Utah Symphony, Utah Opera announce a “reimagined” fall slate of live music

Fri Sep 04, 2020 at 10:06 am
By Sean Piccoli
Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer said he looks forward to “bringing our orchestra back in person to heal and inspire.” Photo: Marco Borggreve

Utah Symphony and Utah Opera plan to return to the stage this fall with fewer musicians, smaller audiences and scaled-down productions to accommodate pubic health restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizations said on Monday.

The orchestra and opera company join a small but significant group of classical music presenters — in Dallas, St. Louis, Houston and Minnesota — that intend to go forward with their 2020-2021 seasons, retooled to minimize the risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

After cutting the previous season short in March due to the coronavirus threat, Utah Symphony says it is returning to Abravnel Hall on September 17-19 with an all-strings program “reimagined” for pandemic times: Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings,” Fela Sowande’s “Joyful Day” and Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” The symphony had originally planned to open the new season with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor,” before the pandemic.

The symphony emphasizes strings again on September 24-26 with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and the Schoenberg sextet, “Transfigured Night.” In his tenth and penultimate season with Utah Symphony, Thierry Fisher conducts both of the September Masterworks programs.

“Music deserves to be heard live and I am thrilled to be a part of an organization that is committed to bringing our orchestra back in person to heal and inspire our community during this challenging time,” Fischer said in a statement.

Utah Opera’s season opener, an operetta double-bill of Poulenc’s “The Human Voice” and Joseph Horovitz’s “Gentleman’s Island,” runs October 9-18 and replaces “The Flying Dutchman.”

“The extraordinary forces required for our previously planned production of Wagner’s ‘The Flying Dutchman’ fall outside of the health and safety requirements for the audience and performers, so we have had to pivot,” Christopher McBeth, artistic director of Utah Opera, said in a statement.

For the time being, the rest of Utah Opera’s original 2021 schedule remains posted on the company’s web site.

Audience seating at Abravnel Hall and the Capitol Theatre — the home venues of the symphony and opera, respectively — will require additional spacing on all sides for each person or “household” in attendance, the organizations said. That necessarily means reduced capacity at 2,768-seat Abravnel and the 1,760-seat theater.

The stage at Abravnel will be extended out a further 12 feet to create social distancing for the reduced number of orchestral musicians performing. At the Capitol, the orchestra will be on stage behind the performers instead of in the pit. There will be no intermissions and performances will run 90 minutes.

Audience members will be required to wear masks inside the venues and throughout the performances. Utah Symphony and Utah Opera have posted their COVID-19 mitigation plans here.

Subscription ticket holders, followed by patrons with account credits and gift certificates for canceled dates, will have first priority for the upcoming symphony and opera performances. Single tickets for the symphony’s September concerts will not be put on sale to the general pubic “in order to accommodate the reduced seating capacity in our venues,” the organizations said.

Any remaining tickets for Utah Opera’s performances of “The Human Voice” and “Gentleman’s Island” will go on sale to the general public at noon on September 10. Visit usuo.org for details.

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