Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre has had its bold plans to return for a new season thwarted after several artists tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the cancellation of shows.

The historic venue announced plans for almost a full season of opera and ballet across its three stages, with the theatre kicking things off on September 6 with an all-star cast performing Verdi’s Don Carlo.

However, Moscow has continued to record hundreds of new COVID-19 cases every day this month, and the third and final performance of Don Carlo had to be cancelled at the last minute after singer Ildar Abdrazakov tested positive for the virus.

Following this, the soprano Anna Netrebko posted on Instagram that she had also tested positive.

The Bolshoi’s general director, Vladimir Urin, said, according to the Guardian: “We understand that coronavirus has not gone anywhere, the epidemic is continuing. Unfortunately, in the current situation, it can become part of our everyday lives that at short notice we can no longer put things on.”

He added that the theatre was working to ensure there were always understudies available to avoid cancellations happening too often.

The Bolshoi, which first opened in 1825, has laid out COVID-safe measures for its performances and is only selling 50% of the seats for all productions. It is also requiring temperature checks on entry and the wearing of masks throughout the show.

However, at a performance of the ballet Romeo and Juliet last week, mask wearing reminders were ignored by most in the audience.

Urin added: “Unfortunately, despite the constant reminders that it is necessary to wear masks, people often don’t comply and that’s already their own responsibility I’m afraid. We can only ask people, we don’t have means to force them.”

Royal Ballet

The London-based Royal Ballet has announced it will feature its full company in one of the largest dance performances to happen anywhere in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

While the more than 100 dancers will be socially distanced, there will be dance duets thanks to couples in bubbles and a full orchestra for the performance on October 9 at the Royal Opera House.

Kevin O’Hare, the Royal Ballet’s director, told the Guardian: “Emotionally, it feels extraordinary to be returning.

“We have to be on stage. It is all about performing on stage as a company, there is nothing greater to us than that… to be there as one. People are feeling quite emotional about it and are desperate for it to happen.”

The full company last performed on the Covent Garden stage for Swan Lake back in March, ahead of the first lockdown.

Under the current measures, a specially invited audience including students and health workers will be present under socially distant measures.

The event will also be broadcast via Vimeo at £16 per household and will be available for 30 days.

O’Hare added: “We have to charge, we have had no ticket income.. I would say £16 is a real bargain … to have every principal of the Royal Ballet, the rest of the company and the orchestra, it will be extraordinary.”

Image: Andrey Filippov 安德烈 / CC BY 2.0 / Edited for size