Arts organisations around the country have been hit hard by the worsening COVID-19 situation in NSW and Victoria, with a huge range of cancellations announced in the past few days including the Australian Festival of Chamber Music and the entire winter season of Opera Australia.

One of the cruelest cuts was the cancellation of the 30th edition of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, which had already been postponed from 2020. The festival, scheduled to run in Townsville from July 23 to August 1, was to be the final festival directed by outgoing Artistic Director, Kathryn Stott. When Sydney went into lockdown, several AFCM concert line-ups were changed with some musicians from Melbourne replacing the Sydney musicians who were unable to attend. Then the virus travelled to Melbourne, leading to a Victorian lockdown.

Kathryn Stott and the Goldner String Quartet

Kathryn Stott and the Goldner Quartet. Image supplied.

Festival chair Sandra Yates said the decision to cancel was not made lightly, but that there was no other option.

“Lockdowns in the Greater Sydney area and Victoria, and the border closures in Queensland have left us with no option but to cancel this year’s Festival”, said Yates. “We will therefore celebrate AFCM’s much anticipated 30th year of music making in North Queensland in 2022 with incoming Artistic Director, UK based violinist Jack Liebeck, taking over the reins from Kathryn.”

Also announced late last week was the cancellation of the remainder of Opera Australia’s Sydney winter season due to the extension of the stay-at-home orders in NSW. The season was to have featured productions of Aida, Attila, Otello and The Tales of Hoffmann, with 37 performances in total. Only one – the season opening performance of Aida on 22 June – was able to take place before the lockdown.

Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini said, “It’s incredibly disappointing that we’re not able to continue with our winter season, when so much hard work and preparation had been done by all our talented staff and performers, however we’d like to reassure everyone that all this hard work will not go to waste and we are endeavouring to reschedule all the productions into future seasons.”

Numerous other performances and arts events around the country have had to be cancelled or postponed including the 19th annual Bangalow Music Festival in northern NSW, scheduled for August 12–15. Artistic Director Tania Frazer says the festival is exploring options for presenting a small part-festival in Brisbane over the same weekend, both live and streamed, and is also exploring opportunities to perform in Bangalow later this year.

On a more hopeful note, the cast and crew of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, who had been rehearsing in Sydney, have been granted exemption to the Victorian border closure in order to travel to Melbourne. Around 80 company members will go into 14-day quarantine on arrival, though there have been a few exceptions to allow for the bump in of the set and lighting. The musical is scheduled to begin performances at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre on 13 August.