This handout picture released by the Teatro Real on February 22, 2013 shows (fromL) actors Anett Fritsch (Fiordiligi), Juan Francisco Gatell (Ferrando), William Shimell (Don Alfonso), Kerstin Avemo (Despina), Andreas Wolf (Guglielmo) and Paola Gardina (Dorabella) during a rehearsal of the opera 'Cosi Fan Tutte' staged by Austrian film director Michael Haneke at the Teatro Real in Madrid. (Teatro Real/AFP/Javier del Real)
Spain's main opera house, the Teatro Real in Madrid, defended itself Monday after it had to cancel a performance when a small group of spectators loudly protested against being seated too close to each other amid a spike in COVID-19 infections.
The performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "A Masked Ball" on Sunday night was called off after a "minority" of spectators repeatedly jeered and clapped despite being offered the chance to be relocated or get a refund for the value of their tickets, the theater said in a statement.
Videos shared on social media by several spectators who were at the performance showed full rows in the upper sections where seats are cheaper, while in the pricier floor section many empty seats could be seen. Clapping and calls of "suspension!" could be heard even after the actors tried to begin their performance.
The Teatro Real had "respected the health norms" put in place by the regional government of Madrid to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and "even reinforced them", the chairman of the body which manages the theatre, Gregorio Maranon, told a news conference on Monday.
Attendance at the performance had been reduced to just 51.5 percent of the total, well below the limit of 75 percent set by the regional government, he added.
The regional government does not require there to be an empty seat between spectators, but it does require there to be a distance of 1.5 meters between people, or if this is not possible, that they wear face masks, which is mandatory at the theatre, Maranon said.
The Teatro Real, which celebrated its bicentenary in 2018, is studying "what measures we can take for those spectators who... clearly felt in an uncomfortable situation," he added.
The incident comes as the regional government of Madrid has imposed a partial lockdown in several densely-populated, low-income areas mainly in the south of the Spanish capital where virus infections are surging, sparking a debate about inequality and triggering protests in these neighborhoods over the weekend before the new measures took effect on Monday.
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