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‘A huge, huge mistake’: star German tenor makes emotional plea to bring back live music

German tenor Jonas Kaufmann says not being able to perform in front of a live audience for months has been hugely detrimental for musicians who thrive on connecting with real people.

'A huge, huge mistake': star German tenor makes emotional plea to bring back live music
Kaufmann performs in Vienna in summer 2020. Photo: DPA

“What we miss is this connection and it doesn't matter if they wear masks or whatever,” the 51-year-old told AFP on Thursday after performing at Madrid's Teatro Real opera house.

“I would probably feel them, sense them even if they were behind a curtain.

But they are there. This is what really matters,” added the tenor, whose last performance before an audience was in November in Denmark.

While many of the world's major venues are shut, Spain's main opera house has remained open — although with smaller audiences and safety measures such as the mandatory use of face masks — since July.

SEE ALSO: Could opera houses reopen in Germany at full capacity?

“For me, being on tour all year round, it feels like it has  been forever since I had the experience of an audience in front of me,” said Kaufmann, adding he was “extremely excited and thrilled” to perform in Madrid.

Some opera houses have staged full operas to empty theatres for television or online broadcast but Kaufmann said it was no substitute for a live audience.

“Usually there is the applause and then you relax and start smiling at you take a bow, but if there is just this eternal silence what can you do? It's embarrassing really,” he said earlier during a press conference.

“So my apologies. Audience we need you and we need you now more than ever,” he added.

“People needed distraction, people needed something to at least forget for a couple of hours all their sorrows. If you take that away and at the same time, when you take away pretty much everything else, I think it's a huge, huge mistake.”

'High rate of suicides'

Kaufmann warned that the devastating economic impact on musicians, many of whom are struggling to make ends meets as shows are cancelled, is taking a psychological toll.

 

“I know about a quite high rate of suicides in our family of musicians because they don't see any future and it is really, really terrible,” he said,

Some are “vulnerable souls” who unfortunately “don't see any other exit, which is very sad,” Kauffmann said.

Kaufmann, who the New York Times once called the “most important, versatile tenor of his generation”, said he feels “very privileged” to still be able to perform.

“There are maybe two dozen singers worldwide who are in this privileged position,” he said.

Kaufmann urged the authorities to reopen concert halls and other cultural institutions and be inventive to revive the arts.

“We are not the politicians… we are only voices and we need others to help” so that after the pandemic “we find a cultural landscape that is similar to what we have left when this whole crisis started,” he said.

“This is the first time that music is been silenced in a time of crisis,” he added.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.

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