For the Arts in Europe, Lockdown Feels Different This Time


LONDON — Just as cultural life in Europe was learning to adapt to social distancing, small audiences and the need to wear face masks, along have come new lockdowns.

Over the past month, Europe’s museums, theaters, concert halls and bookshops have found themselves forced to close for the second time this year as coronavirus cases have soared across the continent.

Lockdowns are in place in England, France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere. Most are expected — for now — to be only about a month long, and people are also still allowed to go to work in many countries: Actors can rehearse and dancers practice, even as the only audiences possible are online.

There is another difference, too: people’s emotions. For some a second lockdown is more hopeless, while others are more optimistic. Then there are those who’re frustrated: On Monday, almost 40 German museums directors issued a statement asking the country’s government not to force them to close.

To understand how people are feeling about the situation, we spoke to six cultural figures, including an Italian opera star, a renowned Parisian bookseller and the head of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Here are edited excerpts from those conversations.

It is the right decision. The first line of the play is “Nothing to be done.” And with this situation, there’s nothing to be done. We just have to wait to play “Waiting for Godot” again.

The first lockdown was a great shock — many people in Italy were in hospital, many were dying. I was depressed. “What future can we have?” I thought. But this time I’m not depressed. I’m angry. This decision to close theaters is crazy — I don’t understand it.

So many other people feel the same way. That’s why you’re seeing these protests.

Over the summer, everybody who works in theaters — the directors, the musicians, the singers, the technical staff — worked to make them Covid safe with certain protocols. And the moment we find a way, the prime minister says, “No! Goodbye!” It’s terrible. It’s like a demagogy.

I could understand a total lockdown. But why only us and a few other places — gyms, swimming pools, universities. Why?

I know that some people in the orchestras and some singers have tested positive in Italy. I tested positive while performing “Aida” at La Scala. But it is normal if you test positive at work, you stay at home and quarantine.

At the start of October, I did two shows — each one outside, with everyone on the dance floor wearing masks. I was nervous, but after a couple of minutes it felt like always: The fun and excitement, you feel the bass through your body.

There was a thought in my mind: “I should enjoy it as much as I can. As it’s winter, it’s more likely there might be another lockdown.” And that’s exactly how it happened: A week later, my next show was canceled.

I’m still processing this lockdown as financial issues come up — it’s just so much harder than the first. A lot of people — promoters, artists, bar owners — have said they won’t be able to make it through a second phase, and it’s devastating.

I’m lucky as I have savings. I put money to the side just in case — not expecting this situation, obviously. I need to focus on the silver lining that is there. My motto for this moment is “One day at a time,” because otherwise I’ll go nuts.

We’d gone through all our savings, so last week we sent out an email saying, “If you have the means to buy a Christmas present for someone on our website, it’d make a big difference to us.”

And the response was amazing — the phone’s been ringing, emails coming in — so it feels like a beehive here even though we’re closed.

It a real morale boost, because people are saying, “We want you to stay open.” In Paris, they’re talking about maybe letting bookshops reopen in two weeks. There’s been such a huge debate about it. Yesterday, we had François Hollande, the former president, come into the shop as he’d heard we were in trouble and he wanted to film a video calling for bookshops to be reopened. It was actually very moving what he said about how important reading is to society.

He didn’t buy anything, no.

It’s interesting the books people are buying. In the first confinement, people were buying a lot of pandemic books — “The Plague” by Camus — and this time people seem to be looking for escapism — sci-fi, Greek mythology. There’s less panic.

I feel luckier than dancers anywhere else I know of now. Back in March, we had to completely stop working. I had to do exercises holding my kitchen table. But now, we can work 50 percent of normal. It means we can go into the studio for half of our normal hours, which is enough time to stay in shape, and for our bodies not to go up and down all the time.

We all have to wear masks, but we can touch, and dance with a partner.

A mask’s a bit difficult for the stamina and breathing, but I’m happy to wear it. I haven’t performed in a mask yet, but I feel the audience would miss a lot.

The government here hasn’t closed the theaters, but they said we can only perform for 50 people. And in a theater that normally has 1,250 people, that’s too big of a loss of money. I think it’s necessary to do this, because the numbers of coronavirus cases are growing immensely again, but there’s a lot of contradictions. People can still go to restaurants, and I don’t know how doing that is safer than going to a theater.

When will I perform again? That is the big question.



Sahred From Source link Arts

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