It’s been more than a year since Fort Lauderdale-based Symphony of the Americas tapped Spanish conductor Pablo Mielgo as only its second artistic director.

Mielgo bested a field of competitors in an international search, but then COVID-19 hit, shuttering arts venues and halting international travel. Mielgo was stuck in Europe.

As late as last week, the orchestra anticipated that Mielgo’s visa to travel to the U.S. would be still tangled in bureaucratic red tape as the first concert of the season approached on Tuesday, Oct. 5.      

Executive Director Steven Haines noted several weeks ago that while travel restrictions were loosening, embassy staff in Madrid were tasked with processing thousands of applications by Afghan refugees evacuated from Kabul.

“It’s not just us. This scenario has been replicated across the country — artists, singers, dancers are all faced with this continuing situation. Six months ago, we thought COVID would be in the rearview mirror, but it’s not. Who knows where we’ll be 60 or 90 days from now … what’s the next step?”

Guest conductor William Garfield was tapped to lead the orchestra’s first indoor concert in 18 months at the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater. Works by Verdi and Mahler replaced masterworks by Mielgo’s Iberian countrymen.

Then last week, Haines shared exciting news in a breaking email to patrons and supporters: “Pablo has arrived! This is great news for South Florida and Symphony of the Americas. While we had concerns due to travel restrictions, Pablo has been granted full access to arrive in the United States for our 34th season inaugural performance.”

“Our patrons want to see and hear their orchestra and we’ll see that it happens,” Haines promised before the announcement. And on Oct. 5, they finally did.

The Symphony of the Americas’ next performance will be “More than Tango – 100th Anniversary of Piazzolla” on Tuesday, Nov. 2 at the Broward Center.

For more information and tickets, go to SOTA.org.

Broadway Hits Bumps, Island City Steps Up Protocols

The reopening of Broadway has been heralded over the past weeks amid stringent COVID-19 protocols, including daily rapid testing of cast and crew and mask and vaccination or testing requirements for audiences.

Disney’s “Aladdin” was the first to hit a snag, canceling performances from Oct. 1 – 12 after “additional breakthrough COVID-19 cases were detected” among the cast. The show reopened Sept. 18, but was forced to close the following day when a breakthrough COVID-19 case was reported within the musical's company. Experts say the temporary closures are evidence the monitoring system is working.

“This 12-day pause allows the ‘Aladdin’ company ample time to ensure that people with breakthroughs recover, and any other potential breakthroughs are identified before the ‘Aladdin’ company gathers again," Dr. Blythe Adamson, the epidemiologist working with Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a statement.

Locally, most arts organizations are testing performers regularly and have resumed requiring masks and encouraging social distancing, although seating capacity in most venues has returned to normal levels. The major performing arts centers are requiring proof of negative COVID tests — or alternatively vaccination to circumvent the governor’s “vaccine passport” ban — for admission. In Wilton Manors, Island City Stage recently instituted an online health questionnaire for all attendees to complete within 48 hours of performances in order to enter the theater.

Ronnie Larsen, producer at The Foundry in Wilton Manors, told SFGN, “This is the new normal and if we weren’t used to it before, we will have to get used to it now — at least until everyone gets vaccinated or we get the delta variant behind us.”