Opera house in Brazilian Amazon brings music back to virus-hit city

MANAUS, BRAZIL (AFP) – Five months after the coronavirus pandemic turned the Brazilian city of Manaus into a horror show of mass graves and overflowing morgues, music has returned to the Amazonian capital’s famed opera house.

Built in the late 19th Century at the height of the rubber boom that once made Manaus one of the wealthiest cities in the Americas, the Amazonas Theatre is known for its Renaissance revival architecture, opulent interior and location near the banks of the Amazon River.

It emerged from its Covid-19 lockdown last week with a series of performances featuring the work of Mozart and Beethoven, in a sign of the rainforest city’s hopefulness that the worst of its outbreak is past.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” said music lover Marcelino Aguiar from behind his face mask, attending his first concert in months with his wife and children.

The theatre adapted its programming to the times – string quartets with no conductor, in order to respect social distancing guidelines.

Ticket sales were limited to half the theatre’s 700 velvet-covered seats.

The infection curve in Manaus, a city of 2.2 million people, had plunged dramatically in recent weeks.

That led some experts to speculate that the city’s epidemic may have been so bad that it produced “herd immunity”, in which enough members of a population are immune to a disease that it can no longer spread effectively.

The Amazonas Theatre plans to continue holding concerts, with strict health protocols including temperature checks and hand sanitiser at the entrance.

“Art resists and persists. And as for us, we’re adapting,” said historian and concert-goer Bruno Miranda, 35, just before the curtain went up.