At many venues, attendees were required to provide their names and phone numbers to be used for tracing in case of an outbreak. Masks and temperature checks were required. Some concert halls barred the selling of food and drinks. Seats at some spaces were staggered to resemble flowers, in an arrangement that came to be known in Taiwan as “plum blossom seating.”
Despite the vigilance, there were occasional scares. More than a hundred people were forced to quarantine in March of last year after coming into contact with the Australian composer Brett Dean, who tested positive for the virus after performing in Taiwan. The incident was front-page news in Taiwan, with some people fuming that Dean — whose “Hamlet” is scheduled at the Metropolitan Opera in New York next season — had been allowed to perform even though he had a cough.
Lydia Kuo, the executive director of the National Symphony Orchestra, which collaborated with Dean, said the scare taught the orchestra the importance of maintaining strict health measures even when infections were near zero.
“We were facing an unknown enemy,” she said. “We were lucky to face this reality very early.”
Taiwan’s still-active cultural scene attracted talent from around the world over the past year when many artists were without stable work and confined at home. There were visits by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the German organist Felix Hell, and Ma, the renowned cellist, who chartered a flight to the island for a tour in November.
Many musicians with roots in Taiwan have also returned, some for an extended visit. Ray Chen, a violinist, came back in August at the urging of his family and has taken part in about 20 live concerts, master classes and music education outreach events since then. He said he was struck by the care people showed toward one another and the widespread adherence to public health rules, even when Taiwan went months without any reported infections.
“Everyone is willing to play a part,” Chen said. “Everyone values life.”
Taiwan’s strict approach has not been popular in all corners of the artistic world. After the outbreak this month, some artists questioned the government’s decision to close performance venues, concerned that it would hurt performers’ income.
LONDON — Before the pandemic hit Britain last year, Michelle Hedley could only go to her local theaters in the north of England if they happened to be doing a captioned performance.
That happened five times a year — at best, said Hedley, who is deaf.
But during the pandemic, suddenly, she could watch musicals all day and night if she wanted, as shuttered theaters worldwide put shows online, often with subtitles. “I started watching anything and everything simply because I could!” Hedley, 49, said in an email interview. “Even subject matters that bored me!”
“I viewed more theater than I had done (it felt like) in a lifetime,” she added.
22 percent of England’s population andhave diverse requirements — such as wheelchair access, audio description or for “relaxed” performances where audiences are allowed to make noise — this moment is causing more mixed reactions. Some fear being forgotten, andthat struggling venues will concentrate on producing in-person shows and forgo online offerings, or cut their in-person services for disabled people.
There is little evidence of that so far, and some venues say they will continue to include disabled people, but the real effect of venues’ reduced budgets won’t become clear for months.
“I will be forced to go back to being grateful for just five shows a year,” Hedley said. “It is very frustrating.”
Others are concerned, too. “I just have this sense of being left behind with people being so euphoric that they can do things in the flesh again,” Sonia Boué, an artist who is autistic, said in a telephone interview.
Before the pandemic, Boué, 58, would only visit museums if she was convinced a show would be worth the huge amount of energy the experience took. Getting the train from her home in Oxford to London could be overwhelming, she said, as coulddealing with crowds in a packed museum. “I’ve been in situations when I’ve just wanted to throw myself down on a station platform and lose it,” she said.
the painter Tracey Emin and the photographer Jo Spence, she said, with both influencing her own art. “The whole experience was so rich and wonderful,” Boué said.
emergency funding from the government.
Some high-profile venues have said they will keep working to include disabled people as they reopen. Kwame Kwei-Armah, the artistic director of the Young Vic theater in London, told The Guardian in May he wanted to livestream at least two performances of all future shows, with viewers limited to about 500 per stream, mimicking the theater’s capacity. The Young Vic intends to guarantee some of those tickets for disabled people, a spokeswoman said in an email. On Friday, the Almeida, another London theater, said it would film and released digitally its next season’s shows “where possible” but gave no further details.
But for regional theaters that are coming off a year without ticket sales, streaming may not always be possible. “It’s a huge financial outlay, making films, so you really need to think about it from the start,” Amy Leach, the associate director of Leeds Playhouse, said in a phone interview. She hoped her theater would do that for future work, she said.
People’s concerns are not just about cuts to streaming. Jessica Thom, a performer and wheelchair user who’s made work about her Tourette’s syndrome, said in a telephone interview that she was worried that some venues may see online shows as an accessibility alternative to offering the relaxed performances she loved to go to, where people were free to move around or make noise. “The anxiety about being written out is real,” she said.
Graeae, Britain’s leading deaf and disabled-led theater company, as well as “The Unknown” for Leeds Playhouse (streaming until June 5).
