By Jenn Watt
Restrictions introduced by the provincial government to slow the spread of the coronavirus, restricting social gatherings to 10 people inside and 25 outside, put a halt to plans to offer opera in the park for Highlands Opera Studio last weekend.
The free event, which was to have been on Sunday, Sept. 21, was abruptly cancelled as organizers took into account the province’s message on COVID-19.
The decision to cancel the event featuring singers Lauren Margison and River Guard and pianist Stéphane Mayer was made in consultation with Mayor Andrea Roberts, a post from the opera studio says.
“We are extremely grateful to the Rotary Club of Haliburton and the Haliburton County Folk Society for their help in the preparation of this event, and to our wonderful friends and supporters who reserved tickets to the event. We will continue to miss all of you and will bring this concert to you as soon as possible!” the opera studio posted. “The artists are rehearsed and ready to go, and we will be videoing much of what they’ve prepared, so stay tuned!”
On the weekend, the Ford government expanded the gathering restrictions that had previously only applied to Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.
“Over the past several days, we have seen an alarming growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in the province,” Premier Doug Ford said in a media release. “Clearly, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction. That’s why we are taking decisive action to lower the size of unmonitored private social gatherings in every region of Ontario. We need everyone to follow the public health rules in order to prevent another provincewide lockdown, and protect all our citizens, especially the elderly and the vulnerable.”
“Unmonitored and private social gatherings” includes those held at private dwellings as well as those in public parks or recreational areas and takes in functions such as parties, dinners, barbecues and wedding receptions. The province has also specified that gatherings cannot be merged to bump the total to 35 with 25 outside and 10 inside.
Staffed businesses and facilities do not fall under these new limits. Restaurants, banquet halls, places of worship, performing arts events would only need to comply with the existing public health rules such as social distancing, mask usage and sanitation.
Valerie Kuinka, who organized the event, said there wasn’t enough time between when the province announced the rules and when the opera concert was scheduled to find out whether their event would be exempt. Although it was a performing arts event (which would be exempt), it was held in a public park (which was noted as an area where restrictions applied). Hefty potential fines were a deterrent, she said.
“Our artists were ready and really looking forward to performing. We were and still are extremely disappointed,” she said in an email to the Echo.
The event is to be rescheduled. Video of some of the songs will be posted online in coming weeks.