COVID-19 Update The Atlanta Opera
COVID-19 Update from The Atlanta Opera's General and Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun.
General and Artistic Director
In March, following the third of five scheduled performances of Porgy and Bess, the famed American opera with music by George Gershwin, The Atlanta Opera canceled the remaining two productions. Patrons who attended the Tuesday, March 10, performance received a notice saying that an audience member had tested positive for COVID-19. “Though this patient stated she was without symptoms at the time she attended, the diagnosis was verified six days later,” the message said.
“Recognizing its responsibility to the community at large — as well as to its patrons, artists, staff, and collaborators — to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, The Atlanta Opera made this decision [to cancel the remaining two productions],” noted a press release.
The cast, chorus, crew, and orchestra responsible for preparing and performing Porgy and Bess — more than 200 people who worked on stage, in the orchestra pit, and behind the scenes — were paid for the entire five-day run. Ticket holders for the canceled operas were given three options: donate their ticket and receive a tax deduction, exchange their ticket for a gift certificate, or receive a full refund.
On April 3, The Atlanta Opera announced the postponement of productions of Madama Butterfly and Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, which were scheduled for May.
At the end of July came the announcement from The Atlanta Opera of a “completely reimagined 2020-21 season of operatic performances in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021.” The reimagining takes the form of an ensemble of 12 company players led by Jamie Barton, Morris Robinson, Kevin Burdette, and Michael Mayes, who will deliver performances in a form or format not yet confirmed.
“While the goal is to perform live, The Atlanta Opera has also created a digital media department to speed up development and distribution of artistic content,” reads a press release. “The Company Players are instrumental to this effort.”
The idea of forming The Atlanta Opera Company Players was inspired by William Shakespeare’s theater troupe, The King’s Men, which operated at a time when plague regularly shuttered London’s theaters, as well as by the contemporary Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble in Chicago.
“We have been dreaming of creating a European style ‘fest model,’ and this is the right time for it,” notes Atlanta Opera general and artistic director Tomer Zvulun.
Also reimagined is an arrangement, possibly unprecedented in opera, by which the singers will receive salary and benefits from The Atlanta Opera in exchange for committing to performing the season and serving as mentors and coaches to the six members of the company’s Studio Artists program.
“The list of world-class talent residing in Atlanta and the Southeast goes well beyond these magnificent twelve, and we only wish we could have included them all,” says Zvulun. “Together we plan to present a season full of fantastic collaborations, a sense of community pride, and the potential for artistic fireworks.”
In another innovative move, The Atlanta Opera convened a Health & Safety Task Force of epidemiologists, public health specialists, doctors, and attorneys to advise the company on protecting the health of cast, musicians, and crew members, as well as audiences, as an essential component of building a new season of programming during a pandemic.