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Palm Beach Opera Goes Live With Outdoor Festival Under Strict COVID Safety Protocols

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Bruce Bennett
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Janai Brugger as Pamina during a dress rehearsal of Palm Beach Opera’s production of Mozart’s "Die Zauberflöte" ("The Magic Flute"), Thursday, February 18, 2021 at the South Florida Fairgrounds’ iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, opera companies have had to postpone performances and cancel entire seasons.

Palm Beach Opera is dealing with this challenge by moving temporarily from inside its usual home at the Kravis Center to outdoor venues.

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The centerpiece of this year's season will be an opera festival that begins today at the iTHINK Financial Amphitheater in the South Florida Fairgrounds.

"This really is where the eyes of the entire opera industry are looking," says David Walker, PBO's general director.

For months, PBO has been grappling with how to safely resume live performances during the pandemic. Toward that end, the company assembled a medical advisory team (one PBO board member holds a PhD in virology) to help it meet — and try to exceed — safety guidelines.

The iTHINK Financial Amphitheater seats 6,000 people, but Palm Beach Opera is limiting seating to about 1,200, to enable social distancing between patrons. Theatergoers can expect temperature checks at the entrance and mandatory mask-wearing throughout the performances.

In addition, the singers, orchestra members and stagehands work within carefully prescribed social-distancing rules.

The festival was able to attract some major operatic talent, including headliners Latonia Moore, Janai Brugger, Matthew Polenzani and Michael Fabiano.

Many of the artists told Walker that the festival will mark the first time they've sung before a live audience in a year and expressed their gratitude.

"That's incredibly important — not only for our community and our audience members — but also for the chance to provide these artists with a job," Walker said.
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IF YOU GO:

Palm Beach Opera's 2021 Festival

WHAT: Live performances of classic operas
"La Bohème," "Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)" and "Pagliacci"
WHERE: iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre at the South Florida Fairgrounds
WHERE: Running Feb. 19 through 27

More information regarding safety protocols and what to expect at PBO’s festival can be found at pbopera.org/at-the-festival.
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This interview is part of “Intermission,” WLRN’s series looking at how South Florida’s arts community is coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve also been hearing from people who are NOT artists by trade, but who are tapping into their creative side during COVID isolation.

If you’ve got a story for us, please send an email to talktous@wlrnnews.org, with the word “Intermission” in the subject line.