One month into lockdown, with several more months of silence ahead, and no certainty of when public performances may resume, opera companies across Europe, and beyond, face an existential crisis.
The opera sector respects the need for social distancing, and will play its part in safeguarding the lives of artists and audiences. Its dilemma is that theatre is the ultimate form of social expression, yet it is this very communal nature which has forced theatres to close. How may the human face of opera be saved, so that it may continue to enrich people's lives and mental health?
Opera Europa's survey of a sample of 70 of its member theatres reveals lost income of 145 million € between March and July, and average of over 2 million € each. Imagine if that figure is re-configured to apply to some 500 European theatres and a prolonged period of closure. The impact on jobs is immense.
The German Culture Minister Monika Grütters was among the first to identify the multi-billion euro value of the cultural and creative industries as 'one of the largest economic sectors - ahead of the chemical industry, energy suppliers and financial service providers'. She continued: 'It is not easy to rebuild the structures that have grown up in the culture and media sectors... Culture is not a decorative luxury that you only treat yourself to in good times. We now see how much we need them - especially with regard to social cohesion - since we have to do without them to a large extent'.
We urge public and private bodies throughout Europe to support this existential need during this next year, while opera companies make the painful adjustments required to survive and re-open.