Russia’s famous Bolshoi Theatre opened its 245th season on Sunday for the first time in almost six months due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
But it was a very different experience for opera fans, who donned masks and had to sit apart in a half-empty auditorium for a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Don Carlo”.
“A lot of people put in a lot of effort,” said Austrian-Russian operatic soprano, Anna Netrebko.
“We are very happy now that we have such an opportunity, and the theatre is opening.”
The landmark venue in central Moscow was forced to shut its doors on March 17 due to a lockdown to curb the spread of the virus in and around the capital, the worst-hit region in the country.
The closure cost the theatre more than nine-and-a-half-million euros.
Initially, managers said the shutdown would last for a few weeks, but they finally said they would reopen on September 6, as Russia started to relax some of its toughest restrictions.
"We are opening the season with great joy on the one hand, and on the other hand with caution, because coronavirus did not go anywhere," said director of the Bolshoi Theatre, Vladimir Urin.
Couples or friends who bought their tickets together can sit next to each other. But the hall must be no more than half full due to new protocols to contain the pandemic.
Temperatures are also be checked and anyone over 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) will be turned away at the door.
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”.
The first ballet performance at the Bolshoi will take place on September 12 with “Don Quixote”.