A Slight Kennedy Center Reopening

If you were planning the first in-person performance in the Kennedy Center in six months, a kind of historic cultural awakening after the darkness of the pandemic lockdown, you couldn’t go wrong with a double bill of Renée Fleming and Vanessa Williams.

The opera diva and the glamorous pop singer and actress, harmonizing and soloing on well-chosen tunes in front of a handful of musicians would represent a triumphant return to the long unused stages there — truly “A Time to Sing,” as the hour-long cabaret show was optimistically titled. 

But the forward-looking concert at the Kennedy Center Saturday, coming the same week that the Metropolitan Opera cancelling its entire 2020-21 season, seemed only premature.

The two, in their spangly blue gowns, weren’t on the Opera House stage at all, but a makeshift 30 x 24-foot platform built over the the front section of seats. Instead of facing the 2,300 red-cushioned seats and boxes of the normally filled Opera House, they faced the stage, where an invited audience of just 40 were temperature-checked, escorted in through the stage loading doors and sat in distanced folding chairs across the boards.

It looked less like a gala homecoming performance than a dress rehearsal for select patrons (their way of saying, no, you won’t be seeing “Hamilton” this year, but what are you going to do?). Everyone else could watch the streaming version (for a fee). And if the internet cooperated.

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