The pandemic has brought down the curtain at the mythical Teatro Colón for the second time in almost a century of existence. Nobody knows when the applause will echo again in its majestic auditorium.
Its artists agree that while there is no vaccine, the gala nights of opera, ballet and concerts will be an increasingly distant memory.
"Everything that turns into art will be very different from what has been seen until now. Both the rehearsals and the mise-en-scène will have to be reinvented,” assures principal ballet dancer Federico Fernández.
Argentina has been in compulsory quarantine since March 20 but the Colón closed down a week beforehand, on the eve of the dress rehearsal for the Verdi opera Nabucco.
"It would have been brilliant, the best of the season," according to Colón cellist Jorge Bergero. While the stage is silent, machinery hums below. There are some 50 costume designers who have dropped the tutus and the crowns to make face-masks designed for volunteers like themselves.
A new Colón
Since its inauguration in 1908, the Colón "has only closed down once [for its centenary in 2008] to remodel," the theatre’s director María Victoria Alcaraz tells AFP.
But with the pandemic, its future "is a challenge requiring an open, creative and flexible mind."
"I discovered that from the roof I can see a pupil of mine on his balcony. On quiet days we can even hear each other,” he relates.
Social distancing was a stab in the heart for the theatre. "We’re over 100 in the orchestra and our music-stands are all next to each other. Unless the vaccine comes soon, it will be impossible to play," he explains.
His colleague Bergero supplies some examples: "You can’t sing an opera with a face-mask nor play next to an oboe blowing air all over me or be on the alert in case somebody coughs in the front row."