She has been helped in such work by being able to have meetings and rehearsals virtually. “My experiences have been incredibly inclusive,” she said, “and I think a lot of us are having the same concerns about ‘Will we go back to old ways of working, when we’re told we need to be in the room?’”
like the Globe in London, have started offering in-person performances with audio description, Wood said. But she won’t be able to attend for months. “I worked out the other day I’d need to be guided by about 25 people to go from my home to a London theater,” she said. “I can’t tell if someone is wearing a mask or not, I can’t keep distance, so I don’t feel ready,” she added.
Many other disabled people feel similarly anxious about attending events in person, she said, having been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. She was worried theaters might cut back on services assuming there isn’t demand, even if the trend for that hasn’t happened yet.
Six British museums and theaters said in emails they intended to maintain provisions for disabled audiences, and not cut back. Andrew Miller, a campaigner who was the British government’s disability champion for arts and culture until this spring, said many institutions would be hard pressed to “wriggle” out of commitments even if they for some reason wanted to, as much funding in Britain comes with a requirement to expand access. But future funding cuts could make the situation “messy,” he said. “There is a genuine worry there’ll be significantly less investment,” he added.
Boué said she just hoped British theaters and museums kept disabled people in mind. It should be easier than ever to identify with disabled people, she said. When the first lockdown hit, “it was this jaw dropping moment when everyone felt completely immobilized and like they didn’t have the freedoms they’d always taken for granted,” she said.
For once, “it was like disability was really everyone’s problem,” she added.
LONDON — At 8:30 p.m. on Monday, two friends were huddling outside St. Martin’s Theater in London’s West End doing something no one has for 14 months: arguing during the intermission over who was the murderer in “The Mousetrap,” Agatha Christie’s long-running whodunit.
“I’m convinced it’s the posh woman who runs the hotel,” said Lockie Chapman, 40, a singer, before immediately changing his mind.
“Actually, it’s the major!” he said. “Or how about that shifty Italian dude?” he added.
“The shifty Italian dude?” replied Rah Petherbridge, 37. “But he could be a red herring!”
Such debates have rung out outside the “The Mousetrap” ever since it debuted in 1952, but those accompanying the show’s 28,200th performance on Monday were significant. They marked the reopening of the West End.
Six,” the hit musical about the wives of Henry VIII, but they managed only a handful of performances before they were shut once more. Theaters had to perform to online audiences if they wanted to keep working.
Monday’s comeback felt like it was actually permanent, 15 audience members said in interviews, many highlighting Britain’s speedy vaccination campaign as the reason for their optimism. (Over 55 percent of the British population has received at least one dose, a higher proportion than in the United States.) A small but worrying surge in coronavirus cases in Britain, linked to a variant first identified in India, did not dampen their mood.
La Clemenza di Tito.” “I feel confident this time it’s for good,” said Katie Connor, 40, as several huge Rolls Royces pulled up with glamorous operagoers.
“I’m just so happy to be back,” she added. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to ugly-cry for the whole two hours and 25 minutes of the show.”
England’s theaters are not immediately allowed to return to their prepandemic state. For now, shows can open only at 50 percent capacity, and audience members must wear face masks throughout performances.
Social-distancing rules are supposed to be removed June 21, allowing full capacity, but on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the date might be pushed back because of the recent rise in cases.
“I have to level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress,” Johnson said.
since at least the 1970s, lacking the technical bells and whistles one would expect of a modern production. But Spiegel said that it was the best play to reopen the West End, as it had become a symbol of the city.
“It’s been through all the ups and downs of British life of the last 70 years: terrorism, economic recessions, this,” he said. “There’s not a scientific answer to why it should be first. It just feels right.”
Nick Payne’s relationship drama “Constellations” at the Donmar Warehouse. He hired four two-person casts — including famous names like Zoë Wanamaker — to try to ensure that the show wouldn’t suffer any coronavirus-induced closures, he said. “It’s such a complicated balancing act for every production,” he added.
Other theaters across England are similarly focused on small shows with lower coronavirus risks for now. The Theater Royal in Bath in southwestern England, for instance, is reopening May 25 not with a play, but with Ralph Fiennes performing T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets.” The performance will then travel around England.
protesting a lack of support for arts workers.
In Berlin, theaters are also allowed to reopen on Wednesday, but only outdoors.
In the West End, most theater owners and producers seem happy to accept restrictions, including the potential use of coronavirus passports to guarantee entry. “Whatever is necessary to restart people’s ability to enjoy theater I’m OK with,” Spiegel, of “The Mousetrap,” said.
Many in the industry realize that it will be a long time before theaters are back to their old selves, employing thousands of freelancers. Some job losses are only just emerging. In April, The Stage, Britain’s theater newspaper, reported that “The Phantom of the Opera” would reopen July 27 but only with its touring orchestration, cutting the number of musicians almost in half, to 14, from 27.
