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Third wave of coronavirus sweeps stages

At year-end peak season, performing arts scene braces for worst wave of virus

Workers disinfect an auditorium at the Seoul Arts Center. (SAC)
Workers disinfect an auditorium at the Seoul Arts Center. (SAC)

Though the performing arts scene is at its year-end peak season, the outlook is gloomy as the third and so far worst wave of COVID-19 is underway.

Local authorities have announced the Level 2.5 social distancing measures here, requiring performing arts venues to leave two-thirds of their seats empty. State- and city-funded art troupes based in Seoul have completely halted their operations under governmental orders.

The Korea National Ballet canceled its year-end signature performances of “The Nutcracker” slated for the Christmas holidays. The show’s engagements in Seoul on Dec. 19-30 and Daegu on Dec. 14-15 have all been canceled.

The National Chorus of Korea canceled its performance of Handel’s “Messiah” slated for Dec. 16 at the Lotte Concert Hall.

The National Theater Company of Korea decided to cancel its performance of the Pulitzer-winning “When You Arrive at the Other Side of the Night” and indefinitely postpone “Hamlet.”

The Seoul Arts Center, which recently saw two of its employees confirmed for COVID-19 infection, has canceled all of its in-house performances until the end of this year. It, however, will continue to open for rented performances, complying with the government’s social distancing rules.

Private art companies are on the brink, too. Though they are allowed to perform, they are limited by the social distancing rules applied for stage performances.

The KBS Symphony Orchestra changed the program for performances on Dec. 24 and 26. It was to sing the iconic year-end repertoire of Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 in D minor, more widely known as “Choral.” However, the program has been changed to Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral,” which does not require a mass-gathering of choir members singing without masks.

Meanwhile, musicals, the most popular commercial performing arts shows here, are returning to the stage under new arrangements.

The French original production of “Notre Dame de Paris” at Blue Square will resume its run Saturday. It has canceled some of its weekday performances on concerns of the coronavirus spread.

Musicals “Monte Cristo” held at the LG Arts Center and “Ghost” at the D-Cube Arts Center plan to return to the stage after Dec. 28, when the Level 2.5 social distancing rule is slated to be lifted.

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