Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre reopens with a socially distanced ‘Don Carlo’

Russia’s opera aficionados will flock to the Bolshoi Theatre for the first time in almost six months on Sunday, wearing masks and sitting apart in a half-empty auditorium for a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Don Carlo”.

The landmark venue in central Moscow closed its doors on March 17 as coronavirus cases mounted in and around the capital, the worst-hit region in the country.

Initially managers said the shutdown would last for a few weeks, but finally said they would reopen on Sept. 6, as Russia started to relax some of its toughest restrictions.

Couples, or friends who bought their tickets together will be able to sit next to each other. But the hall will be no more than half full due to new curbs to contain the pandemic, said the Bolshoi’s director, Vladimir Urin.

Temperatures will be checked and anyone over 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) will be turned away at the door.

The lockdown cost the theatre more than 850 million roubles ($11.27 million), Urin said in an interview with state television. He urged visitors to follow the safety precautions.

“It’s most often the people who don’t understand the need to follow these measures who grumble. There is after all an alternative: close the theatre!”

The shutdown has played havoc with performers’ rehearsal schedules, said dancer Alyona Kovaleva, who will be appearing in “Four Characters in Search of a Plot”, which includes four one-act ballets.

“We were at home for several months, unable to work in a dance room or stay in shape,” she told Reuters.

“So, getting ready was tougher. We started gradually – at first we only did classes, then we added rehearsals. Now the period when we just work on a play without performing it on stage is longer.”