“It sets a bad precedent for the whole sector,” Dan West, a trombonist who played in the show before the pandemic, said in a telephone interview. “Every small producer will say, ‘If they don’t need brass, I don’t,’” he added.
During “The Mousetrap” on Monday, any worries seemed far from people’s minds. Many audience members took off their masks to sip drinks during the show, then left them off as the tension ramped up onstage, with Detective Sergeant Trotter (Paul Hilliar) quizzing eight potential murderers.
Eventually, the perpetrator was revealed, and several audience members gasped. “See, I told you!” one shouted, being shushed by those around him.
“The Mousetrap” ended just had it had for every one of its previous 28,199 performances. “Thank you so much for your unbelievably warm reception this evening,” Hilliar said, after a standing ovation from the half-full theater.
“Now, you are our partners in crime,” he added, “and we ask you to keep the secret of whodunit locked in your hearts.”
Sergei Chernikov, my guide, had a bolt-action rifle slung over his shoulder — in case we came across any polar bears, he said, or in case they came across us.
We were standing at the rudimentary dock in Pyramiden, a ghost town on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, in the High Arctic. I’d heard that in 1998 the Russian government had tricked the town’s 1,000 residents into taking a holiday on the mainland, only to close the mine and forbid them from returning. According to the rumor, it had been abandoned ever since, frozen in time at the top of the world. Was it true? I asked.
Sergei shook his head before I’d even finished my question.
Barentsburg, which is still functional, and Pyramiden, long since empty — are Russian settlements.
The presence of Russian settlements stems from the fact that the Svalbard Treaty granted signatories — including Russia — rights to Svalbard’s natural resources. Eventually, Trust Arktikugol, a Russian state-owned coal company, took ownership of both Pyramiden and Barentsburg.
Pyramiden would go on to outlast the Soviet Union, finally shuttering its doors over a series of months in 1998. In truth, the place had been in pretty steep decline for years. Accidents in the mine, financial turmoil in Russia and a 1996 charter plane crash that killed 141 people combined to seal its fate.
At over 78 degrees north, Pyramiden is a place of records and extremes. When the sun disappears below the horizon each fall in late October, it isn’t seen again until mid February of the following year. Conversely, in summer, the sunlight is unyielding for more than three months.
And yet, walking around with Sergei, I couldn’t help but sense that things had moved quickly in the end. Manuals sat open, bottles of vodka were left on windowsills. There were scattered journals, photographs of men with impressive mustaches, a typewriter — even an old basketball, burst at the seams.
Perhaps most poignant were the children’s toys, scattered among what was once a schoolhouse.
In its heyday, Pyramiden provided its 1,000 residents with urban facilities and a high standard of living. The town’s offerings included a school, a library, an ice hockey rink, a sports hall, dance and music studios, a radio station, a cinema that doubled as a theater and a cemetery for cats.
If something exists in Pyramiden, then it is very probably the northernmost example in the world. (The settlement is around 500 miles farther north than Utqiargvik, Alaska, the northernmost community in the United States.)
The old cultural center houses what’s likely the northernmost grand piano and gymnasium. Nearby, Sergei and I walked around inside the long-emptied swimming pool — once heated, and the envy of the residents of Longyearbyen, the much larger Norwegian settlement to the south.
On a plinth outside that remarkable building stands an enormous statue of Lenin, his cold head sternly surveying the town, the sole remaining witness to the emptying of Pyramiden.
There’s real beauty here, too: the shimmering fur of a family of arctic foxes living under the hotel; sapphire blues laser-beaming out of the nearby Nordenskiold Glacier; low sun catching cracked windows in the canteen, kaleidoscopic light dancing on the floor; sunrise and sunset washing that extraordinary mountaintop in pinks and golds.
While much of the town now lies dormant, very slowly decaying, the Pyramiden Hotel — likely the northernmost in the world, of course — and the cultural center have been revived in recent years.
These are the only buildings in town that are still regularly used. While shifting permafrost has warped some of the wooden buildings, their sturdy structures stand firm.
It’s in the hotel that a small community of Russians and Ukrainians live and work, welcoming day trippers and adventurous travelers looking to spend the night.
During my visit, Dina Balkarova worked the bar. “Normally I live in Barentsburg,” she said. “But in Russia I don’t work in bars — I’m really an opera singer.” She told me that when she had time to herself, she’d ask one of the armed residents (no one can be without a gun this deep in polar bear country) to accompany her down to old oil drums by the dock. There, she’d test out her voice against the rusting metal.
