Rafael Payare recovering from COVID-19

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Incoming OSM music director Rafael Payare hopes to leave something behind him when he travels to Montreal in September: a case of COVID-19.

“Of course we keep close with a doctor and [follow]regulations because we just need to make sure,” the Venezuelan conductor said Monday from his home in San Diego, where he remains in isolation.

Payare was referring to himself and his wife, the cellist Alisa Weilerstein, who reported a positive COVID test on Aug. 16 and was forced to miss a concert on Aug. 19 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.

“But what is important,” Payare continued, “is that because we are vaccinated, it didn’t go to a different stage. Because we never know what this virus can do.”

Payare said his own symptoms, mid-August, amounted to a day of fever. After initially testing negative, he said, he tested positive at home.

Music director of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra as well as the OSM, Payare last appeared in public on Aug. 6, when he led the opening concert at the Rady Shell, a new outdoor facility in San Diego.

Payare said that Weilerstein’s symptoms were similar to those of a mild cold. “In a non-pandemic world, if this wasn’t like a dark cloud on top of us, we would never realize that she had COVID,” he said. “Because she just had a runny nose.”

Payare makes his debut as OSM music director (officially, music director designate) in an outdoor concert on Sept. 9 at Olympic Park. Rehearsals begin on Sept. 6.

The conductor will hear auditions starting Sept. 11 and open the 2021-22 OSM season on Sept. 14 in the Maison symphonique.

“This doesn’t affect the OSM at all,” Pascale Ouimet, the orchestra’s head of public relations, said on Tuesday. “No plans are being changed.”

Ouimet said Payare, 41, sat for six hours of Zoom interviews on Monday and showed no symptoms.

As of Aug. 9, American citizens and permanent residents of the United States who are fully vaccinated are exempt from quarantine requirements on entering Canada.

Extra measures apply to travellers testing positive 14 days or fewer before entry. Payare is expected to arrive in early September, after passing this threshold.

“We know he is doing very well,” Ouimet said. “He has absolutely no symptoms.”

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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. Since 2019, Arthur is co-editor of La Scena Musicale.

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