The performance of Giuseppe Verdi's “A Masked Ball” on Sunday night was called off after a “minority” of spectators repeatedly jeered and clapped despite being offered the chance to be relocated or get a refund for the value of their tickets, the theatre said in a statement.
Videos shared on social media by several spectators who were at the performance showed full rows in the upper sections where seats are cheaper, while in the pricier floor section many empty seats could be seen.
Clapping and calls of “suspension!” could be heard even after the actors tried to begin their performance.
Vergüenza en el @teatro_real en la jornada de hoy de Un Ballo in Maschera. Mucho control de acceso por turnos, pero todas las butacas ocupadas sin distancia de seguridad Las de paraíso, claro. En platea mínimo dos sitios libres entre cada grupo de asistentes. Oh, sorpresa pic.twitter.com/N9F1chf9Wn
— Un Congrio (@UnCongrio) September 20, 2020
The Teatro Real had “respected the health norms” put in place by the regional government of Madrid to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and “even reinforced them”, the chairman of the body which manages the theatre, Gregorio Marañon, told a news conference on Monday.
Attendance at the performance had been reduced to just 51.5 percent of the total, well below the limit of 75 percent set by the regional government, he added.
The regional government does not require there to be an empty seat between spectators, but it does require there to be a distance of 1.5 metres (five feet) between people, or if this is not possible, that they wear face masks, which is mandatory at the theatre, Marañon said.
The Teatro Real, which celebrated its bicentenary in 2018, is studying “what measures we can take for those spectators who… clearly felt in an uncomfortable situation,” he added.
The incident comes as the regional government of Madrid has imposed a partial lockdown in several densely-populated, low income areas mainly in the south of the Spanish capital where virus infections are surging, sparking a debate about inequality and triggering protests in these neighbourhoods over the weekend before the new measures took effect on Monday.