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Locked down Paris Opera facing 40 million-euro losses
In this file photograph taken on April 21, 2020,a pedestrian wearing a facemask walks up steps out of a metro station in front of the Opera Garnier in Paris, during a lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 disease, caused by the novel coronavirus. By the end of 2020, the Paris Opera will have a deficit of 40 million euros due in particular to the paralysis linked to Covid-19 according to its director Stéphane Lissner, for whom strict health measures would be "impractical" in the opera world. In an interview on France Inter on May 5, 2020, he also indicated that if the theatres do not reopen at the start of the new school year, the Bastille and Garnier theatres could close their doors to carry out work initially planned for the summer of 2021. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP.

PARIS (AFP).- Paris Opera is looking at losses of 40 million euros ($43 million) this year, its director warned Tuesday, and may not reopen until 2021.

Europe's biggest opera and ballet company was hit by a catastrophic strike over pensions reform earlier this year before the coronavirus brought the curtain down again in March.

Director Stephane Lissner told French public radio that if social distancing rules in France were not lifted before September, it might make more sense for its two opera houses to stay closed for building work which had been planned for later in 2021.

France's social distancing guidelines for theatres insist on audience members being masked and seated two metres (6.5 feet) apart -- but that is "impractical", said Lissner.

"It is just not workable," he said of the recommendations, which require two empty seats around each audience member.

"How are you going to get 2,700 into the Bastille Opera while respecting distancing?" he told France Inter.

"What are we going to do for the toilets, and the orchestra pit?" Lissener added, with the presence of wind instruments causing particular concern to the contagious diseases expert who drew up the guidelines.

"It is impossible. Keeping a safe distance on stage for our chorus and singers" would mean having to completely rethink productions, he said.

Despite the losses, there was no danger of the three centuries-old opera, one of the most prestigious in the world, going to the wall, said Lissner.

"The state will always be at our side."

At present, the Paris Opera relies on state subsidies for 40 percent of its budget.

French President Emmanuel Macron is due to unveiled an aid package Wednesday to help the country's entertainment industry, which has been badly hit by the pandemic.

© Agence France-Presse

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