The Metropolitan Opera has canceled all performances for its 2020-21 season, saying the coronavirus pandemic remains too great an ongoing health concern.
In a release, the New York City company said Wednesday that, based on the advice of health officials, it could not safely begin operations “until a vaccine is widely in use, herd immunity is established and the wearing of masks and social distancing is no longer a medical requirement.”
The company, one of the most august cultural institutions in the world, previously announced the cancellation of performances through Dec. 30 because of the pandemic. The Met shut down in mid-March, as did other theaters and arts-presenting organizations in the city, though the company initially anticipated a much shorter stoppage of just a few weeks.
The Met added that it plans to resume performances in the fall of next year. Officials announced several productions they are planning for the 2021-22 calendar, including the company premiere of “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” an opera by jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard that will open the season on Sept. 27, 2021.
Nevertheless, officials made it clear that the loss of an entire season is no small matter.
“The inability to perform is taking a tremendous toll on our company,” General Manager Peter Gelb said in a statement.
The Met, with a pre-pandemic annual budget of around $300 million, has already furloughed its orchestra and chorus in an effort to keep its finances in check during the health crisis.
Mr. Gelb said even when the company resumes performances, it could be some time before attendance reaches pre-pandemic levels in its 3,800-seat theater. The Met plans certain initiatives to make audiences feel more comfortable about returning to the venue, he said, including starting productions earlier in the evening and reducing the running times of operas, which can often easily exceed three hours.
It remains to be seen if other theaters and arts groups will follow the Met’s lead and extend cancellations through the spring, if not later. New York state and city officials haven’t indicated when they plan to allow theaters to welcome back patrons. Last month, they permitted museums in the city to reopen for limited visitation.
In addition to “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” the Met’s 2021-22 season is scheduled to include two other new operas, Matthew Aucoin’s “Eurydice” and Brett Dean’s “Hamlet.” The season will also feature new productions of such classic works as Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”
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