Like many arts presenters struggling with the fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic, the Metropolitan Opera began the week by announcing the cancellation of all performances through March 31.
But today, the Met general manager Peter Gelb has taken the step of cancelling the remainder of the season as well as laying off the Met orchestra musicians and chorus members. The season would have ended on May 8, 2020, with a production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda staring Soprano Diana Damrau and mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton.
“As devastating as it is to have to close the Met, this was the rare instance where the show simply couldn’t go on. We send our thanks to our loyal audiences, and we’re doing our best to support our employees during this extraordinarily difficult time. We look forward to being reunited in the fall with a new season.”
Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton (@jbartonmezzo), who was in the middle of rehearsals, Tweeted her response to hearing the news — through social media.
And yes, I’ve been anticipating this exact outcome for a week now. Stomach churning, not sleeping, anxiety at 110% — like the rest of us. But also, we’ve been asking for updates, and this is the 2nd time I’ve found out news about my job via Twitter. It just really stinks.
— Jamie Barton (@jbartonmezzo) March 19, 2020
Despite being the Met being the US’s largest arts organization, the shutdown of events has left the company starved of money it needs to recoup sunk costs into it’s multi-million dollar productions.
“We have significant cash-flow issues that we have to deal with right now because of the loss of the box office,” Gelb said in an interview. “We’re also at the same time encouraging ticket buyers to donate their tickets rather than take refunds or at least put their money on account so we can hold onto it and reassign it to a future performance.”
The Met is currently working towards launching an emergency fundraising drive to help cover the loss of box office revenue from cancelled performances and Met Live in HD transmissions.
“The money we raise will help ensure that the Met will return, so that our artists and company members will once again be able to perform in our house,” said Gelb in a press release statement.
The Met has reportedly exercised a Force Majeure clause which allows them to cancel the contracts with soloists due to forces beyond their control, and will not be liable to pay them.
In a statement to the New York Post, A Met spokesperson stated union employees from the orchestra, chorus and production teams will not be receiving pay, but will continue to receive health benefits. It is anticipated union employees can return to work after performances resume in September.
In a show of solidarity, Gelb will forego his $1.45M salary until the company can resume normal operations. Administrative staff earning in excess of $125,000 will receive a 10% pay cut, and those earning more will be cut between 25%–50%.
The Met Opera recently launched free select online streaming of archived Live in HD productions. For a schedule of performances this week, see here.