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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 show will NOT look like this. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

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.

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Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.