This was the sort of eccentricity I’d hoped to find when, cruising around Svalbard earlier that summer, I’d first heard about Pyramiden. If anything, though, the place was less strange than I had imagined — the people were warm and proud of the town’s history, as they might be anywhere else in the world.
The few Russians and Ukrainians who have returned in recent years don’t dream of reviving Pyramiden as a functioning town. Instead, they told me, they’re hoping to preserve its heritage, which had so nearly been lost.
The buildings, they say, may be cold and lifeless, but at least they aren’t entirely abandoned.
Tensions rose even higher when the stagehands learned that the Met had outsourced some of its set construction to nonunion shops elsewhere in this country and overseas. (In a letter to the union last year, Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, wrote that the average full-time stagehand cost the Met $260,000 in 2019, including benefits; the union disputes that number, saying that when the steady extra stagehands who work at the Met regularly, and sometimes full-time, are factored in, the average pay is far lower.)
The stagehand lockout has not been absolute. Claffey said that at the Met’s request, he has allowed several Local One members to work at the Met under the terms of the previous contract, particularly to help the union wardrobe staff who are on duty.
But although the Met has now reached a deal with the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents its chorus, it has yet to reach one with Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents the orchestra. Both groups were furloughed without pay for nearly a year after the opera house closed before they were brought back to the bargaining table with the promise of partial pay of up to $1,543 per week.
Adam Krauthamer, the president of Local 802, pointed out that because of the Met’s labor divisions, other performing arts institutions were ahead of the Met in reopening.
“Broadway is selling tickets; the Philharmonic is doing performances; they’re building stages right before our eyes,” Krauthamer said in a speech at the rally. “The Met is the only place that continues to try to destroy its workers’ contracts.”
The rally had the backing of several local politicians who spoke, including Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, and the New York State Senators Jessica Ramos and Brad Hoylman, who had a message for the Met’s general manager: “Mr. Gelb, could you leave the drama on the stage, please?”
JOHANNESBURG — One of South Africa’s top film producers squinted at a monitor as a hush settled over the crew. Cameras zoomed in on an actress playing a dealer of fine art — chicly dressed in a pencil skirt made from bold African textiles — who offered a coy smile as an old flame stepped into her gallery.
It’s the opening scene of a new Netflix movie about high-powered Black women, wealth and modern city life in Johannesburg — one in a flood of productions from a new generation of South African filmmakers. They are bent on telling their own stories on their own terms, eager to widen the aperture on a country after a generation of films defined by apartheid, poverty and struggle.
“We call it the legacy exhaustion, the apartheid cinema, people are exhausted with it,” Bongiwe Selane, the producer, said a few days later in the editing studio. “The generation now didn’t live it, they don’t really relate to it. They want to see stories about their experiences now.”
one of the most unequal in the world, where wealth is still concentrated mostly in the hands of whites and a small Black elite.
But in recent years, the country has also undergone major demographic and economic shifts. The first South Africans who grew up after apartheid are now adults, asserting their voices on social media and in professional workplaces. And a growing Black middle class has been eager to see itself reflectedonscreen — and showing it with their wallets.
box office expectations for locally made romantic comedies.
A year later, “Happiness is a Four Letter Word” — the prequel to Ms. Selane’s latest film that opens with the art gallery scene — outperformed several Hollywood releases in South African movie theaters on its opening weekend.
The movie revolves around three bold women navigating a new South Africa. There is Princess, a serial dater and owner of a trendy art gallery; Zaza, a glamorous housewife having an illicit love affair; and Nandi, a high-powered lawyer who gets cold feet on the cusp of her wedding.
“Audiences would come up to me to tell me how they also had a guy who broke their heart and they want to see that, to watch something where apartheid is not in the foreground,” said Renate Stuurman, who plays Princess. “It can be in the background, surely, it’s what brought us here, but people were happy to be distracted.”
according to Digital TV Research, an industry forecaster. For Netflix, the investment ispart of a larger push to acquire a generation of Black content.
Nollywood. Nigerian filmmakers have churned out thousands of movies — many produced with just a few thousand dollars and one digital camera — since the late 1990s.
Nollywood films won fans across English-speaking Africa, but South Africa is chipping away at its dominance, industry leaders say.
For the past two decades, South Africa has hosted major Hollywood studios drawn to its highly skilled workers and government-issued rebate on all production costs spent in the country.
Cape Town’s streets were transformed into Islamabad for the fourth season of Homeland; studios constructed models of Robben Island for “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom;” and crews flew helicopters, crashed cars and set off massive explosions in downtown Johannesburg for “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Of the roughly 400 films made in South Africa between 2008 and 2014, nearly 40 percent were foreign productions, according to the National Film and Video Foundation, a government agency.
