‘I flew in on a full plane to sing to an empty hall’

‘I flew in on a full plane to sing to an empty hall’


norman lebrecht

September 04, 2020

The Spanish baritone Carlos Alvarez was permitted just 60 audience members in La Coruna:

‘It is incomprehensible that some economic sectors of this country may have a free hand to carry out their activity while the world of culture, which is showing its face, providing security, seriousness and rigor in its representations, is punished. We try to do the best we can on our part, but we did not find the best response from the administration.’



  • Anon says:

    Hear, hear. This artist makes an excellent point!

  • RW2013 says:

    Sing the concert in the plane.

    • Karl says:

      I don’t know why you have so many down votes. That’s the logic, isn’t it? It’s OK to cram people on a plane but not in a concert hall?

    • Novagerio says:

      RW2013: Excellent idea (despite the propably non-existing acoustic)…perhaps he can charge 50€ pr passenger, provided it’s a fully booked plane – unless you (behind your inappropriate sarcasm) expect artists to remain unpaid for another 9 months of lockdown…

  • Anon says:

    Here’s the link to the full article: https://www.lavozdegalicia.es/noticia/coruna/coruna/2020/09/02/carlos-alvarez-entiendo-venido-avion-lleno-cantar-teatro-vacio/00031599065363180479772.htm

    His words are becoming a rallying cry among performers in Spain. There are protests and a couple of change.org petitions asking the govt. to reconsider audience size limitations. All decisions like this are coming from the regional govts., not the national govt. of Spain. The restrictions, therefore, vary from region to region.

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      Álvarez, with considerable emphasis, makes two major points, which I find missing from this discussion:

      i. “I think it is abundantly demonstrated that, if there is any location where the people behave in a way which shows real awareness of how serious the situation is and how safety norms must be enforced, it is within a theatre. The behaviour there is always respectful, safety distancing is scrupulous enforced, protective masks are worn at all times.”

      So much for covidiots. Álvarez displays a commendably high level of risk awareness and safety compliance, which is too often absent from discussions on this site.

      ii. “If we were treated as essential goods, which culture really is, the attitude towards us would be radically different. But we are never regarded as an essential component of the economy and of society.”

      Ok, so now we’re down to economic brass tacks: the penny pinchers versus the purveyors of the intangible. The bean counters always win, unless they’re made to see the larger picture: culture as an intangible but vital economic factor. Which, in the end, helps create the conditions conducive to the yielding of ¡mucho dinero!
      But who can tackle the bean counters? In ancient times, it was the privilege of a moneyed and, on occasion, tangentially educated élite, vying for prestige. In the era of democracy? This is where the mainstay of democracy, an educated public opinion, would come into play, if it had survived decades of voodoo economics and market-ideological brainwashing.

      Original quotes:
      «Creo que está sobradamente demostrado que si hay algún sitio en el que la gente tiene una actitud realmente consciente de lo seria que es la situación y de cómo deben mantenerse las normas de seguridad, es dentro de un teatro. La actitud es siempre muy respetuosa, se mantiene escrupulosamente la distancia de seguridad, se utiliza en todo momento la mascarillla…»

      «Si se nos tratara como un bien esencial, que es lo que realmente es la cultura, la actitud tendría que ser radicalmente distinta. Pero nunca se nos ha visto como parte fundamental de la economía y de la sociedad.»

  • mary says:

    1)Flying is a necessity. Attending a concert is not.

    2) Don’t blame the Spanish authorities, blame the Spanish public. You can reopen only as quickly as the general public has the discipline to follow the rules. Spaniards are not Austrians, they will behave as they will behave.

    • Jon says:

      Flying is no more a ‘necessity’ than is attending a concert, and is probably less safe.

    • SVM says:

      I disagree — I have not flown anywhere since December 2018 (i.e.: 21 months ago), but have attended a lot of concerts since then. As far as I am concerned, flying is a climate-wrecking luxury in which I no longer feel comfortable indulging. Whilst I realise that some plane passengers would be making truly important journeys, they are a minority of all plane passengers. On the other hand, I cannot live without concerts.

      And keep in mind that aviation is getting special treatment even in comparison with other modes of transport. In terms of keeping the vital functions of society running, surface transport is far more important than aviation, both for passengers and for freight.

