When an orchestra player tests positive on the eve of an opera

When an orchestra player tests positive on the eve of an opera


norman lebrecht

March 14, 2021

The conductor Lawrence Renes has an inspiring account of the limitless flexibility of good musicians:

A very special time has come to an end. Two intense weeks of navigating highs, and lows. Miraculously we managed to get a group of dear friends together in Malta to perform George Benjamin’s Written On Skin. After a few days of rehearsals with the orchestra a wind player from the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra tested positive for COVID, putting the whole wind and percussion section into quarantine. Not wanting to just leave we all got together and created an eclectic program that spanned from Dowland and Gibbons to Bernstein. It also included Britten’s Serenade for tenor, horn and strings. Rehearsals continued and due to local restrictions we prepared to record everything for national television. With most of the program recorded on the first evening only the Serenade was left to record on the last evening. Unfortunately another orchestra member tested positive which meant another program change had to be made. Rob Murray, together with Alphonse Cemin and Ben Davis heroically saved the program with quickly putting on Britten’s first Canticle.

UPDATE: Statement from the Malta Philharmonic:
Health authorities have placed several members of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in mandatory quarantine as a precautionary measure in line with a risk assessment after three cases of COVID-19 within the orchestra.

The MPO has always adhered to all the Department of Public Health’s protocols, as well as followed the Standards for Musicians and Orchestras to safeguard its members’ health and wellbeing.

Additionally, the management and musicians of the orchestra are requested to present PCR test results on a regular basis. This practice was extended to all guest artists and technical crew joining the orchestra.

The well-being of our employees has always been our main priority, even more so throughout the pandemic.

The MPO augurs a speedy recovery to its employees, while hoping to resume its operations as soon as possible, in liaison with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Health and the Department of Public Health.


  • HR says:

    Bravi, tutti. I’m glad they were able to make something happen.

  • Ira says:

    Lawrence has always had his heart in the right place.

  • fflambeau says:

    When you have to members of an opera orchestra come down with Covid that should tell you something.

  • fflambeau says:



    lang leve lawrence, the flying dutchman!