“Blood Psalms,” a series for Showmax, employs massive sets reminiscent of “Game of Thrones,” green screens to concoct magical powers, and elaborate costumes of armor and golden crowns.
Inside an editing suite in Johannesburg one recent morning, Mr. Qubeka chatted with an editor slicing together shots for the show, about a queen battling a world-ending prophecy — a plot drawn from African mythology.
“The true revolution,” Mr. Qubeka said, “is that we as South Africans are being sought out for our perspective and our ideas.”
ROME — Milva, whose charisma, warm voice and flaming red hair made her one of Italy’s most recognizable divas from the 1960s through the ’80s, died on April 23 at a hospital in Milan. She was 81.
Her daughter, Martina Corgnati, said the cause was a neurovascular disease.
In an eclectic career that spanned more than 50 years, Milva sang at pop festivals and performed in high-culture houses like the Paris Opera and Milan’s prestigious Piccolo Theater. She became popular across Europe, especially in Germany. She crooned traditional songs and had contemporary hits. She wore glamorous dresses while singing leftist anthems.
President Sergio Mattarella, in a statement, called her “a protagonist of Italian music, a cultivated, sensitive and versatile interpreter.” Her body lay in state last month at the Piccolo, where fans lined up to pay their last respects.
“She used to say, ‘First I’ll finish the show, then I can die,’” Ms. Corgnati said. “The show came before everything.”
1954 Billy Wilder movie of the same name. But her family called her Milva, a fusion of her two first names, and it stuck professionally.
leftist views and her votes for Communist politicians. She sang about the killing of factory workers by the Italian police, performed traditional antifascist songs of the Italian Resistance, and sang musical versions of the work of anarchist poets. She became — also thanks in part to her blazing red hair — identified with the political left.
In 1968, when she sang the Resistance song “Bella Ciao” at the RAI Auditorium in Naples, she told the presenter, “I have a weakness for freedom songs.”
Giorgio Strehler, who oversaw the Piccolo, cast her in Brecht roles, most notably Jenny in “The Threepenny Opera.” She carried his theatrical influence into her concerts, which included 15 appearances at the Sanremo Music Festival in Italy.
She demonstrated “tireless perfectionism” in preparing her performances, said the director Filippo Crivelli, who worked with her for several years.
She characteristically sang with her hand on her hip, often dressed in Gianfranco Ferrè’s luxurious dresses and wearing a Guerlain perfume detectable from the first few rows.
Magazines put her on the cover, paparazzi chased her, and she was the subject of tabloid headlines, especially after one of her former boyfriends was found fatally shot in his car in mysterious circumstances and another killed himself.
She had no shortage of admirers. The Oscar-winning composer Ennio Morricone dedicated an album to her. Astor Piazzolla asked her to sing his tangos. Italians knew her best for “Alexander Platz,” a hit song adapted for her by the singer-songwriter Franco Battiato, a giant of Italian pop music, and “La Rossa,” a song written for her by another major artist, Enzo Jannacci.
She toured Asia and Europe, singing in at least seven different languages.
All that work took its toll. When her vocal cords grew inflamed, she gave herself cortisone shots to keep singing. Doctors said the treatments contributed to her neurovascular disease, according to Ms. Corgnati. She retired in 2012.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a sister, Luciana, and a brother, Antonio.
Vicky Schatzinger, a pianist who worked with Milva for 15 years, said she had repeatedly promised to cut her red hair once she left the stage, but she never did.
“She felt that her hair made her a character,” Ms. Schatzinger said. “But in reality, she was her character herself.”
Japan has contained Covid-19 far better than most other large countries. But it now faces the challenge of holding the Olympics this summer — and welcoming athletes from around the world — without causing new outbreaks.
The status of the Games has become a political issue in Japan, with polls showing most residents favoring either postponement or cancellation. Many people are frustrated with how Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first year in office, is handling the situation.
Yet for all of the criticism, it seems possible that Japan will hold a successful Olympics while keeping the virus under control. This morning, I want to walk you through the issue, with help from a couple of charts and from my colleague Motoko Rich, The Times’s Tokyo bureau chief.
An amazing statistic
Japan’s Covid response has been so successful that it achieved a remarkable feat: Overall deaths declined in 2020, even as they were surging in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world. Japan kept its Covid toll low, and its pandemic measures caused a decline in some other fatalities, like those from the flu and vehicle accidents.
This article by Motoko, from almost a year ago, compares mask habits in Japan and the U.S.) The government also virtually closed its borders. And it was quick to focus on the settings where the coronavirus was most likely to spread, warning people to avoid the “three C’s” — closed spaces, crowded places and close contact.
only 2 percent of residents having received a shot. There is less urgency to do so in a country where fewer than 11,000 people have died of Covid.
