Large events canceled: That would be the end of the cultural nation Germany as we know it

Wis a “major event”? Is it only valid from 3000 visitors or already from 1000 or less? May the Berliner Philharmoniker hold their season opener in mid-August (including a planned tour to Salzburg, Lucerne and London)? Can the Berlin Music Festival start on August 29? Nobody knows.

In any case, since April 15th to August 31st, the “major events” as a result of the Corona crisis have been officially and legally prohibited in Germany. The opera and concert lover Angela Merkel has not said how this should be interpreted. Does that mean a lockdown of the entire summer festival landscape? And is that finally the remaining season in the theaters canceled?

On the various stage websites you bravely cling to official closing dates until mid or late April, probably without any realism. Behind the scenes, closure or restriction scenarios are being run through until the end of the year. And Professor Jörg Hacker from the Leopoldina does not even speak of a new opening before 2022! That would be the end of the cultural nation Germany, at least as we know it.

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But even if you assume the smallest possible evil, namely the closure until August 31: Do the freelance artists, who are already hard hit anyway, now have to live with at least six months of total income waiver? Orchestras such as choirs and the rest of the theater staff, unlike in Austria, have not yet been working short-time, but those who sell their skin and their names on the front lines on stages and podiums are completely unemployed at home. And among them are truly not only top earners who can afford something like this.

In addition, the promised emergency aid is either already exhausted or does not arrive at all, because in many federal states only operating grants are granted – and the self-employed who live on fees cannot claim them. Only Hartz IV remains for her. Many a singer is now sitting at the Rewe cash register, whether out of necessity or solidarity, it remains to be seen.

Little hope for Aix and Avignon

In France, however, events were generally canceled until mid-July, after which the large, economically significant summer festivals such as Avignon or Aix were canceled. In Aix, it is still hoped that at least three of the co-productions will be ready for streaming around July 14, as they are already planned for the partners in autumn, or that free orchestras such as the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble would be able to provide the much-needed salaries .

It is questionable, of course, whether the “Così fan tutte” director Dmitri Techerniakov from Moscow will be able to arrive where Corona is just starting to rage. And in Paris, the Opéra dreams of trying out its first two “ring” premieres, which have now turned out to be unusual, in August, as a result of the Bayreuth Festival cancellation, many Wagner singers, including conductor Philippe Jordan, now suddenly have time. Then “Rheingold” and “Valkyrie” could be made up for when the whole cycle is played from November.

But these are all just business games. That is why some stages that only wanted to announce their season these days now only publish online brochures, too much is uncertain, canceled productions of these months may still want to be included in the fluid agenda. But even in the pop scene, facts are created: “Rock am Ring” and “Rock im Park” are canceled, as is the heavy metal open air in Wacken in mid-August.

A lot still hangs in the air

In the classical field, Austria is still hoping for Bregenz and Salzburg, who continue to weigh things up. In Salzburg, however, all the scenic productions for the 100th anniversary summer 2020 are supposed to be postponed to 2021, the plan is for an unofficial two-week concert program. The Lucerne Festival is still sticking to its dates, as is the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall from July 17th in the empty English festival calendar – even if hardly anyone expects it.

Much can only be canceled for legal reasons if it is justified by the state, and so many institutions are still hanging in the air with tours and performances, although it is clear that they will not take place. And that’s why there is still no concrete statement from the major German summer concert festivals in Schleswig-Holstein, in the Rheingau or in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which of course all co-finance the smaller ones with the larger events.

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In Austria, prominent singers have joined together to petition the federal government. The signatories’ demands – including Elisabeth Kulman, Tomasz Konieczny and Günther Groissböck: Uniform, legally compliant, Europe-wide regulations for the payment of freelance artists. “Until now we were lone fighters, but now we have to switch the lever to solidarity”, tenor Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke outlined the idea. Many colleagues are afraid to position themselves publicly against the arbitrariness of the organizers.

Because the default fees are also very different. The well-known baritone Johannes Martin Kränzle has compiled a list. He told the “Münchner Merkur” that the Munich Volkstheater paid 80 percent of the fee for canceled evenings. One hundred percent would transfer the theaters in Hof, Münster, Basel, Copenhagen, London and the Landestheater Niederbayern. Paris paid a partial amount for one performance and for the rest of a series, Darmstadt was there with 50 percent. Other houses, some of which are highly renowned, were also generous. However, they did not want to make this public. As you can see: no coordination, nowhere. And not just when it comes to large events.


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