The orchestras will be arranged in socially distanced seating across the stage and stalls as the musicians play to a mostly empty Royal Albert Hall.
But the BBC Proms will stage two weeks of live performances culminating in a “poignant” Last Night.
The summer institution will respond to the challenge of Covid-19 by splitting its 2020 season between six weeks of classic concerts from Proms archive, running on Radio 3 and BBC4, followed by the return of live music to the famous Kensington arena.
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Violinist Nicola Benedetti, the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle and sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar will appear at the live concerts, which also include a recital from cello sensation Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his pianist sister Isata Kanneh-Mason.
‘Unique and poignant’ Last Night
The BBC Symphony Orchestra will open and close the live portion of the 125th Proms.
A “unique” Last Night, led by principal guest conductor Dalia Stasevska and featuring South African soprano Golda Schultz, will attempt to “bring the nation together.”
The musicians will comply with official guidance which currently requires orchestras using wind and brass instruments to sit three metres away from each other to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
The players will be spaced around the Hall’s large stage, with some sitting in the vacant audience seats and galleries. Orchestra numbers will be reduced in size.
Moving return for orchestras
The BBC expects the concerts to be staged behind closed doors. However, should restrictions be relaxed by 12 September, a limited number of Prommers may be admitted.
David Pickard, BBC Proms director, told i: “It will be a Proms like no other. Even though it is unlikely there will be audiences it will be very moving for the orchestras. They will not have given a live performance for six months so it means so much more.”
An 80-piece orchestra might be halved in size to ensure safe staging for some of the live Proms, Mr Pickard said.
Traditional elements of the Last Night programme, famed for their audience participation, may be rethought – there will be no mass bellowing of Land of Hope and Glory.
“We want to retain the spirit of the Last Night as an uplifting occasion for the whole nation whilst capturing the mood of the past six months, and hopefully, the optimism of emerging from lockdown,” said the Director, who is in regular contact with Government officials over the developing guidance for performing musicians.
BBC Radio 3 kicks off the special season on 17 July with the debut performance by the BBC Grand Virtual Orchestra, comprising over 350 musicians from the BBC Orchestras and Choirs.
Ibiza Prom on TV
Marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, the Grand Virtual Orchestra will perform a completely original arrangement of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, created by Iain Farrington.
BBC4 will screen the first TV broadcast of the Radio 1 Ibiza Prom from 2015, featuring Pete Tong, Jules Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra, who transformed dance classics into orchestral pieces with the help of John Newman and Ella Eyre. It will air on Friday 28 August.