Japanese regulators have so far approved only Pfizer’s vaccine and are still evaluating Moderna’s and AstraZeneca’s, despite their obvious success elsewhere. Even if those vaccines are approved soon, the government’s contracts with the vaccine makers do not require the delivery of many doses until late this year, Motoko notes. The country appears to be months away from reaching the vaccination levels of the U.S., Britain, Israel and other world leaders.
risen over the past two months, and the government declared a state of emergency in several major cities, urging new restrictions on activity. “Japan has recently lost a little control of the caseloads,” Motoko says. “Of course, it’s nothing like New Delhi, but it’s not like Sydney or Taipei, either.”
insist that the Games will go on, and there are billions of dollars at stake, not only for Japan but also for the Olympic organizers, major sponsors and television networks, including NBC. For athletes who have trained for years, the cancellation of the Games — after their postponement last year — would be deeply disappointing.
More tests than fans
The biggest safety measure is the barring of fans from outside Japan. At a typical Olympics, fans make up the great majority of visitors to the host country. By barring them, Japan has restricted entry to athletes, coaches, journalists and Olympics officials, many of whom will probably have been vaccinated. They will all need to take several Covid tests before coming, and athletes will be tested every day during the Olympics, with others being tested less frequently.
The dangers will also decrease if Japan can meet its goal of vaccinating most residents 65 and older — the people most vulnerable to serious Covid symptoms — by July 23, when the Games begin.
Even if that happens, though, Japan will not be free of risk. After months of allowing few international visitors, the country will be letting in tens of thousands of people. They will then interact with nearly 80,000 local Olympic volunteers, who will drive athletes and officials around Tokyo, serve as interpreters and do other tasks. A Covid-free Olympics seems unlikely. The question will be whether Japan can quickly identify, isolate and treat people who get the virus.
In this way, the Games may present a particularly intense version of the balance that many countries will be trying to achieve in 2021 — moving back to normal life while avoiding a new wave of a deadly virus.
“Inside Japan, historical currents are also important drivers,” Motoko and Hikari Hida have written. “The wartime cancellation of one Tokyo Olympics, in 1940, and the triumphant staging of another a quarter-century later are potent symbols of first regret and then rebirth.”
Dr. Megan Ranney, for CNN: “I wish we would either limit the Games to just the athletes, or insist on vaccination for all — including spectators and host communities …. Yes, these events deserve to go on, for the sake of the athletes — but we cannot pretend that the current recommended precautions are adequate.”
Rebecca Solnit makes the case for climate optimism, citing technological innovation and growing political will: “Each shift makes more shifts possible.”
Biden’s quiet steps to strengthen U.S. support for Taiwan are increasing the risk of war, Peter Beinart argues in The New York Times.
Get Hip: If you follow Barstool Sports or own a mug that says “Girlboss,” you may be cheugy.
A Times Classic: Go backstage at the (prepandemic) Metropolitan Opera.
Lives Lived: Patrick O’Connell helped shatter the stigma surrounding AIDS by developing awareness-raising campaigns, one of which included a red ribbon that became ubiquitous. He died at 67.
ARTS AND IDEAS
flourishing to describe a person’s overall well-being — physical, mental and emotional, which all feed on each other. “It’s living the good life,” Tyler J. VanderWeele, an epidemiologist, told The Times.
In the pandemic, many people have understandably been doing the opposite of flourishing: languishing, or feeling stagnant with dulled emotions and motivation. A Times story on languishing was one of our most read articles in recent weeks.
But there are simple habits backed by science that can help you flourish. They include celebrating small moments in life, like a warm bath or hanging out with a friend; setting aside time once a week to reflect on the things you’re grateful for; and volunteering, even a couple of hours a week. (Are you flourishing? Take this quiz.)
“People think that in order to flourish, they need to do whatever their version of winning the Olympics is, or climbing a mountain, or having some epic experience,” Adam Grant, a psychologist, said. The reality is the opposite. — Sanam Yar, Morning writer
MEXICO CITY — Someone in a Charlie Brown costume frantically waves hello. A person dressed as a monkey pretends to take photos with a stuffed camera. An elderly man who just got his second shot of the Pfizer vaccine grabs a microphone and starts singing very loudly.
“I’m 78, but they tell me I look 75 and a half,” the man said gleefully, the assessment supported by his apparent lung strength as he belted out a ranchera song with abandon.
In a bid to improve their customer service, vaccination centers in Mexico’s capital now come with a slate of entertainment options, including dancing, yoga, live operatic performances and the chance to watch large, bare-chested Lucha Libre wrestlers do the limbo.
The goal is to make the process as appealing as possible, said a woman leading a singing and dancing performance for people waiting for a shot at a military parade ground in Mexico City on a recent Wednesday.
virus in Latin America and the sputtering vaccination efforts in many of its countries. Concerns have been compounded recently by the rapid spread of a virus variant first discovered in Brazil.
