Vienna suspends Carmen after Rachvelishvili catches Covid

Vienna suspends Carmen after Rachvelishvili catches Covid


norman lebrecht

February 01, 2021

The Vienna State Opera has issued this bulletin:

Anita Rachvelishvili, heroine of the new Carmen production, tested positive for COVID-19 last week. There have been further infections among the team, including the chorus, which was die to record Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro today.

To avoid any further spread of infection, rehearsals for Carmen have been suspended and the Figaro recording postponed to a later date.



  • Günther Kraus says:

    It has been proven time and again that it is highly unsafe to try to produce opera when COVID is raging. The management at the Vienna State Opera is putting their singers, orchestra members, and stagehands at risk.

    These performances are only streamed, meaning for the at home audience, the difference between this and a rebroadcast of an archived performance is next to nothing. I understand the value of taking the risk of Covid clusters in areas such as education, and critical infrastructure, but some performances of Ponelle’s Marriage of Figaro from 1976, hardly seems critical to me.

    The last time there was a Cluster at the Vienna State Opera, Roščić put off the blame onto some local University where one of the young singers studied and was infected. Who is he going to blame this time?

    I have heard through the rumor mill, that these singers would rehearsing without masks and were told by Management that mask wearing in rehearsals was not necessary. If this had happened at the Met, The New York State Department of Labor would be investigating the Opera Company forcing its employees to work under unsafe conditions.

    • OperaPass says:

      I have it on good authority (A recent AGMA call) that AGMA isn’t even going to push testing at all in the theatres due to costs associated. They won’t force companies to test in order to provide a safe working environment. So with that being said, there is no way we are going to see a return to opera in the USA until the pandemic is over.

      At least Vienna had structured testing in place and the mask issue was negated for soloists due to the nature of their work. They have put on a lot of shows with a few cancellations, yes, but overall it has been a success. With their strong testing in place and work protocols, they have been insulated quite well from the pandemic, though nothing is perfect.

    • Brian says:

      Let’s suspend all human activities until every possible illness has been conquered.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Your comment is so riddled with errors I don’t know where to start.

      There never was a “Cluster at the Vienna State Opera”. Several months ago, a university group gave a performance of an operetta at a tiny theatre in the 6. Bezirk far away from Staatsoper. Apparently a cluster occurred there and a Staatsoper tenor was in attendance, so he was quarantined and forced to cancel a couple of performances.

      Staatsoper has had no outbreaks, even when they were performing for audiences in September and October. They have been taking measure far beyond what is required by the Austrian government.

      In September I bought a ticket for the revival of Peter Konwitschny’s production of “Don Carlos” starring Jonas Kaufmann. I was the sole person in a Parterre Loge which normally seats six. At a Wiener Symphoniker concert at Musikverein, I was one of three people seated in a Loge which normally accommodates 20, and yes: everyone in both auditoriums kept their masks on during the entire performances.

      I have also been to Kozerthaus and Theater an der Wien in September/October and similar steps were taken. Again, there have been no clusters in Wien’s theatres! There was ONE reported case at the Salzburger Landestheater, which apparently triggered a warning light but there was no cluster.

      All personnel are tested regularly, so rehearsals – specifically allowed by the government under strict controls – are allowed to take place.

      And believe me; you would rather see the old Ponnelle production of “Figaro” than the piece of shit which Dominique Meyer brought in!

      • Günther Kraus says:

        Unfortunately, you are mistaken.
        There was a cluster at the Staatsoper in September, with several members of the newly formed Opera Studio affected. It spread (as clusters do) which forced many cast changes (including a change of conductor) in the September performances of Elixer of Love.
        I, too, was no fan of the Martinoty Figaro. However, I am not about to ask any singer/conductor/musician/director/stagehand/etc. to put themselves in harms way so that I can watch an opera. If you are so Figaro starved, watch a production on YouTube.

        Your post also contradicts itself by saying that there was a Cluster in the TAG, but then saying there have been no clusters in theaters in Wien.

        You can brag about whatever covid safety measures they were taking, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating: despite the testing and whatnot, a totally preventable cluster of a potentially deadly virus formed.

  • Lori says:

    I wish her a rapid and complete recovery, as well as the afflicted chorus members.

    • Günther Kraus says:

      As do I.

      Reports from Vienna say that the Staatsoper is underplaying the extent of the outbreak. It is apparently not just Frau Rachvelishvili and a few chorus members. *Many* members of the production have been infected.

