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SPO cancels onstage concert amid COVID-19 fear

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra performs Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, “Resurrection,” under the baton of Music Director Osmo Vanska on Feb. 15 at the Lotte Concert Hall in Jamsil, eastern Seoul. (SPO)
The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra performs Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, “Resurrection,” under the baton of Music Director Osmo Vanska on Feb. 15 at the Lotte Concert Hall in Jamsil, eastern Seoul. (SPO)

Though the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra had been looking into putting on an onstage full orchestral performance in front of the audience for its May 29 concert, the show was canceled late Wednesday afternoon following renewed concerns about the CVOID-19 spread.

The Seoul City-funded orchestra had been looking into getting its 95 players tested for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 before rehearsals begin for the May 29 concert at the Seoul Arts Center, as it was considering to performing the upcoming concert in front of an audience.

For the concert, the orchestra’s Music Director Osmo Vanska, who traveled here from the US for the concert, has been in self-quarantine in Seoul since his arrival.

However, the state-funded orchestra announced late Wednesday, the concert has been canceled as a preventive measure against the virus spread.

“Though the SPO was looking into putting on an onstage performance in front of the audience as South Korea’s ‘social distancing’ policy eased to ‘everyday life quarantine,’ community spread continues to occur, such as the hospital virus outbreak and the increase of infections linked to Itaewon clubs,” the announcement from the SPO read.

“In a situation where various risk factors exist, the SPO deemed that cancellation is the best choice to protect the health and safety of the players and audience.”

If the SPO’s original plan had worked out, the May 29 concert would have been the first orchestral performance onstage with an actual audience in the pandemic era, raising the curtain on the global performing arts scene.

“Perhaps, it is the time for the ‘new normal’ and the SPO could forge the path,” SPO CEO Kang Eun-kyung had told The Korea Herald on Wednesday morning, before the concert was officially canceled, observing that the whole performing arts scene has been at a standstill over the past several months.

“The orchestra members and the audience may feel uncomfortable about being in an enclosed space with others (out of concern about the virus spreading). So we are looking into the possibility (of having our members undergo virus tests) before the first rehearsal takes place,” she had said, adding that the SPO was seeking medical advice regarding the plan.

The SPO said, instead of the canceled concert, it will prepare for a no-audience, online concert under the baton of Music Director Osmo Vanska on the same day.

The SPO originally planned to present Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for String Orchestra, Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme Enigma, Op. 36, and Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments at the May 29 concert, titled “Old Tunes, New Worlds.”

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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