Show goes on: Dallas Symphony Orchestra to play a scaled-down fall 2020 season

Fri Jul 31, 2020 at 8:17 pm
By Sean Piccoli
Fabio Luisi in his Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducting debut in January.
(Photo: Sylvia Elzafon)

In a break with the cancellation wave that has swept through American classical music since the coronavirus pandemic took root, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra announced on Friday that it will present a “carefully curated” fall season of short concerts with smaller ensembles playing to a maximum audience of 75 people per performance.

A revised fall season at Meyerson Symphony Center — which normally seats 1,838 people — begins on September 4 and marks the debut of Fabio Luisi as DSO music director after a season as interim music director. A Verdi specialist, Luisi will conduct a pared-down orchestra and four vocalists in a set of Verdi favorites (October 29-November 1), and will lead programs featuring Beethoven (September 10-13) and Mahler (October 9-11). Classical programming dominates the calendar, with forays into jazz and Ragtime (September 18-20) and soul (November 13-15).

Guest conductor Sarah Hicks will helm the DSO’s first fall concerts of 2020, a “Brass, Organ and Percussion” revue on September 4-6 with works by Copland, Ives, Handel, Sousa and more. In a year of resurgence for the Black Lives Matter movement, DSO is also highlighting Black composers throughout the fall and will host a November 11 “Concert to Honor Lives Lost to Racial Violence and Injustice” in conjunction with Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Texas-based Project Unity, a child abuse prevention organization.

In all, DSO plans to present fifteen programs totaling 45 concerts through November 29. The full schedule is here.

There will be no intermissions, and each performance will last about one hour, the orchestra said, as part of an effort to minimize the health risks, which are considerable. The SARS-CoV-2 virus has sickened millions and killed more than 670,000 people worldwide, wreaked havoc with the global economy, and devastated performing arts organizations by making indoor performances a fraught proposition. The virus that causes COVID-19 is believed to spread more easily in enclosed, populated spaces such as concert halls, offices, churches and bars.

Texas emerged as one of the hardest-hit U.S. states in a spring and summer coronavirus surge across the south and west, with Dallas County now second only to Harris County in the number of infections (49,269) and deaths (630) in Texas through July 31, according to state health officials.

The number of new reported coronavirus cases peaked in Texas in mid-July, not long after the governor mandated the wearing of face masks in public. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are now down statewide, and the state’s daily COVID-19 death toll also shows signs of easing.

The new season announcement comes with a lengthy list of new safety procedures. Patrons will be asked to volunteer for temperature checks on arrival at the Meyerson, and will be asked to wear masks “unless there is a health issue,” the orchestra said.

There will be set arrival times and staggered departure times for concertgoers to abide by, a touch-less ticketing system, and designated building entry points as well as designated bathrooms, the orchestra said. There will be no food or beverage service until November at the earliest, but concertgoers can bring their own water, and they’ll find hand sanitizer stations throughout the venue, the orchestra said.

HEPA filters are being installed to scrub the concert hall’s circulated air, and the venue will undergo deep cleaning between performances, the orchestra said.

“We look forward to safely welcoming small audiences back this fall, and though attending concerts will be different than in previous seasons, our musicians will continue to inspire you,” the symphony’s president and CEO, Kim Noltemy, said in the statement announcing the new season.

Any orchestra musicians who perform in the fall concerts will do so voluntarily, and they will be tested for the virus before each performance, the orchestra said. Musicians will be required to maintain social distancing both backstage and onstage, and there will be additional cleaning of their common areas at the Meyerson, the orchestra said.

Noltemy described the new fall season as an outgrowth of steps the orchestra took to retool itself for a community beset by a pandemic. “After the shutdown in March, we were able to make music in unique ways and for many people across the Metroplex,” she said. “These included more than 40 outdoor chamber music concerts, four programs in the Meyerson that were recorded and posted on our website, and, in partnership with DSO musicians, creation of original musical content from their homes.”

DOS musicians also played “special delivery” concerts by request outside local homes and serenaded hospital patients with live performances on video. This fall, performances at the Meyerson will be filmed using a newly installed robotic camera system, and edited in-house, for live streaming and on-demand viewing, the orchestra announced.

Leave a Comment