Teatro Petruzzelli Latest European Theater to Shutdown Production Due to COVID-19 Outbreak

By Francisco Salazar

This article was written in collaboration with David Salazar & Dejan Vukosavljevic.

The Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari has canceled remaining performances for its “Falstaff” production following a COVID-19 outbreak.

According to La Gazzetta del Giorno, 10 employees from the theater tested positive for the virus and are all symptomatic. The Teatro Petruzelli was also forced to cancel the Family concert originally set for Oct. 18.

The company released a statement noting that “the personnel that tested positive have not been in contact with the public that assisted the performances, in compliance with the regulations that provide for the spacing and reduction of available seats.”

In the official statement, the company noted that following one positive test, it forced all orchestra members and performers to wear masks on the performance on Saturday, Oct. 10. On the Oct. 11 performance, all other employees were also forced to wear masks.

Per an eye witness report, however, there were no masks worn by members of the orchestra during the performance on Oct. 9, 2020 and Monica Sbisà, the head of the press department at the Teatro Petruzzelli, told OperaWire, via email, that per government regulations, masks were “not mandatory during rehearsals.” She did note that the masks were made mandatory “only during the show,” but would not specify at which performance they were first made mandatory upon further questioning.

As for mandatory testing, Sbisà stated, “the test is mandatory only if the health authority has it, while we did it independently.”

OperaWire reached out to inquire about whether solo artists would be paid for the canceled performances and the answer was “no;” soloists were also unpaid during the three weeks of rehearsal, a common practice in Italian theaters.

The Teatro Petruzzelli is the latest theater in Europe to have to shut down productions due to outbreaks of COVID-19. The Opéra de Rouen Normandie and Opéra Comique de Paris were also forced into similar straits. Per government regulations, testing of artists was not mandatory during the rehearsal period.

“We can not force the artist to be tested,” Alice Bloch of l’Opéra Comique de Paris, in a separate conversation regarding the Parisian theater’s process prior to the shutdown, told OperaWire,

Other theaters have been more proactive in taking safety precautions. The Salzburg Festival developed a complex but functional system for ensuring its centennial edition could take place. That system included consistent strict mask-wearing rules as well as consistent testing throughout.

Meanwhile, the Bayerische Staatsoper implemented a similar plan with mandatory masks and regular testing in order to move forward with its 2020-21 season but stepped up its safety regulations by reimposing a mandatory mask rule upon seeing a drastic increase in COVID-19 cases throughout Europe.

“Falstaff” starred Carlo Lepore, Filippo Polinelli, Damiano Salerno, Biagio Pizzuti, Erika Grimaldi, Angela Nisi, Cameron Becker, Francesco Marsiglia Giuliana Gianfaldoni, and Veronica Granatiero.