Verbier Festival changes its opening night


The Verbier Festival announced earlier today that its first-night concert has changed with the Verbier Festival Orchestra replaced by the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra. Soloist Denis Matsuev and conductor Valery Gergiev remain at the top of the bill. Trumpeter Timur Martynov joins for the concerts too.

The change ahead of the 16th July opening night is because a ‘small number’ of VFO musicians have tested positive for Covid-19 during rehearsals. Those in contact with those who have tested positive have themselves been placed in quarantine.

On the face of it such an announcement may not necessarily seem like a massive deal – just a reduction in numbers and a change of programme. But that change of orchestra highlights the precariousness of live performance right now, and represents money spent bringing together a symphony orchestra from across the world amid challenging travel restrictions, housing them, feeding them, and testing them.

The Verbier Festival Orchestra is a training orchestra for young musicians aged between 18 and 28. The last VFO concert I saw in 2019 was Schumann’s second symphony. A mammoth band and a good one too. That the programme has had to change to something smaller-scaled (Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony) demonstrates the impact the coronavirus is still having.

The Festival said earlier on today, “The Festival’s safety protocols, developed in partnership with medical experts and approved by the Canton of Valais, have ensured that its team was prepared for the possibility of the reappearance of the Covid-19 virus. Its Protection Plan was activated to stop the spread of the virus, which led to this change to the Festival’s opening night programme.”

The 28th Verbier Festival is supported by public and private funders, including Madame Aline Foriel-Destezet, The Friends of the Verbier Festival, the Festival’s major donors, including its Chairman’s Circle, the Commune de Val de Bagnes, Loterie Romande, Canton du Valais, and its loyal Principal Sponsors, Bank Julius Baer and Neva Foundation.

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