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Metropolitan Opera Pivots Strategy, Taps Emergency Endowment

By Michael Vincent on January 29, 2024

As the Metropolitan Opera navigates one of its most challenging periods in over a century, the company’s recent financial decisions signify ongoing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Met has announced they have had to extract $40 million from its endowment fund, marking the second such withdrawal this fiscal year. From $309 million in July, the endowment now stands at $255 million.

In response to current market dynamics, General Manager Peter Gelb has ushered in a series of strategic shifts aiming to keep the Met resonant with contemporary audiences while managing its fiscal responsibilities.


  • Performance Pruning: A 10% reduction in performances and a strategic shift to feature 17 contemporary operas across five seasons.
  • Repertoire Reshuffle: While contemporary operas decrease from six to four next season, popular classics are set for weekend performances to maximize revenue.

Box Office Barometer

  • “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” sold 78% of tickets over eight shows.
  • “La Bohème” managed 74% over 18 performances, asserting its crowd-pulling power.
  • “Dead Man Walking” and “Un Ballo in Maschera” sold 62% and 56% respectively.
  • “The Magic Flute” hit a high note with 87% ticket sales over 13 performances.

Positive Signals

  • Attendance:  A significant rise from 63% to 73% attendance this season.
  • Coaxing the kids: The average age of single-ticket buyers dropped from 50 to 44 years.
  • HD Broadcasts: Events are drawing larger, younger crowds but are just breaking even due to the ongoing decline of movie theatre attendance across North America.
  • Endowment: Despite recent withdrawals, the Met anticipates substantial gifts in the near future, including a possible “transformative” donation.

As we peer into the Met’s financial opera glasses, the question remains: Will these strategic modulations harmonize the balance between artistic integrity and economic viability?

The Met’s evolution in programming and audience engagement is a narrative that continues to unfold, resonating with the broader dialogue about the sustainability of classical arts in the modern era.

Michael Vincent
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