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THE SCOOP | Toronto's Arts Institutions Respond To COVID-19 Pandemic With Wave Of Cancellations

By Anya Wassenberg on March 13, 2020

Gustavo Gimeno conducts the TSO with cellist Johannes Moser (Photo: Jag Gundu, courtesy of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra)
Gustavo Gimeno conducts the TSO with cellist Johannes Moser (Photo: Jag Gundu, courtesy of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra)

Toronto’s arts institutions are responding to the global Coronavirus pandemic with a string of cancelled performances through March 2020. This list will be updated as more news comes in.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has cancelled upcoming concerts, including Pictures at an Exhibition on March 13, 14 and 15, and its EVENING EPIC gala fundraiser on March 26.

Matthew Loden, CEO, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, responded in a media release. “This was a disappointing decision because we know that music can play such an impactful role in alleviating distress during challenging times. We are committed to supporting our community in prioritizing health and safety. While we won’t be providing Torontonians with a live orchestral experience for now, we will explore creative ways that we can inspire through the power of music during this period of time,” he said.

The next scheduled performance for the TSO will be Lisiecki Plays Beethoven’s Emperor from April 1 to 5, but be sure to verify before you go. Updates and ticket exchange information can be read on the TSO website.

The corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall have announced the immediate cancellation of all events in a media release.

“As we watch the impact of this pandemic begin to land close to home, we feel it is our responsibility to be a part of the solution. We have made the difficult decision to suspend our event activity for the next two weeks and further suspension will be assessed on a rolling two-week period.”

The organization has indicated it will be contacting all affected ticket holders over the next coming days and weeks as the situation unfolds. They will be updating their information daily. Updates can be obtained on the Roy Thomson Hall website.

The University of Toronto Faculty of Music has this to say in a media release:

“After careful consideration of the University’s response to the outbreak and recent updates from Toronto Public Health, we will be proceeding with the remaining three performances of U of T Opera’s Mansfield Park (March 13, 14 and 15), as scheduled.”

The University will be taking special precautions, including limiting the number of guests, facilitating social distancing in common areas, and extra cleaning of high traffic surfaces. Ticket holders of any other performances between March 16 and April 3 will be contacted directly by the UofT box office regarding refunds and exchanges.

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is cancelling their upcoming Singsation Saturday workshop on March 21 and the Sacred Music concerts on April 8 and 10. The organization will be contacting ticket holders to the Sacred Music concerts directly for refunds.

The Four Season Centre for the Performing Arts will be closed to the public until further notice. The Canadian Opera Company will also immediately cancel any public events that would result in a gathering of 250 or more people. The COC clarified its position regarding spring openings in a press release.

“At this time, the COC anticipates its spring mainstage operas, Aida (opening April 18) and The Flying Dutchman (opening May 1), will proceed as planned, but continues to monitor the evolving situation closely.”

Please check their website for updates.

Roy Thomson Hall, interior (Photo courtesy of the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)
Roy Thomson Hall, interior (Photo courtesy of the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall)

In New York City, the Met Opera is taking similar measures, which impacts anyone looking forward to the upcoming Live in HD presentation of Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer scheduled for this Saturday, March 14. The performance and, of course, streaming have been cancelled. The Met is cancelling all performances through March 31.

The organization detailed their reasons in a release. “The safety and security of our audiences and employees is the Met’s highest priority, and in cancelling performances, we are following the lead of our city, state, and federal elected officials as well as the recommendations of the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).”

The Niagara Symphony Orchestra has announced the cancellation of their Masterworks 5: Undaunted concert scheduled for March 15. In a media release, the organization noted that the all of St. Catharines’ public institutions would be closed until April 5.

Encouraging patrons to consider a ticket-turn back donation (i.e. donating the ticket money to the organization in lieu of a refund) to help continue their support of symphony musicians. The Symphony pointed out the realities of the situation in a press release. “For the next weeks and months, thousands of small and large concerts, tours, theatre events, readings and dance performances across the country have been cancelled. While this is very disappointing for audiences, these actions can be financially devastating for independent musicians, artists, and technicians who rely on concert contracts for employment.”

Tickets may also be exchanged by email or calling 905-688-0722.

Tafelmusik Music Director Elisa Citterio issued a statement today announcing the cancellation of all concerts through March 30. That will include the Close Encounters chamber music concert on March 14 at Temerty Theatre, and the entire run of Bach’s St John Passion, scheduled for March 26 to 29 at Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre.

“Our decision has been taken in accordance with today’s announcement by Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, who has called for the immediate cancellation of events involving 250 people or more,” Citterio notes in a media release. Ticket exchange details are available on their website.

Barry Hughson, Executive Director of The National Ballet of Canada, announced that all further performances of Romeo and Juliet would be cancelled, along with in-studio classes, and other scheduled events.

“The Ontario recommendation is consistent with those of leading public health authorities including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading cultural organizations across North America are taking similar cancellation step,” he commented in a media release.

All Romeo and Juliet ticket holders will be contacted by the NBC’s Audience and Donor Services Department regarding ticketing options.

Esprit Orchestra announced the postponement of their March 22 Taiko Returns concert. “Our intention is to reschedule the performances of these works to a later date, during Esprit’s 2020-2021 season,” the orchestra notes in a press release. With various options open, including donating the value of the ticket to Esprit, ticket holders are asked to call the Koerner Hall box office, at 416-408-0208.

Tapestry Opera is taking a creative approach to COVID-19 performance cancellations. The upcoming New Opera 101 masterclasses and public performances of Songbook X, scheduled for March 20 and 21, are cancelled.

In their place, however, Krisztina Szabó, mezzo-soprano, and Christopher Foley, pianist, (who would have performed Songbook X), will perform a special virtual concert online on March 21 at 8 p.m. Live from Tapestry’s Ernest Balmer Studio, the performance will be live-streamed on the company’s YouTube channel @TapestryNewOpera at no cost.

Single ticket holders for the original event will be contacted by Tapestry for a full refund.

Tapestry’s next performance, Rocking Horse Winner, is still slated to run April 23 to May 2. However, in the event of a cancellation should the situation not improve, Tapestry Opera’s Artistic and General Director Michael Hidetoshi Mori says the organization is committed to paying the artist fees regardless.

“Many artists live paycheque to paycheque. In this destabilizing time of cancellations, Tapestry is committed to innovating creative solutions and doing whatever we can to support our community of opera professionals,” he noted in a press release.

However heartbreaking it may be, and however much it will affect the arts industry in Toronto and globally, experts say the measures are necessary and responsible.

In a memo, Dr. Williams recommended immediate cancellation of all events with attendance of 250 or more. He also advised smaller venues and events to consult with their local public health authorities. Ontario’s chief medical officer of health also recommended that all Ontarians should be practising what has been called social distancing — or minimizing person-to-person contact — as much as possible.

The Ontario Provincial government issued a statement earlier today. In it, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries detailed the creation of advisory groups in the entertainment, culture, sports, and tourism industries to help deal with the crisis as it unfolds.

The announcement follows the news that Ontario public schools will remain closed for an extra two weeks after the March break. The University of Toronto, York University, Western University, Carlton University and McMaster University, among other post-secondary institutions, have cancelled in-person classes, moving them online where possible.

The company that owns Toronto’s iconic CN Tower also announced today that the lakeside attraction will close until at least April 14.


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