      Shame on you Bogdan Roščić.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        “Reports from Vienna?” Like what? This is like trump saying “I hear from many people that…” Please give us a valid source or else you are simply making baseless accusations and demeaning people who are doing their best to comply with rules.

  • George says:

    And what about the singers and orchestra members that want to rehearse and be on stange and do their WORK (and passion) ? Shouldn’t they be given at least a chance?

    “If this had happened at the Met, The New York State Department of Labor would be investigating the Opera Company forcing its employees to work under unsafe conditions.”

    Exactly. And that is why the Met remains closed until September ; at least 30 % of the orchestra has left New York and hundreds are currently unemployed.

    As unfortunate as it is, the Vienna State Opera is going to great lengths with testing and creating a safe environment and keeping the arts up and their artists employed and they have done wonderfully so far. Thank God this attitude of sueing whenever possible is not common over here.

    • Günther Kraus says:

      They *have* been given a chance. The result: another Covid cluster.

      Somehow the Vienna State Opera thinks that they are somehow immune to this deadly pandemic that has already killed more than 2 million people.

      You advocate for the singers/instrumentalists who want to share their passion; what do you say to the chorus/orchestra members who are being forced to put themselves (and by proxy the people with whom they live) in harms way, because a bunch of idiots who choose not to recognize how deadly this virus can be insist on holding performances?

      If these singers want to share their passion, I applaud that. They are free to set up safe, socially distanced performances/recordings/live streams.

      I am not advocating for the the curtailing of anybody’s right to sing, express themselves and/or share their passion until it infringes on the rights of others to keep themselves safe.

      • inaustria says:

        As someone working in Vienna, Im afraid that I must agree with much of what Günther Kraus is saying. I dont pretend to have the answer to this: the Viennese opera-going public is starved for live music. But honestly, I’d prefer not to stand on stage tightly packed with 50 people, all singing at full volume. Especially as those people who are engaged “fest”, be it solo, chor or those who work behind the scenes are being paid regardless, with only a small percentage of our salaries being docked. My heart breaks for those free-lance colleagues for whom the shut-down is a true catastrophe. We are privilaged here (at least for now) and must not forget this.

    • against bigotry says:

      Can you clarify how not requiring artists to wear masks during rehearsals whenever possible is creating a safe environment? Nobody I’ve seen at the opera house has been wearing a mask from rehearsal footage. Also, while the company let in the public, they did not require masks until the week prior to their closing, which seemed incredibly stupid. There definitely are companies that are taking proper precautions (Bayerische Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper, Opera de Limoges). Vienna is not one of them.

      • Gus says:

        If you think that wearing a mask is going to save you from a possible Covid infection, then the evidence of most studies is that it will not.

        Just look at the video for a demonstration of how ineffective masks are.

        • Günther Kraus says:

          The purpose of the masks can be primarily summed up by the maxim “my mask protects you, your mask protects me.” That is to say, masks are most effective in not letting germs out, rather than not letting germs in. This is why in a rehearsal situation, mask wearing needs to be mandatory for “all.”

      • inaustria says:

        I think the theaters in Vienna believe that testing 2-3 times a week, restricting entrance to the theater from outsiders, having hand sanitizer everywhere, checking the temperature of anyone who enters, etc etc. is the way to stop clusters before they appear. They have indeed been very pro-active. When a case pops up, both that person and their contacts are re-tested and quarantined. Mask wearing IS mandatory, but just like in other situations, not everyone is always compliant.

    • Anna F says:

      I would agree with you except there are reports in Vienna that the Philarmoniker refused to cooperate with management as the Staatsoper wasnt being transparent about the amount of people infected (most likely due to the lack of masks and singers turning up to work with symptoms) and the orchestra apparently refused to play at least one rehearsal as they were worried for their own safety.

  • Jules says:

    wishing Anita Rachvelishvili a speedy recovery!! This production of Carmen is a mess anyway..

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      So shall we assume that you’d rather see the 1978 Zeffirelli production instead of giving something new a try? Although my experiences with Bieito productions have been mostly negative, he has not been given a chance in Wien, so prepare the production now, put it on when theatres reopen, and let the Viennese public and critics have their say.

      If it’s truly a “mess”, they can always bring back the Zeffirelli, as they are now doing with old productions of “Elektra” and “Figaro” to replace the crap brought in by Meyer.

  • JussiB says:

    she must have gotten it from fellow Putin supporter Netrebko.