country to another to perform music for 100 privileged people.

    Answer: Zero. And we know it.