By Agence France-Presse
Deserted by tourists, a hotel in Vienna gave itself a temporary one-night-only makeover, turning itself into an outdoor concert hall.
The guest bedrooms, which have stood empty during the coronavirus lockdown, were transformed into opera boxes for an evening, and the hotel courtyard into a stage to create a rare moment of joy in the city of music on Saturday.
Two opera singers and a string ensemble were invited to play at the Hotel Zeitgeist.
As they performed in the courtyard, the spectators looked on from the windows of 40 or so rooms which they had rented for the evening.
And they approved, showering applause on to the head of the tuxedoed conductor and his elegant soprano Monika Medek.
Paid bookings for the “window concert” were sold out in three days, hotel director Andreas Purtscher told AFP.
Purtscher said the concert was intended to give the artists the opportunity to perform again and “to help people get out, to find a sense of normality in their contact with others”.
He hoped it would “remove some of the fear associated with the period of restrictions”.
More concerts planned
Since mid-April, Austria has lifted many of the restrictions taken to combat the spread of the new coronavirus but cultural life is still at a standstill because of the ban on gatherings of more than 100 people.
For artists, “work opportunities disappeared overnight,” Purtscher said.
He plans to hold at least three more window concerts before August.
Most of the artists programmed at the classical music halls that make the Austrian capital world-famous are freelancers, now deprived of income with the cancellation of their engagements.
Vienna hotels, deserted by tourists and business travellers, are expecting an occupancy rate of less than 10 percent for June, according to the city’s chamber of commerce.
Purtscher said he is expecting the difficult period to last “for at least a year” before the sector returns to normal activity.