      So why is it that aviation is almost unique in not having to bother with social distancing? Most trains and buses are currently obliged to run well under capacity, in order to maintain distancing. Some train companies, such as LNER (the company that runs the main London-Edinburgh route), are requiring that *all* passengers make reservations for *every* journey, even if they have a flexible ticket… this means they should be able to trace everybody who travelled on a particular train, just as airlines should be able to trace everybody who travelled on a particular flight. Yet it is the commuter services such as London Underground (which cannot possibly take such measures), that are *not* strict in requiring social distancing at all times. Maybe, the argument goes that the risk is lower for short journeys? But a typical flight is longer than a typical commute on the London Underground.

      Probably, the reason is that the aviation lobby is very powerful — they have plenty of experience in obtaining the sort of special treatment that gives aviation an outrageously unfair advantage over other modes of transport (I have in mind the Chicago convention, which exempts international aviation from many of the taxes that other modes of international transport have to pay).

      • V. Lind says:

        You lost me to some extent with “I cannot live without concerts.”

        Which does not negate your valid observations on the airline industry. I have wondered for months why this most restrictive of transport methods, which has been allowed to take all the pleasure out of flying and therefore, for most of us, travelling, all in the interests of profit, have seemed to be less controlled in their post-lockdown activities than trains. I understand from a frequent flyer friend that masks are used. And of course passenger contact tracing is possible.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          The international airlines are in economic tatters, tens of thousands of people have lost jobs and you make these ignorant and asinine comments. Have you actually stumped up millions of your own cash, putting this at risk so that airlines can get off the ground? No, I didn’t think so.

          You are destined to be a salary and wage dependent ignoramus.

          • V. Lind says:

            I am neither salary- nor wage-dependent (thank God, or like millions I might now be without either). Nor am I an ignoramus.

            Of course the airlines are suffering from this, and they, more than probably any other industry, took the hit after 9/11. But so are millions of small businesses around the world. That does not make their business practices any more attractive.

            My response to SVM was in support of his complaint that when all sorts of other enterprises are severely restricted from doing business, the airlines, where people are packed in like sardines, seem to be getting away with a business as usual model.

            Your defence of the airlines might have carried more weight had it been couched in an articulated critique rather than a bile-spewing ad hominem.

          • Diane Valerie says:

            At least there was no mention of THE LEFT as the source of all ills this time. Let’s be grateful for small mercies …

          • dianne says:

            are you the (now banned) american airlines passenger in the news recently who handed the flight attendant a note saying that she was nothing but a glorified maid and worthless when the attendant asked you to put on a mask?

          • mikhado says:

            Hi Sue, Did your frequently over the top angry rudeness develop over time or did it happen all at once?

          • Diane Valerie says:

            Ignorance, unfortunately, is not limited to the “salary and wage dependent”.

          • Ryanfair says:

            A ridiculous comment. Tobacco industry has invested a lot of money, provides jobs for many people, just to produce a product that kills people. There’s something profoundly sick in this world when one can purchase a plane ticket for $60.

          • V. Lind says:

            London-Dublin £10.

      • Ryanfair says:

        Airlines can steal your money after the cancellations due to covid-19, and you find yourself involved in a legal nightmare trying to get your money back. And governments and the UE leave you completely helpless.

    • Selim says:

      Where are you from, darling?

    • Eric says:

      Very true. I’ve flown three times during the pandemic and the airline overall did an excellent job enforcing masks and other safety measures. But I wouldn’t feel safe sitting in a concert hall full of geriatrics, coughing and sneezing with little oversight. Sorry, but it’s true.

    • Eric says:

      Very true. I’ve flown three times during the pandemic and the airline overall did an excellent job enforcing masks and other safety measures. But I wouldn’t feel safe sitting in a concert hall full of geriatrics, coughing and sneezing with little oversight. Sorry, but it’s true.

      • christopher storey says:

        Eric : did it ever occur to you that the aeroplane might have its quota of “geriatrics, coughing and sneezing ” ?

        • Soprano says:

          I am a frecquent flyer and soprano. Therefore, I have always feared sneezing and coughing near me on planes, subways, buses, and so on. (I know, I know;-)
          I can assure you that sneezing and coughing have NO age. I have been open mouth coughed by youngsters in their 20s, kids, etc.

  • Nick says:


  • Luis says:

    Carlos Alvarez complains that the theatre was almost empty, but he fails to mention that he got paid anyway, most likely a very high fee due to the fact that he works with one of the most powerful agents in his country. However, he doesn’t have a word of solidarity or empathy for countless unemployed Spanish artists who lack the power and influence of his agent and who are constantly discrimnated in their own countries. Anyone who as worked close with Joan Matabosch, will tell you that he prefers to bypass Spanish artists no matter how good they are because they lack ‘international experience’.