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Article Published: 08 Nov 2020

A Safe Opera Center

In March, OPERA America’s National Opera Center closed its doors for the safety of staff and clients. As the COVID-19 pandemic wore on, what was initially expected to be a brief pause became a months-long standstill. During this period, OA put together a task force, headed by Chief Operating Officer Christian De Gré Cárdenas, to examine what shape reopening might take.

Over the summer, a number of New York City’s for-profit rehearsal spaces reopened, but some of their efforts were quickly reversed. Among other obstacles, they encountered problems in reactivating staffers, some of whom felt that returning to the venues put their own health at risk. The OA reopening task force took notice.

“We found that rushing to reopen, although understandable from a financial standpoint, was not a tactic we wanted to pursue,” says De Gré Cárdenas. “We are dedicated to being of service to artists, but we wanted to be as responsible as possible.”

The task force, working under the guidance of the National Opera Center Board, recommended reopening the facility slowly and in stages. Stage 1 started on August 24, with a handful of recording partners who booked self-managed recording sessions. Two weeks later, the center opened its doors two days each week for recordings and appointment-only auditions in Scorca Hall, with the bookings strictly organized to keep the facility at under 25 percent capacity. In the next stage of reopening, which started in late September, operations expanded to include private practice sessions and lessons, all carefully managed by Opera Center staff to allow limited overlap between clients.

Throughout, the Opera Center is following the CDC’s guidance and state and city regulations. Its capacity remains limited; staff and guests are required to wear masks; hand sanitizer and disinfectant are liberally available; guests are subject to contract tracing; and the building’s HVAC system is regularly assessed to ensure proper air filtration and circulation.

This article was published in the Fall 2020 issue of Opera America Magazine.