At the vaccination center in Mexico City, women in white shirts led the crowd in various yoga poses that could be done in wheelchairs. Men performed tricks with a surprising number of soccer balls. A professional opera singer congratulated everyone.
the third highest coronavirus death toll worldwide, where the government resisted imposing strict lockdowns, fearing damage to the economy, and which has not tested widely, arguing it is a waste of money.
Many believe that the only escape from this nightmare is mass vaccination, but the campaign had been moving glacially. By mid-April, though, the pace has picked up nationally — and after some messiness in the beginning, the nation’s capital has gotten better at efficiently getting shots into arms.
“We quickly realized that with the strategy we had in place, we couldn’t attend to seniors with the level of service they deserved,” said Eduardo Clark, who helps coordinate the city’s vaccination program.
Lucha Libre wrestlers, named Gravity, Bandido, Guerrero Olímpico, Hijo de Pirata Morgan and Ciclón Ramírez Jr.
“It’s a little bit of joy,” Ms. Silva shouted over the live band playing a few feet away, nodding to the beat. “It reanimates what you have inside.”
With the pandemic closing wrestling arenas, the government has put the Lucha Libre fighters to creative use, enlisting them to enforce mask wearing by pretending to accost people and now this.
“I’m glad they are here cooperating, in solidarity with people,” said Francisca Rodríguez, whose husband’s wheelchair had momentarily been commandeered by a sweating Ciclón Ramírez Jr.
Ms. Rodríguez said Mr. López Obrador, had done an “excellent” job of managing the pandemic, though she acknowledged that the president had taken a beating for refusing to vaccinate some workers in private hospitals, who say they’re being made to wait longer than those at public hospitals.
“There is a media war against President López Obrador right now,” she said, pointedly. “Even American newspapers are attacking the president.”
As people were vaccinated and filed into the area where they would be observed for adverse reactions, the Lucha Libre wrestlers broke out into a “yes you could!” chant.
“My children are going to ask me how it was, so I’m going to bring them evidence,” said Luis González, 68, recording the performance on his cellphone.
When Mr. González’s wife got the coronavirus four months ago, he sat by her side, fanning her with a piece of cardboard to try to make more air available to breathe. After 38 years of marriage, he watched her die in their home, waiting for an ambulance.
Mr. González sat in the front row long after his observation period had passed, alone, watching the wrestlers dance.
“You feel the emptiness, especially at night,” he said. “During the days, it’s easier to distract myself.”
The soprano Renée Fleming sauntered onstage in a shimmering long-sleeve gown, perched on a chair and started to sing.
For a renowned performer decades into her career, it might have been an uneventful Wednesday evening at the Shed, the expansive performance space in Hudson Yards. But after 13 months in a pandemic, a sea of faces was a novel sight for the opera star and the trio accompanying her.
“Wow, applause!” she remarked after finishing the meditative opening number. “Very exciting.”
Exciting, indeed — and no mean feat to pull off.
After the Shed and other flexible New York performance spaces lobbied to let audiences in, it got the go-ahead to open its doors for a live event on April 2, after 386 days of shutdown. Fleming’s April 21 show there, before a limited audience, was the fourth performance in a series co-sponsored by NY PopsUp, a public-private program aimed at reviving the arts.
acted in a play during the Shed’s opening season, wouldn’t be left completely untended: Bottled water, tea bags and a kettle would be in her dressing room.
Alex Poots, the Shed’s chief executive, had one big announcement to share with the staff. The venue had not received state permission to expand the size of the audience. In the days leading up to the concert, the Shed had asked to double capacity from 150 to 300, which would still only be a fraction of the roughly 1,200 people the McCourt, its largest performance space, can seat.
But the state had essentially told them: Not so fast.
The concert had sold out in two hours. Audience members who did secure tickets had already received the first of four emails explaining the coronavirus protocols they would need to follow.
Gone was the chance to rush to a concert after work and plop down into your seat as the curtain rose. Before they entered the Shed, concertgoers would need to check one of three boxes: show proof of full vaccination; demonstrate a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the event; or have taken a rapid antigen test, which is less reliable, within six hours of showtime.
This was such a jumble of rules and dates that the front-of-house staff would be provided printed cheat sheets for the day of the show.
Bill Frisell was surrounded by piles of sheet music — some Handel, some Stephen Foster — laid out on the dining room table and the living room floor of his Brooklyn home. He was writing out his parts in pencil, referencing a list of songs that Fleming had sent to him, the bassist Christian McBride, and the pianist Dan Tepfer.
