Minnesota Orchestra will begin welcoming back audiences in late June
The Minnesota Orchestra will begin welcoming live audiences back into concerts in late June, but only in limited numbers.
The orchestra's concerts have been broadcast and streamed live in recent months without any audience in the hall due to the pandemic. Music director Osmo Vanska says audience size will be limited initially as they work out the best way to move people safely to their seats.
"Someone might think that ... it's so simple: you just open the doors, and then it goes. Not with the virus," he said. "We need to find the way to go in, which way to go out, so we don't want people to meet at any part of the hall."
Musicians will still have to be socially distanced, which will limit the number of people on stage to around 45. However, Vanska says the musicians are really looking forward to having an audience in the hall. The concert broadcasts and livestreams will continue through at least the end of August.
Vanska says audience numbers will be gradually increased as staff develop ways of moving people safely in and out of the hall. He says the orchestra learned through the pandemic to limit ambitious plans because they may have to change quickly.
"We don't want to build up a castle when we now have to live in a tent. And that will continue," he said. "Hopefully, getting better and better but I don't think we can do anything 'regular' in this year," he said, predicting a return to something more like the old normal in 2022.
Vanska says the orchestra continues to plan in three-month increments. For the moment, all concerts will be from Orchestra Hall. There are no plans to do outdoor concerts because of safety considerations.
The orchestra will contact season ticket holders first about seat availability, and then open up any remaining seats to the public.
Looking back at the experience of moving to digital presentation of live music, Vanska is blunt.
"I think it's right to say those concerts kept the orchestra alive," he said. "We had the chance to play twice-a-month concerts for the audience through the cameras and microphones. And thinking about how many orchestras in the U.S. have closed totally. So we are very lucky."
Vanska said he hopes the broadcasts and streaming will continue into the future. Still, he believes everyone in the orchestra is excited about seeing audiences in the hall again.
"The cameras and the microphones are great but they cannot replace the audience," he said. "When we have a live audience that's the best way. That's why we are practicing. That's why we are rehearsing to be able to perform the music for people who are in the same room, the same hall, listening to us."
Vanska says he hopes the audience will include those who discovered the orchestra through the broadcasts and streamed shows.