The Times: ‘Covent Garden had me sing with Covid’

The Times: ‘Covent Garden had me sing with Covid’


norman lebrecht

July 28, 2020

There has been a storm of hostile comment to a news article in the Times today. Beneath the headline ‘Show went on despite coronavirus spreading through opera cast,’ it reported:

A soprano who sang in the last show at the Royal Opera House before lockdown has claimed that she and most of the cast caught coronavirus but “powered through” on stage.

Amanda Forsythe, who specialises in baroque music and the works of Rossini, rehearsed and performed despite showing symptoms after flying to London from north Italy….

According to the Times article, there was no understudy in the sold-out production of Fidelio. Fosythe had to sing, or there was no show. More than 60 comments, mostly angry, have appeared on the Times site since this morning.

Amanda has been in touch to set the record straight. She tells Slipped Disc:


‘I recently did a phone interview with a local Boston music critic, Keith Powers, called “artists at home”, and in it we discussed that I found out after the fact that I had had coronavirus 3 months earlier.

‘In the first week of February, I became sick with the “flu” and missed a week of rehearsals at the Royal Opera House. After a full week of rehearsals, I woke up on the weekend feeling terribly and went to the doctor, who examined me and asked if I’d been to China recently. I hadn’t and she diagnosed me with the flu and told me to rest for a week, which I did. I then felt well enough to go back to work, and carried on with rehearsals and the performances. Other cast members, before and after I was out for the week, were also poorly. When I got back home to Boston 6 weeks later, I read about loss of smell being an indicator of Covid. It was then that I put the pieces together and had an antibody test which confirmed that I had had the virus.
‘It’s not good clickbait, but there we have it.’


  • Peter San Diego says:

    So the Times is not immune to the clickbait temptation, either. Stop the presses! (Continue with the online clickbait.)

  • anonymous says:

    I did an audition at the Royal Opera House just before the lockdown. Soon after, I had very minor breathing difficulties (thought nothing of them – it was not a ‘persistent cough’) but a week later had the extremely odd complete loss of smell (not much else) – it was not a listed symptom then. I have never been tested, nor had the antibody test. The ROH artist entrance is tight with many people coming and going. It would have been a perfect breeding ground for virus transmission.
    Again, I must note that I have never been tested – but the loss of smell was apparent.

    • Maria says:

      If you weren’t tested, then it could have been anything.

      • anonymous says:

        Of course it could have been anything. Unless I had vast sums of money, there was no possibility for me to be tested when I had the loss of smell – it wasn’t even listed as an official symptom. It is merely anecdotal – I’m just interested to read this.

        This compete loss of smell is so odd – no blocked nose – nothing like any cold I’ve had before. A friend of mine (similar age) who is a doctor, who has tested positive for Covid antibodies, said my symptoms matched his like for like. Again, completely anecdotal I know. I also know if I did have Covid-19, I could have picked it up anywhere , not necessarily at the ROH.

        Also, to be clear – I am not appropriating blame with the ROH or Amanda Forsythe – I clearly remember the advice at the start of March. We were told that there was only very small risk to the UK public. The symptoms we were told to watch out for (and self isolate with) were severe (a persistent cough and a high fever).

        • Christophe Huss says:

          I am very very curious to get from Maria who seems so medically knowledgeable, the list of diseases (like “anything”) with anosmia as symptom.

          To give you the answer right away, loss of smell with no blocked nose, the answer is very very near zero (except Covid).

          And, yes, at the beginning of March it was not listed.

          Last point about the “if your weren’t tested…” wisdom. Following the theory of “Case Definitions for Public Health Surveillance”, during this pandemia symptoms alone were used to establish “Epidemiologically linked cases” without any testing
          From end of March beginning April anosmia was so symptomatic and discriminant that it had been used as one of the major symptoms to do so.

        • A Pianist says:

          Loss of smell is absolutely a symptom officially associated with Covid. There was an NY Times article a while back on using Google searches to spot COVID outbreaks. “I can’t smell” was a term they could use to predict a new hot spot. That was exactly the query featured in the article. It is like a COVID thumbprint.

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        . . . which means it could have also been Covid – let’s be clear on that.

      • Bruce says:

        Don’t worry. Even if anonymous had been tested and was positive, you could still say the tests are unreliable or it was a government lie.

      • Eden Elieff says:

        I recently got tested where I live, in Dallas. The nurse told me that while there are many symptoms, the one with 100% accuracy of positive results was the loss of taste or smell. So, if you lose those, you have the virus.

        • Paul Brownsey says:

          “So, if you lose those, you have the virus.” That could be a safe inference only if nothing else whatsoever could cause loss of taste or small. Really? Or bad reasoning?

  • Sharon says:

    “You would need pots of money to get tested?” Doesn’t England offer Covid testing and Covid antibody testing for free?

    At this point it might be a good idea for anonymous to get tested for the antibody although we still do not know how protective this antibody is.

    • anonymous says:

      In England, a member of the public can now get a covid test (if you say you have symptoms). It’s free and easy to access.

      People (especially those commenting on the Times article) are forgetting that it was completely different world in March. In March/April the UK general public could only get a test, first, if you’d been to some areas in China, and then, later, if you were in hospital. If I had wanted to get a test when I had the loss of smell symptom, I was looking at paying between 500 and £1000. Given that I had just lost all of my work for a year, I was not going to pay that.

      Antibody tests are not available for the general public in England. You can get one if you work in the healthcare professions but not if you are an out of work musician. In any case, it is now several months ago and there is a high likelihood that I would no longer have antibodies.

  • Tinkerbelle says:

    If I have a bad cold, I lose my sense of taste and smell. Been happening for years.