MADRID: Madrid's famous Royal Theatre had to cancel a Sunday night opera production after a group of spectators loudly protested over being allocated seats too close to each other amid a steep surge in coronavirus infections in the Spanish capital.
The incident, in which the orchestra twice tried to start playing before giving up, occurred two days after the theatre welcomed facemask-wearing spectators, including King Felipe VI, for the opening of the season with the aptly named "A Masked Ball" by Giuseppe Verdi.
The opera house said in a statement that the occupancy rate on Sunday was just over half of all seats, below the regional limit of 75per cent, although it had no control over people buying more tickets for certain areas.
"All safety requirements were respected. Viewers were wearing masks, temperature was taken and sanitizer gel was available," Chairman Gregorio Maranon told reporters on Monday, adding that the theatre would consider changes to address viewers' concerns over health risks.
The theatre said a minority of viewers had forced the cancellation by shouting and clapping, despite being offered the chance to relocate to other seats or claim refunds.
The protest originated in the seats in the upper section, where tickets are cheaper, a video posted by El Pais newspaper showed.
But there was also a lack of social distancing in the lower and more expensive section, a video tweeted by Spanish writer Rosa Montero showed.
"There was a total lack of distancing," she wrote.
A partial lockdown of some areas of Madrid started on Monday, triggering protests by residents of poorer neighbourhoods who complained of ghetto-like restrictions.
(Reporting by Joan Faus, editing by Andrei Khalip and Mike Collett-White)