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‘A huge, huge mistake’: star German tenor makes emotional plea to bring back live music

German tenor Jonas Kaufmann says not being able to perform in front of a live audience for months has been hugely detrimental for musicians who thrive on connecting with real people.

'A huge, huge mistake': star German tenor makes emotional plea to bring back live music
Kaufmann performs in Vienna in summer 2020. Photo: DPA

“What we miss is this connection and it doesn't matter if they wear masks or whatever,” the 51-year-old told AFP on Thursday after performing at Madrid's Teatro Real opera house.

“I would probably feel them, sense them even if they were behind a curtain.

But they are there. This is what really matters,” added the tenor, whose last performance before an audience was in November in Denmark.

While many of the world's major venues are shut, Spain's main opera house has remained open — although with smaller audiences and safety measures such as the mandatory use of face masks — since July.

SEE ALSO: Could opera houses reopen in Germany at full capacity?

“For me, being on tour all year round, it feels like it has  been forever since I had the experience of an audience in front of me,” said Kaufmann, adding he was “extremely excited and thrilled” to perform in Madrid.

Some opera houses have staged full operas to empty theatres for television or online broadcast but Kaufmann said it was no substitute for a live audience.

“Usually there is the applause and then you relax and start smiling at you take a bow, but if there is just this eternal silence what can you do? It's embarrassing really,” he said earlier during a press conference.

“So my apologies. Audience we need you and we need you now more than ever,” he added.

“People needed distraction, people needed something to at least forget for a couple of hours all their sorrows. If you take that away and at the same time, when you take away pretty much everything else, I think it's a huge, huge mistake.”

'High rate of suicides'

Kaufmann warned that the devastating economic impact on musicians, many of whom are struggling to make ends meets as shows are cancelled, is taking a psychological toll.

 

“I know about a quite high rate of suicides in our family of musicians because they don't see any future and it is really, really terrible,” he said,

Some are “vulnerable souls” who unfortunately “don't see any other exit, which is very sad,” Kauffmann said.

Kaufmann, who the New York Times once called the “most important, versatile tenor of his generation”, said he feels “very privileged” to still be able to perform.

“There are maybe two dozen singers worldwide who are in this privileged position,” he said.

Kaufmann urged the authorities to reopen concert halls and other cultural institutions and be inventive to revive the arts.

“We are not the politicians… we are only voices and we need others to help” so that after the pandemic “we find a cultural landscape that is similar to what we have left when this whole crisis started,” he said.

“This is the first time that music is been silenced in a time of crisis,” he added.

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TRAVEL NEWS

FACT CHECK: Do you still need Covid documents to travel to Spain?

There has been some confusion in the Spanish and English-language press following the announcement this week that Spain has scrapped its Covid health travel form. Here’s what Brits, Americans and other international travellers need to know about Spain’s existing travel restrictions. 

FACT CHECK: Do you still need Covid documents to travel to Spain?

(Scroll down to the bottom if you want the quick answer).

In recent days, Spanish authorities have made two important announcements regarding the country’s Covid-19 entry rules for foreigners. 

Firstly, Spain extended until November 15th the requirement that non-EU visitors must show a Covid-19 vaccination, test or recovery certificate to enter the country. 

A few days later, the Spanish government announced it would no longer require any international travellers to fill in and show its SpTH health control form.

For those who are unfamiliar with Spain’s complex Covid travel rules, the two changes seemed to contradict each other, or suggest that Spain had U-turned on its decision. 

Indeed, UK newspapers such as The Independent wrongly ran with “Spain finally drops all Covid travel restrictions”, a headline it has since amended. 

Even Spain’s national broadcaster RTVE stated that Spain had ditched the Covid passport requirement.

Both these statements are incorrect.

To clarify, a Covid-19 certificate or passport is one document, and Spain’s health control form is another; they are not the same. 

A Covid-19 certificate is issued by authorities in the country where you were vaccinated or tested, whereas the SpTH form was issued by Spanish authorities.

In any case, the SpTH health control form is now officially not required and will not have to be completed by any international traveller arriving in Spain by air or sea.

The discontinuation of this travel form means that non-EU tourists such as Americans, Australians and Canadians and all other non-EU travellers no longer have to complete this step before arrival in Spain.

For British tourists visiting Spain nothing changes in this regard as the UK has long been on the list of 48 non-EU countries with a certificate equivalency deal with the EU, which exempted their nationals from having to fill in Spain’s health control form. 

Now for the other important matter. 

Non-EU tourists visiting Spain still need to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery to visit Spain. 

It applies to all non-EU travellers over the age of 12, but it does not apply to EU citizens or third-country nationals who reside in the EU.

This long-standing Covid travel rule remains in place until at least November 15th 2022.

There was no U-turn in this regard as there is no mention of the Covid-19 passport or certificate being ditched in the Spanish state bulletin (BOE) that focused on the cancellation of the SpTH form. 

Therefore, non-EU tourists such as Britons, Americans, Australians, Canadians or New Zealanders still have to show one of three documents to be able to enter Spain. These are: 

  • A Covid-19 vaccination certificate –  Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. If more than 270 days have passed since your initial vaccination, you need to show proof of a booster shot.
  • A negative Covid-19 test – This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior of departure or an antigen test, taken within 24 hours prior of departure. 
  • A recovery certificate –  This must be dated within the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status.

Face masks are also still required on planes which are bound for Spain, but you don’t have to wear one at the airport.

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