A return to physical performances
Ultimately, though, virtual productions were never intended to permanently replace the live-audience performances that are CTO’s core business; the eye was always on returning to real stages.
Trailblazing once again, the company embarked on a collaboration with UCT Opera School; envisioning a late-October run, rehearsals for Mozart’s Così fan tutte got underway, if somewhat modified for the times.
Regulations permitting a maximum of 25 people in the rehearsal space made for an experimental five weeks of prepping for a show which no one knew for absolute certain would actually happen with an audience. It helped, though, to lead with a ‘make a plan’ attitude and roll with the ongoing shifts in rehearsal protocols and audience policies, while prioritising the company’s health.
Since – as they say – the show must go on, it did. Così fan tutte became one of the very first live theatre performances in the country since the start of our extensive lockdown. Albeit with limited, socially distanced seating, masks on audience members and most of the orchestra (wind instruments excepted), and stringent protocols ensuring the safety of cast and crew.
Similar adaptive strategies had gone into Porgy and Bess, a collaboration with Austria’s prestigious Theater an der Wien earlier in October. With Wild directing and CTO chorus members joining the European cast, the show – staged in Vienna – went ahead in front of live audiences for a two-week run. Again, in ‘an adapted form’ and ‘after much logistical juggling,’ says Wild.
It’s not only being able to pull off such major coups as performing full operas or collaborating in Europe that has been a triumph for CTO in a year of disruption. A series of ‘Thank You’ concerts, performances for essential frontline workers in the Western Cape, have been a highlight for the company.
Even as such opportunities to perform live open up, however, the future remains unknowable.
‘As we finalise plans for the year ahead,’ Wild says, ‘we find ourselves in the same boat as opera houses around the world: trying to use a combination of intelligent guesswork and in-built flexibility to craft a programme which can withstand the many unknowns facing us in 2021.’
And as plans for 2021 fall into place, audience demand to see the company in person has been unfaltering. Aside from full houses for Così fan tutte, the company’s first summer concerts – an afternoon of opera, bubbly and canapés at Quoin Rock wine estate in Stellenbosch on 12 December, and an evening of African and American spirituals at the Groote Kerk in Cape Town (scheduled for early-December but postponed to mid-January due to a resurgence of infections in the Western Cape) – both quickly sold out.
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