“Down in the Depths (on the Ninetieth Floor),” Fleming was up on East 57th Street, visiting her longtime hair stylist, Michael Stinchcomb, at Vartali Salon.
Stinchcomb has been an avid fan since the 1990s and first met Fleming backstage at Carnegie Hall. He’s been doing her hair for more than two decades, often traveling around the world when she performs.
But last winter Fleming moved from New York to Virginia, and the pandemic had prevented her from visiting Stinchcomb until the day before her Shed performance.
“She was so happy to come in,” Stinchcomb said. “She’s a woman who likes to look good.”
Later that afternoon, Fleming arrived at the Shed for a three-hour rehearsal, where she and the musicians discussed harmonies, tempos and spots for improvised solos.
“A full rehearsal the day before a show?” McBride said. “That’s a lot in the jazz world.”
Wednesday: 11 hours to showtime
José Rivera pointed at the space between two clusters of seats. “From here to here, it’s 6-foot 4,” he announced, bending to scrutinize his yellow tape measure. “From here to here is 6-foot 1.”
That made the grade: According to state rules, the distance between audience members had to be over six feet.
He and another facilities employee, Steven Quinones, had been arranging the chairs for some two hours, ensuring that the setup matched a detailed paper diagram.
“And see, this is the big aisle that people walk through, so it’s 9 feet, 5 inches,” Rivera continued, raising his voice to be heard over the whirring of a third colleague zooming around the room on an industrial floor scrubber.
Five floors up, Josh Phagoo, an operations engineer, checked up on one of the Shed’s most important technologies for Covid safety: the HVAC system. Massive air handlers and chillers in the building’s engine room whirred constantly as Phagoo made sure the machines that keep the air at roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity at 50 percent were functional.
On the stage itself, the first piano notes of the day were vibrating through the air, up to the McCourt’s 115-foot ceiling.
Stephen Eriksson had arrived at 11 a.m. to tune the gleaming Steinway grand piano. While he said his business had disappeared for the first four months of the pandemic, now he is busier than ever.
For nearly 30 minutes, he used a tuning wrench to make sure that the piano was concert ready. Afterward, he played a bit of Debussy and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
“That’s a bit of pure indulgence,” he said.
Wednesday: Three hours to showtime
Within 15 minutes after arriving at the Shed, Fleming — who was scheduled for her second vaccine in New York the morning after the show — got the rapid Covid test in her dressing room. Negative.
Afterward, she rehearsed onstage with the musicians, their instruments positioned more than six feet apart from one another, while an audio crew member in a mask and a face shield flitted around them, making sure everything was working properly.
The six-person crew working the show was slightly smaller than usual, according to Pope Jackson, the Shed’s production manager. Everywhere they went, they brought along what Jackson referred to as a “Covid cart,” which contained a stock of masks, gloves, sanitation supplies and brown paper bags, which the musicians’ union requires so that players have a clean place to put their masks while they perform.
Downstairs, a staff of eight security guards had their nostrils swabbed to make sure that they tested negative.
Fleming and the musicians had been doing virtual and outdoor concerts throughout the pandemic, but the security staff was filled with people whose careers had been even more upended.
Allen Pestana, 21, has been unemployed for more than a year after being let go from working security at Yankee Stadium; Duwanna Alford, 53, saw her hours cut at a church in Morningside Heights; Richard Reid, 33, had worked in April 2020 as a security guard at a field hospital in Manhattan, where he had tried to forget his health fears and focus on the hazard pay he was receiving.
This was the moment before a concert where the theater was alive with preparation and nerves — a bustle missing in the city during the first year of the pandemic.
“It’s like doing the electric slide, the moonwalk and the bachata all at once,” Jackson said of the minutes before showtime. “But when the lights go up, it all fades away.”
The front-of-house staff had only 20 minutes to review the audience members’ IDs and Covid-related documents; take their temperatures; and show them to their seats.
Icy gusts of wind just outside the doors weren’t making things any easier.
But by 8:05 p.m., 150 people had settled into their precisely placed seats, able to snap a photo of the QR code on the arms of the chairs to see the concert program.
In between performances of the jazz classic “Donna Lee” and “Touch the Hand of Love,” which Fleming had once recorded with Yo-Yo Ma, the artists chatted onstage about what they’d been doing with their lives for the past 13 months.
“Wishing this pandemic would be over,” McBride said.
Tepfer said he had been improving a technological tool that made it easier for musicians to play in unison over the internet — a tool that he and Fleming had used to rehearse together virtually.
Frisell had not performed for an indoor audience since the beginning of the pandemic. “This is such a blessing,” he said.
The show ended with a standing ovation, and then the musicians played an encore: “Hard Times” by Stephen Foster, which Fleming described as a song that tends to resonate in times of crisis.