Covid-19, The Future and Culture

Stage art cannot survive alone. Whether it’s a soloist or an orchestra, drama theatre, ballet or opera, a stage and an audience are necessary. These two, the one on the stage and the one looking at it, have lived together for thousands of years.

A writer can create in isolation, and an artist can paint in isolation. They can be satisfied immediately after seeing the result of their creation. However, the artists of ballet, operas, orchestras or theatres need applause and appreciation, good or bad. These art forms have been strongly affected by spreading of coronavirus and the quarantine rules caused by it.

How can music performances, festivals, concerts and theatre performances continue on the stage? What will be their future without a stage and an audience?
How about an industry raising billions of profit, you will ask? What will the world’s numerous actors and musicians do? Tens of thousands of workers behind and on the stage, theatre and concert hall employees and concert organizers, film makers will stay jobless. Tourists and cultural enthusiasts, whose main occupation was to inform their friends about how many performances they had recently watched and in which city, will be bored to the end.

There is another issue. Even if the theatres and music halls open their doors tomorrow, will you go to see a play or a concert sitting next to God knows who in these conditions of coronavirus when the person sitting behind you is coughing and the person sitting in front is sneezing?

During isolation some artists perform in their rooms or on the Internet, showing that they are indomitable and they can fight against coronavirus in their own way. Various musicians feel a need for an audience and try to entertain and reassure people in some way. They sing for neighbours in their backyards or from open windows, recite their own or other people’s poetry, or do it all on the Internet like the Italians and Spaniards.

All this, of course, is not fully satisfying for the artist.

Cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan’s statement ‘I miss the stage, I miss the audience!’ is completely justified.


However, in this era, we are lucky to be able to turn the computer on at any time, listen to and watch the world’s best performances for free. This is perhaps the only good thing in this whole lousy story.

But is that enough for us, avid theatre lovers or worshipers of music?

In all this uncertainty, brave people were found. For example, Milan’s Teatro Franco Parenti, as mentioned in the European press, is reducing its 500 seats and will sell only 65-70 tickets, so that every visitor will have eight free seats around. In one of the theatres of Massachusetts, after each row of chairs, the next row will be removed. In the United Kingdom, the English National Opera is preparing a performance at Alexandra Palace for September, where audiences will watch the show sitting in cars, or even on bicycles.

Back to the future? Watching the performance sitting in a car, like in the 60-ies of the last century… What if I propose a science fiction idea? Robots with artificial intelligence will perform and we will sit inside our glass cubes and listen to the performance with headphones. I apologize for my pessimism, but anyhow, be prepared!

I can’t help not feeling happy about how I managed to take my seven-year-old granddaughter recently, before the Covid started, to watch ‘The Nutcracker’, ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘The Magic Flute’ properly on the stage, while we were sitting in the stalls. How unbelievable all that seems these days!

And now I’m worried: wouldn’t I be able to watch live opera and ballet and listen to classical concerts on the stage anymore?

 Alas! This question has no answer yet.

Initially, it seemed to me that humanity will quickly forget the disaster caused by Covid-19 as soon as the eagerly awaited vaccine is found, hence the isolation ends.

The humanity is ready to forget the misfortunes caused by Covid and start living luxuriously like before the pandemic-this is obvious! But, most likely, it will be impossible to live as before. We are now passing through a phase that teaches us a lesson and it would be good to remember it for the future. Because of this transitional period, we have psychologically become different. We don’t know what to expect. We don’t know how long this will last. We are scared, maybe even angry, because of uncertainty.

Yet, not everything is lost. Humanity has always found a way out of desperate circumstances. This time too we will find new ways to overcome the situation created by Covid-19. We NEED our music and theatre, we NEED our festivals and music competitions, we NEED all this in live performances.

Let’s stay positive!