I actually started this blog post on the 23rd March 2020. But I never got round to finishing it, because well, things just kept on changing. It's interesting how this year every week there seemed to be a whole new set of rules to follow.
So you may have heard about this global Pandemic thingy that's been going on this year, something to do with a virus called Covid-19. Well, it has right royally ruined the arts, music, performances and sport - as well as basically everything (apart from Amazon, they seem to be doing well). Anyway, this year I was supposed to be busy in the chorus at Opera Vlaanderen. We were one week away from the public dress rehearsal and opening night of our next production 'Choeur 2020'; a fusion of the best chorus anthems by Wagner and Verdi. Until one night at 10:30pm on the 11th March, when we received an email instructing us not to go back in to work in the morning. At the time I just thought that it would be for one week, then maybe a month, but it continues, and it's currently been over 6 months already...
Do I think that the Arts are going to change forever because of Covid-19? Yes and No.
Yes, I think we will have to start making adjustments to our way of life as a whole. Hopefully people will have better personal hygiene now, hand sanitiser will be more readily available, and face masks will become a much more normal everyday accessory in everyday life. I can't imagine people wanting to wear masks all the time when the laws and restrictions are lifted. We may adopt a more Asian cultural approach to covering our face; in that if people are feeling unwell, out of respect to others, it may become standard practice to cover your mouth and nose when out in public. It also may mean that some people choose to stay at home if they are feeling unwell, when previously they may have continued about their daily lives.
However, the main point I want to make is that NO, I don't think the arts are going to change forever. Performers are hungrier than ever to perform after months and months of quiet time, and audiences are thirsty to be entertained. Nothing beats the thrill of live performance. They can film 'Hamilton' the musical and put it onto Disney+ for people to watch on their TV's at home, but it will be nothing like the experience of going to see the show live in London or New York, when, hopefully it returns.
There has been plenty of sad news about shows and theatres that have prematurely had to close for financial reasons due to covid. I was very shocked and saddened when I learned that The Phantom of the Opera would be ending as we know it. But then I read on their website, that they have just signed a new 50-year lease on the theatre, and that they will come back with new sets, costumes, direction and a new life for the show. Maybe it will be even better once it returns. Maybe somehow, Covid will shake up the industry, and have given creatives some time to re-coupe and replan their next creative projects, or (in the case of Phantom) their past projects too.
I am deeply saddened and concerned for my colleagues and fellow creatives. Financially, 2020 has taken a huge burden on people I know. Many of my opera singing friends across the world have had to abandon their regular performing contracts completely and find new ways to earn a living. But that's ok. When the world is ready, they will still have all the skills that they had before (plus some new ones), and they can go back to their past creative lives should they want to. Some performers may not return to the arts after this. But, if that is the case, then maybe 2020 just provided them with the necessary thinking time to reflect on their lives, values and make new decisions. Like a catalyst.
Good luck to everyone right now. I hope that you can find the courage to stay strong. I wish you good health and I can't wait to see you all creating and performing in the near future. I will sing again, and I will be in an audience many many more times - I'm sure of it. Opera will be returning at Opera Ballet Vlaanderen. They have assured us many times of their plans to start putting on productions again in 2021. I am fortunate to have such a thoughtful and supportive company in these challenging times. We are adapting, but the show must go on! This is not the end of the Arts.
See you soon in a theatre or opera house,
Jennifer Coleman - is a classical / opera singer, and vocal coach, performing across the UK and internationally.