The Ministry of Health of the Community of Madrid has counted 24 infected with coronavirus in the Teatro Real since last March 15, as confirmed to this newspaper by a Primary Care spokesperson. The accumulation of positives is considered “an outbreak from the epidemiological point of view”, according to the aforementioned health spokesperson, although the coliseum points out that there have only been “occasional isolated cases”, in the words of the general director, Ignacio García-Belenguer. Most of these, accumulated in the choir and the cast, occurred during the opera rehearsals Peter Grimes, a montage of Benjamin Britten’s play that is scheduled to premiere on April 19, after being delayed by the coliseum. They were detected through weekly screening tests and all presented mild symptoms or were asymptomatic, none required hospitalization.
The General Directorate of Public Health of the Community undertook an epidemiological tracking, including the identification of family, social and work infections. He considers that the outbreak is controlled and says that he never considered closing the Theater, he only prescribed isolation and quarantine for the positives. The situation came to light in an information published yesterday by the newspaper Abc. The origin of the sanitary intervention is in a union complaint of last March 15, before the increase of cases in the choir —subcontracted by means of the Intermezzo company—. That day the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) informed the Ministry of Health about five affected out of the 52 choristers. Despite knowing what was going on through the Intermezzo prevention delegates, the coliseum’s management did not sound the alarm.
On March 18, the Intermezzo concessionaire sent an email to its workers in which it alerted of the “current health emergency” and asked all its employees to carry out the PCR tests arranged with the support of the Ministry “in order to carry out the evening show ”by Rule, lyrical tragedy with music by Vincenzo Bellini and libretto by Felice Romani. This round of analysis and another carried out four days later yielded new positives. Only then, on March 22, were the face-to-face rehearsals suspended until March 29. The Teatro Real made public on March 31 that the premiere of Peter Grimes it was delayed for five days first and another four later due to the late incorporation of the artists “due to mobility restrictions and the bureaucratic obstacles of Brexit (most are British)”. In fact, from the theater they had to resort to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ease consular obstacles. But it is also true that, as Ignacio García-Belenguer acknowledges to EL PAÍS, “the situation of the positives has influenced the modification of the calendar”.
These days the preparations for Peter Grimes they are held on the main stage of the colosseum, in order to guarantee the safety distance. Fpp2 masks are also used, although there are no guidelines yet on their use during performances and by soloists. The Theater has stated this Wednesday in a statement that the rehearsals “continue at a good pace” and that “any positive cases have been immediately isolated and they have been closely monitored.” The text describes how the infections “come from personal or family environments” and denies the existence of an outbreak, relying on the criteria of the Chiron Prevention Service, which qualifies them as such only if they occur simultaneously, although it does not coincide with the criteria Primary Care. The Teatro Real has counted a score of cases since January, 9 choristers and 11 members of the cast.
In March, the Theater had news of only 9 cases. Regarding the difference between these data and the Health records, Ignacio García-Belenguer commented that it could be due to the fact that “the administration accounts for cases of people from other subcontracted companies in theater maintenance, cleaning and administration tasks.” However, the data from the Ministry of Health refer only to the artistic staff, as no cases were found in the technical or maintenance departments. García-Belenguer pointed out the day before that the Theater is not “alien to the pandemic and, as in any environment, there are positives. But if we had an outbreak, apart from the fact that we would be the first to stop the activity, the Community of Madrid would have forced us to do so. This same Tuesday we have done 262 tests and all have come out negative ”, reports Rachel Vidales.
“In the many tests carried out, several positives have been detected in different departments and distanced over time, which means that they have not occurred in the workplace,” continued the CEO. According to other protocols in the sector, such as that of the National Institute of Performing Arts and Music (INAEM), with three positives it is enough to stop the work of any assembly. In the Real, as it is a separate foundation, although with a presence in it of the Ministry of Culture, there are no specific regulations and they are guided by the instructions of their own medical committee. García-Belenguer describes the process in this way: “As soon as a positive occurs, we isolate it, test the rest of the staff and notify all the results to the health authorities of the Community of Madrid, which at no time have detected an outbreak”.
The functions of Peter Grimes They are scheduled for April 19, 22, 24, 27 and 29 and May 2, 5, 7 and 10 at 7:00 p.m. These performances constitute one of the great events of the season after the success that Warner reaped with musical director Ivor Bolton and set designer Michael Levine with Billy Budd, also by Britten, in 2017. The co-production of the Royal Theater with the Royal Opera House in London, the National Opera in Paris and the Opera in Rome is the most important it has faced since the pandemic appeared. The delays have also moved from the poster to the title Lessons in Love and Violence, by George Benjamin, but in this case, for another unspecified season.