Russia’s Mariinsky Orchestra allegedly went on tour while infected with Covid-19

27 January 2022, 12:32 | Updated: 28 January 2022, 16:34

The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra performed in Moscow last weekend
The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra performed in Moscow last weekend. Picture: Alamy

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra continues to perform, and tour, despite not being offered any PCR tests – an anonymous source alleges.

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An anonymous source from the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra has told Russian media outlet, Novosti, that the world-class orchestra is performing without PCR tests for Covid-19.

The orchestra left its St Petersburg home last weekend, and toured to Moscow; a city around 700 km away from their theatre base.

Led by conductor, Valery Gergiev, the orchestra played three concerts in the Zaryadye Concert Hall, but the anonymous source revealed to Novosti that a large proportion of the orchestra were sick at the time.

“Eight first violinists, eight second, six violas, four cellos, five double basses, two flutes, five oboists are sick (this is a lot!),” alleged the source.

“Clarinets are the most persistent, in bassoons – only one; three horns, five trumpeters (this is also a lot!), four trombones; tubas are also resistant; drummers also hold on. Two more harps and two keyboardists.

“Basically, everyone [who is sick] is the first chair [in their section].” reached out to the Mariinsky Theatre Press Office, who responded: “Coronavirus cases at the Mariinsky Theatre do not impact much on the current working process, as well as on the tour schedule.”

Read more: Tragedy at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre as actor killed on stage during opera performance

The orchestra were joined by piano soloist, Boris Berezovsky
The orchestra were joined by piano soloist, Boris Berezovsky. Picture: Alamy

According to the source, the orchestra’s musicians are outraged that they were sent on tour to Moscow without prior PCR testing. It has meant that infected musicians and staff have been sent to another major city, where they could spread the virus to others.

The theatre, which is also home to the famed Mariinsky Ballet, has been struggling to contain a recent coronavirus outbreak among staff and performers. Prior to the tour, recent testing of the Mariinsky Theatre Choir allegedly found that half of the singers (35 of 70) had Covid.

The source alleges that new Covid cases are detected almost daily among artists at the Russian theatre. However, no PCR testing was carried out for the orchestra before the Moscow trip.

The theatre continues to have almost daily performances across the coming week.

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The inside of the Mariinsky Theatre
The inside of the Mariinsky Theatre. Picture: Alamy

This isn’t the first time the Mariinsky have had to deal with Covid. In 2020, when theatres began reopening at the end of the year, the Mariinsky was forced to close soon after, due to 30 of its dancers testing positive for Covid.

However, unlike the current alleged situation at the theatre, The New York Times reported in 2020, that the ballerinas were being tested for the infectious disease weekly.

The current coronavirus rules in Russia state that, “if you test positive for Covid-19 while in Russia, you will be required to self-isolate until you have recovered and tested negative for Covid-19 on a PCR test”. As of last week, this required isolation period has shortened from 14 to seven days.

According to the Reuters World Coronavirus Tracker, Russia has had the second highest total of coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

The Mariinsky Theatre Press Office added in an email to “Since June 2020 regular testing has been carried out for employees who have not been vaccinated nor have had coronavirus before (and do not have a QR code). All musicians take extra PCR tests prior to in-country or overseas tours.

“Furthermore, in addition to the measures taken, the Mariinsky Theatre carefully monitors compliance with all necessary security measures: on the stage and main entrances the body temperature is checked, wearing masks is mandatory, all surfaces are regularly disinfected.”