First post-Covid concerts: Some sell out, others struggle

First post-Covid concerts: Some sell out, others struggle


norman lebrecht

June 25, 2020

The Czech Philharonic played last night to an audience of 500, seated 20 centimetres apart and without face coverings, in the open air and intermittent rain. There were no tickets left for sale.

The New Zealand Symphony are expecting 2,000 at their Friday-night comeback concert with local hero Simon O’Neill.

On the other hand, the Antwerp Symphony reopens next week with music director Elim Chan. There are 200 tickets on sale at the 2000-seat Queen Elisabeth Hall. With a week to go, the box-office still has 100 on its hands, according to our mole.

UPDATE: Antwerp is improving. As of noon today, we are told, there 51 tickets out of 600 tickets for sale for three concerts. They have also opened the Wednesday dress rehersal for ticket sale and there are 90 left.



  • V.Lind says:

    20 cm? Are you sure? That’s 7 7/8 inches. Not even elbow room.

    • Nik says:

      Well it’s a good question, what does 20cm apart mean exactly? Where do you measure it?
      20cm from head to head doesn’t sound right, but maybe Norman means that there was 20cm distance between your elbow and the next person’s on either side, that would make sense.

    • Bruce says:

      Surely (I hope) they meant 200cm

  • Bogda says:

    Czech Phil concert was not open to public, by invitation only. However one day earlier Prague Symphony played under Pietari Inkinen a concert in basically full Prague Municipal house (cca 1000) with no social distancing, though audience had to wear face masks.

  • M2N2K says:

    That Czech Phil information does not make any sense at all, because even if 20 cm is the distance between chairs, people’s faces would be about 40 cm apart only, which is not nearly enough even WITH face coverings, let alone without them. Maybe it’s a typo: 120 cm between chairs would be much more reasonable, though still a bit too close compared to distancing that is recommended by most experts. According to what we keep hearing for about four months now, around 200 cm between “uncovered” audience members would probably be just the right distance for everyone’s safety.

  • RW2013 says:

    The Rheingold on the park deck in Berlin sold out within minutes.
    And what do the Antwerp statistics say about their conductress?

  • Dave says:

    I will be eager to hear about the change in the amount of COVID patients in the near future after these concerts have taken place.

  • MezzoLover says:

    Here is a great example of post-COVID concert-giving – two opera gala concerts by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on 20 June that opened the Stars of the White Nights festival:

    The Mariinsky Theatre was the first in Russia to re-open post-COVID, and this was the first time since 19 March that the performers appeared together on the stage in front of an audience.

    The first concert, a matinee, was a charity event dedicated to doctors and medical workers and attended by 50 invitees. The second concert, held in the evening, was available for the general public.

    All audience members wore masks and gloves, and social distancing was observed at both concerts. No masks for the musicians, however they were meticulously spread out across the stage, with about one meter between any two orchestra musicians and plenty of space between the singer and the conductor/orchestra.

    Say what you will about Gergiev – and I know how polarizing he has become both as a musical and as a political figure – there is no denying the uplifting power of these two concerts.

    • M2N2K says:

      In an indoor venue, one meter between “maskless” musicians is not much safer than no distance at all.

    • Marianne says:

      post-COVID? We’re not there yet. Esp if you describe people as using PPE, it’s not post-COVID.

  • Karl says:

    There’s a video on facebook that shows normal concert seating distance. I don’t know how they measured the 20 cm. Chair leg to chair leg?

  • Aurelia says:

    Muti’s concert in Ravenna on Sunday was sold out. However, judging by the manner the audience was spaced I can’t see how concerts can make any money if this system continues for any length of time.

  • fflambeau says:

    A mistake by the New Zealand government.

  • BP says:

    600 masked audience members in a sold-out hall of Radio France on Thursday night with François-Xavier Roth and the Orchestre national de France. About one in two seats was sold, all for €10.

  • Marilyn says:

    New Zealand concert was a ticketed but free event. And in a Covid-free country.

  • Miko says:

    Antigen testing.

    The end.

  • I'm Musici says:

    Caught part of the NZSO playing Rosenkavalier Suite last night. It was an absolutely appalling performance level! They also looked like a bunch of zombies. They usually play that way, but one would’ve expected a bit more verve after such boasts about first to go in the world.