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Kennedy Center Announces Its First In-Person Concert Since Lockdown

Renée Fleming and Vanessa Williams will sing to a real audience in a completely transformed opera house.

The Kennedy Center will open its doors this month for its first live concert since Covid-19 caused it to close down in March. On September 26, “A Time to Sing: An Evening With Renée Fleming and Vanessa Williams” will be a show unlike any other performance in the historic opera house: The audience, not the star singers, will be onstage.

“The configuration of the theater has been re-imagined to place the artists on a 30 x 24-foot stage extension built over the orchestra-level seating area,” writes the Kennedy Center in a press release on Wednesday. “An invited audience of 40 people will enter through the wide loading doors on the Center’s front plaza and will sit in physically-distanced pairs on the stage facing the iconic red interior of the hall.” (Oh, do I have to say it? You’ll need to wear a mask.)

This first concert is a trial of sorts. The Kennedy Center has invited attendees for the physical show, so the public can only purchase tickets to watch the livestream. (The $15 tickets go on sale Friday 9/18.) However, Fleming and Williams’ performance kicks of the venue’s new “On Stage at the Opera House” series that will feature a handful of concerts throughout October that will be (literally) open to the public; some of them will also be livestreamed. On October 2 and October 30, musicians from the National Symphony Orchestra will perform, while the New York-based Jazz Gallery All-Stars will play October 8. The Dover Quartet and the Escher Quartet will perform on October 20.

Rosa is a senior editor at Bitch Magazine. She’s written for Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazine.