B.C. plan forces season cancellations in Victoria

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A British Columbia government “restart plan” that makes the resumption of live arts events conditional on widespread vaccination or herd immunity has led the Victoria Symphony, Pacific Opera Victoria and Dance Victoria to cancel their 2020-21 schedules.

The announcements come at a time when many arts organizations in Europe (including the Musikverein in Vienna) are planning live performances to limited audiences but their North American counterparts remain in a holding pattern because of unsettled government responses to the COVID-19 epidemic.

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Quebec culture minister Nathalie Roy on May 22 announced the partial reopening, as of May 29, of museums, libraries and recording studios. According to a report in La Presse, she said a decision on public concerts would have to wait until the “authorities” make a determination.

Issued on May 15, the B.C. plan portrays the opening of parks, hotels and schools as elements of “Phase 3” of the province-wide restart of public activities. It assigns the timeline of “June to September” to this phase. Rather confusingly, “movies and symphony” are said to be permitted in July “but not large concerts.”

Phase 4 includes professional sports events and “concerts” but describes the timing of this phase as “to be determined.” The plan goes on to say: “The timing of a safe restart of night clubs, casinos and bars is a more complicated consideration. As with other sectors, industry associations will be expected to develop safe operations plans, for review, that are in keeping with Public Health and Safety Guidelines, as well as WorkSafeBC.”

Apart from having no fixed starting date, Phase 4 is said to be “conditional on at least one of the following; wide vaccination, ‘community’ immunity [and]broad successful treatments.”

Victoria Symphony CEO Kathryn Laurin linked the cancellation of 2020-21 to the government decrees. “The decision to suspend all performances is in compliance with the Province of British Columbia’s COVID-19 health regulations and Restart Plan,” she says in a statement on the orchestra’s website. “Performances will resume when it is deemed safe to do so by the province and its top health officials.”

Pacific Opera CEO Ian Rye did not rule out some kind of live presentation in 2020-21. “The company will continue to produce opera in the coming months in ways that are both safe and surprising – online and in small gatherings,” he wrote on the company website. The 2020-21 mainstage season was to include productions of Die Walküre, Death in Venice and Don Giovanni.

Both the Vancouver Symphony and Vancouver Opera websites have so far left the 2020-21 season unchanged. As of May 21, there were 2,479 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C., as opposed to more than 45,000 in Quebec

Most Quebec arts presenters have made no public changes to their 2020-21 seasons, pending further developments. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra has not yet made any announcement concerning next season.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Arthur Kaptainis has been a classical music critic since 1986. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Musical Toronto. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto. From 2019-2021, Arthur was co-editor of La Scena Musicale.

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