How Covent Garden treats Covid-fearing patrons

How Covent Garden treats Covid-fearing patrons


norman lebrecht

October 17, 2021

From Fiona Maddocks’ column in today’s Observer:

Being back at live performances is a joy. I’m uncomfortable, though, unless I’m at the end of a row or Covid checks are in place. Smaller venues seem more vigilant than large. A friend asked to be moved at the Royal Opera House, nervous at the unmasked crush and a recalcitrant, maskless neighbour. With no alternative seat available, she watched the performance alone, on a screen, elsewhere in the building. Her top-price ticket had cost £225….

Read on here.


  • Whimbrel says:

    I agree with Fiona Maddocks. The ROH isn’t taking adequate precautions to protect its audiences, and neither is ENO. They could easily require Covid passes (proof either of double vaccination, or a negative lateral flow test, or natural immunity) as many other West End theatres are doing, but have decided not to bother. Doing so would cost them nothing. And they give only mild encouragement to wear a mask. So I won’t be going back to either at the moment.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      Sorry to hear that. Things are very different at the Met where they require proof of vaccination to even get in the door and other than some of the right-wing commentators here (and a few on the Met’s Facebook page) has been contested by no one, certainly not the audience members in the house, all of whom kept their masks on throughout each of the performances I’ve attended. Wish the same were true in every other theatrical space in New York.

  • Dr. Science Christ says:

    Unbelievable. Even if fully vaccinated, now is not the time to take chances with this deadly, deadly virus. All it takes is one aerosol particle of the Delta variant to potentially end your life. This is no joke, and orchestras need to understand that their number one job is (as it has always been) to keep their patrons safe from exposure to respiratory viruses. To fall short of this lofty ideal indicates that our art form is in trouble.

  • Player says:

    If one had to rely on people like Fiona Maddocks and most of the rest of the Art establishment, we would all still be at home – while they would be attempting to shout at the Government, to get the taxpayer to bail them out. Jellies. The British arts scene was notably hopeless in getting much going last year after the first lockdown, and have been grumpy ever since about letting too many of their ‘vulgar’ customers back. I exempt the players and singers from this – it is a failure of leadership, aided and abetted by spineless critics and hangers-on.

  • Janet Fuller says:

    I would rather you stayed home then which is an can’t rely on the general public to shield you from the virus…even with masks and vaccines it doesn’t make a theatre a safe place to be. Instead of putting the onus on the public I’d argue that this is an optional activity and not a requirement.

    • Player says:

      Quite. But there seems to be a competition among some critics to outdo each other in Covid alarmism, especially over masks in theatres. One wonders if they know on which side their bread is buttered. Keeping people wide apart and surgical-masked in theatres is not the way to get back to viable cultural institutions anytime soon, however much they like to keen “we only want to protect people”.

      • Dave says:

        Somebody has to protect people, and that’s certainly not the UK government, which with that “freedom day” nonsense and other gaslighting has put it in the heads of many that we are back to normal. We are not. Covid has been normalised as an everyday feature; mask-wearing should be as well, and artistic venues should insist on it. As for silly jibes like “jellies”, is that how you describe those, many in advanced years with other health issues, who’d rather not throw caution to the wind and risk their health for the sake of the entertainment industry?

        • Player says:

          No, read my post. The jellies are the arts leaders in the UK (assisted by armchair critics) who did not get back to performances in the way the Germans did (for example) last year, until they had to stop later in the autumn. I attended Herheim’s new Walküre in Berlin in October of last year. The best the UK could offer was a triflingly small piece in the garden at Glyndebourne.

  • Nicholas Ennos says:

    Thousands of people are dying every day of this pandemic including hundreds of schoolchildren, we need vaccine passports immediately

    • Hayne says:

      Why passports since vaccinated can spread it just as easily? If you think the vaccines work so well, what are
      you so afraid of?

    • Maria says:

      Where? Not in England armt the moment. More are dying of heart attacks, cancer and strokes as they can’t get to see a doctor as they’ve locked themselves away. Best stay at home if feel unsafe, and watch opera from all over the world far cheaper than £225! That is more than I have to live on per week!

    • Alan says:

      Err? Hundreds of children?
      Please stop scaremongering.

  • James Weiss says:

    If you’re that afraid and phobic there is a simple solution: stay home.

  • George says:

    Agree with Ms. Maddocks about the need for enforced protocols. But I do wonder about her admission that she feels safer at the end of a row. If the person to your right, left, front or back is coughing up a lung, how does being on the end help?

    I personally would never enter a venue that didn’t have both a mask and a vaccine check at the door. Luckily that’s pretty much universal in NYC.

  • Maria says:

    I am just back on the train to Leeds from a crowded Satyagraha for £10 at ENO, and last week I caught Jenufa at ROH for £16, and it was equally full. I don’t know what to say but the last thing I want is a visit to an opera or a concert hall that resembles the outpatients of a hospital. The Proms asked for vaccination cards/certificate but so many showed up with fakes it seems. I just think we need to take responsiblity for ourselves. We need to learn to live woth this virus. There has to be some reward for having taken the risk having two jabs and then all the mental illness the virus has caused that goes silent for so many. It is not a legal requirement to wear any face coverings in England.

  • pjl says:

    have been twice to ROH recently; personally I think we have to accept the risk if we choose to attend and the efficacy of masks is surely marginal. Oddly, not only did we not need to show our NHS vaccination letters, but we got to our seats in the slips both times without our tickets being looked at: just a bag search.