Is it worth staying open for a crowd like this?

Is it worth staying open for a crowd like this?


norman lebrecht

December 28, 2021

The Vienna State Opera is caught between a rock and a hard place.

It wants to stay open but the audience is staying away.

This is Tosca yesterday – the safest of tickets in the safest of productions – and hardly anyone turned up.

A thicket of new Covid rules and rising Covid numbers have conspired to keep locals at home.

Tourists are kept away by lack of flights and strict entry controls.

An empty house is demoralising for performers. How long can Vienna stay open?


photo: Online Merker


  • Sarabande says:

    The opera has decided to introduce the most strict rules. Only people 3 times vaccined and showing pcr test are allowed to get in while konzerthaus and musikverein accept people with two vaccinations and pcr test (up to 1000 guests) . Opera believes that they will find 2000 guests who will come to a performance but as we see its not the case… No wonder…

    • Matthias says:

      The Musikverein is deciding on the attendance rules on a per-concert basis.
      Chamber concerts -> 2 times vaccinated, 500 people
      Golden Hall concerts with lower attendance -> 2 times vaccinated + PCR test, 1000 people
      (Nearly) sold-out Golden Hall concerts -> 3 times vaccinated + PCR test, 2000 people

      These rules were of course thought up by the Austrian government, the Musikverein chooses to apply them in a flexible way which is also a bit confusing, but probably better than what the State Opera is doing.

  • gimel says:

    “An empty house is demoralising for performers”

    Not as demoralising as a closed house.

    They’re just losing tons of money, but the state can afford it, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the universal free vaccination and health care.

    It still costs the state less to have a half-empty opera house than to treat ten patients on intensive care who would not have gotten Covid but for attending the opera.

    All is well.

  • Fabio Luisi says:

    Yes, it is worth it. And a closed house is even more demoralizing for everybody.

  • John Lenti says:

    Performers will perform for whoever’s there. Nothing more demoralizing than not performing at all.

  • Monsoon says:

    As I keep saying, until the pandemic because an endemic, arts organizations need to just plan to going dark during the holiday infection surge, and figure out a way to add a month or two of programming in the summer outdoors.

    With opera, I know that’s hard, but I think audiences will be forgiving with semi-staged outdoor performances..

  • Michael says:

    So you are suggesting ignoring the problem, like Britain’s brilliant leaders, or shutting the doors until a big audience can be assured? The Staatsoper – supported by the Austrian State – has chosen the difficult, but responsible path, and should be applauded for it. The rock and hard place appear in your own mind.

  • Singeril says:

    A truly professional singer will give the same performance whether there are 20 people in the audience or 2,000. It is NOT demoralizing.

  • José Bergher says:

    For the sake of health, it is imperative for everybody to stay home day and night. This means EVERYBODY no matter the profession, no matter if they are vaccinated (including those who have already received their 49th booster) or unvaxinated. By the year 2032, the present plague shall disappear and everybody, already accostumed to the slight inconvenience of staying home day and night, shall continue to stay home day and night and be even better prepared to easily confront the next batch of plagues.

    • Antonia says:

      As someone whose beloved mother just died of Covid 8 days ago, I strongly resent your mockery of the life-saving restrictions.

      • Anthony Sayer says:

        My condolences, but may I add that implemented covid restrictions prevented me from saying goodbye to my mother in person this year. Every coin has two sides.

  • lafin says:

    For every patron that won’t attend because of restrictions there are probably many more that will only attend because they feel safe because of the restrictions.

    • Don says:

      In fact, we went from Milan to Vienna in part because it seemed a safe Christmas destination. We attended 3 performances at the Volksoper, all well attended, despite the need for Covid pas with booster, plus (yesterday) a PCR test.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Those triple-jabbed could have come and hidden behind all those empty seats. Win-win.

  • When the local theater group wants a full house for a production they make sure the promos on public radio include dire warnings about nudity.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Why don’t they just vaccinate people when they purchase tickets? The way these vaccinations are going and the lack of efficacy they provide means that people will be getting them with their breakfast cereal before too much longer.

    • José Bergher says:

      It would be most practical to inject and test people between arias and during recitatives and intermissions. During overtures, preludes, and curtain calls the audience can purchase extra packs of masks and gloves at moderate prices, send and receive text messages, and use the restrooms.

  • Nik says:

    I was at Don Carlo on the 25th and the house was nearly full.

  • wiener says:

    Und der Hr. Direktor steht an der Eingangstür und überwacht die Kontrollen. Was für eine erbärmliche Aktion.

  • GGV says:

    Not a problem for a house that has such a healthy public financial support. In other countries this would had meant the end of the house and the company.

    By the way, I arrived yesterday and was welcomed by a COVID control by the military in field uniform at Schwechat Airport. I must say I found the presence of the Austrian military at a civil airport quite intimidating first, but they were very cordial.

  • Piano Lover says:

    Back to youtube concerts .In other words studio recorded concerts.Why not?
    New Years’s concert is on its way…how many will there be apart from the orchestra
    No Strauss waltzes then…a pity?