Show must go on: Madrid races to substitute COVID-hit La Boheme cast

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre), a major opera house, at Plaza de Oriente (Oriente square) in Madrid, Spain
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre), a major opera house, at Plaza de Oriente (Oriente square) in Madrid, Spain, March 25, 2016. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

January 3, 2022

MADRID (Reuters) – Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house had to act fast when the leading lights of its production of La Boheme contracted COVID-19 one after another, forcing the director to scramble for replacements who will perform together for the first time on Monday night.

To mitigate the risk of contamination, Teatro Real productions operate with two full casts, which alternate performances and never come into contact with one another, a theatre spokeswoman said.

But with Spain reporting record infection numbers, an outbreak swept across both crews, infecting four of the leading roles and their understudies by Sunday and forcing the cancellation of that night’s performance, she explained.

Artistic director Joan Matabosch sprang into action to bring in last-minute substitutes to cover the parts of Rodolfo, Schaunard, Mimi and Marcello in Giacomo Puccini’s depiction of infidelity and jealousy among young artists in 1840s Paris.

“They have never sung together before and have been rehearsing all day today… They’ve been at home studying videos of previous shows,” the spokeswoman said.

However, their time in the spotlight could be limited as several of the original singers may be clear to perform if they test negative on Tuesday.

“The Teatro Real does not want to disappoint the public…we have to live with this pandemic,” the spokeswoman said.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen, editing by Clara-Laeila Laudette and Hugh Lawson)