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Virus bringing curtain down on SA arts and entertainment

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UPDATED: Cirque du Soleil has cancelled upcoming Adelaide performances of its new show KURIOS, State Opera SA has suspended two productions – including outdoor epic Carmina Burana – and many other SA shows and arts organisations are likely to be hit hard by new rules sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

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In an announcement this morning, State Opera said the planned one-off performance of Carl Orff’s epic Carmina Burana would not go ahead on March 27, and the May season of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville has also been suspended.

Carmina Burana was to be the first cultural event under the new roof at Memorial Drive Park, featuring more than 250 singers and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

“We are obviously disappointed to be unable to share with you what we know are remarkable performances of much-loved works, but we trust that you will join us as soon as we are back in showbusiness,” SOSA artistic director Stuart Maunder said in a statement.

The organisation said people who have bought tickets for Carmina Burana and The Barber of Seville are eligible for a full refund via ticketing partner BASS

“State Opera recognises that these are extraordinary times and that community wellbeing is paramount,” SOSA executive director Yarmila Alfonzetti said. “As a flagship arts organisation, we do not take the decision to cancel a performance lightly.”

Alfonzetti said SOSA was committed to supporting its singers, artists and creatives, adding: “We know we can count on our audiences, partners and broader community to support each other at this time.”

Its decision follows the Federal Government’s decision to ban all “non-essential gatherings” of more than 500 people.

Cirque du Soleil also announced today that as a result of coronavirus, it will cancel all performances of its show KURIOS scheduled to be presented in Adelaide from May 28 through June 21.

“The current season of KURIOS in Melbourne is postponed and will be rescheduled at the earliest possible date,” it said. “At that time, the Touring Show Division of Cirque du Soleil will revisit the KURIOS tour plan for the rest of 2020 and will be working to reschedule performances in Adelaide in the near future.

While the government’s ruling regarding large events takes effect from today, after the final weekend of both the Adelaide Fringe and Adelaide Festival, concerns regarding coronavirus had already affected the SA arts sector.

A new conductor had to step in for Festival concert The Sound of History after leading composer Brett Dean tested positive for COVID-19 after travelling to Australia from Taiwan, and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra cancelled two performances of its Mahler 5 / Adès concert on the weekend after it was found that a member of the ASO team may have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus.

The ruling about large gatherings is likely to have a significant impact on shows in venues such as the Adelaide Festival Centre and the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, but the AFC was unable to confirm this morning whether touring production School of Rock the Musical – scheduled to open on Friday – would be cancelled.

Asked how the ban would affect Festival Centre shows, including School of Rock, the venue told InDaily: “We have communicated with all ticket holders to School of Rock the Musical that the declaration of a public health emergency means there will be changes to upcoming performances and we will continue to keep them informed. We are working closely with the producers of School of Rock on how to proceed.”

The musical was to play from March 20 until April 19 in the Festival Theatre, which has an audience capacity of 1950. The AFC’s Dunstan Playhouse has a capacity of 590, while the Space Theatre can seat audiences of up to 350.

In regards to the option of presenting shows with smaller audiences, the centre said it was awaiting instruction from SA Health and the State Government, and was “exploring all options”.

It is also expecting to make an announcement in coming days about other upcoming events, such as the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June. A statement on the AFC website says that if performances are cancelled, ticket holders will receive a full refund and be contacted directly.

Among upcoming shows at the centre are several by the State Theatre Company of SA, which said it was “currently awaiting instruction from regulatory authorities and will act in accordance with government recommendations”.

“This may have an impact on the Adelaide Festival Centre and our upcoming performances,” State Theatre said. “The health and safety of our audiences and employees is of the utmost importance. We thank everyone for their patience and will update as soon as possible.”

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra managing director Vincent Ciccarello told InDaily it was inevitable the orchestra’s concerts would be affected in some way.

“We are operating in a very fluid situation and we are currently working through a range of scenarios in relation to ASO’s activities with a number of stakeholders.”

The ASO announced this afternoon that this Thursday’s performance at Thebarton Theatre of Ben Folds: The Symphonic Tour has been postponed due to the COVID-19 situation, while its April 3 and 4 performances of  Natsuko Plays Brahms, part of the Master Series, will no longer be public events (it is exploring the option of recording and broadcasting the concert).

“In the event of cancellations, ASO box office staff will contact patrons directly to confirm arrangements for exchanges, refunds and any known impact on future performances,” Ciccarello said.

“We’re primarily concerned with the health and wellbeing of our employees and patrons and the ASO stands ready to play its part in controlling the spread of COVID-19. We appreciate everybody’s patience and support at what are unprecedented times.”

Other SA arts events affected by the latest coronavirus health guidelines include the SACE Art Show, which has cancelled tonight’s planned opening event at Light Square Gallery, although the exhibition itself will be open from tomorrow.

The Generations of Jazz festival to be held in Mount Gambier in May has been cancelled, Feast Festival cancelled its Feast on the Foreshore event planned for last weekend, and Fringe Mount Gambier (from March 20-29) has modified its program, with a decision likely today on other Fringe on Tour events planned for regional SA this month.

InDaily has also sought comment from the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance is urging the Federal Government to recognise the “major economic impact” coronavirus is having on the viability and sustainability of the performing arts and entertainment industry. It has called for targeted support for the sector, which has already suffered from budget cuts in recent years and includes many independent artists and workers employed on a casual basis.

The I Lost My Gig Australia website encourages people to share details of events cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus. As of midday today, its tally showed that around 20,000 events had been cancelled across the country, with a resulting total loss of income of around $47 million.

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