In a grim evaluation of the time it may take until the COVID pandemic is contained enough to allow for large-scale live performances, the Metropolitan Opera has announced that it won’t return until the fall of 2021. The Met, the largest performing-arts organization in the U.S., announced today that it is canceling its 2020–21 season and will not return until next September. The Met has been closed since mid-March, when it also furloughed its orchestra, chorus, and trade employees, and canceled its remaining 2020 performances in June. Its general manager, Peter Gelb, told the New York Times that the organization is looking at ways to cut its labor costs and plans to negotiate with its unions on cost-cutting measures. While canceling plans for performances in the next 12 months, the Met also announced its lineup for its 2021–2022 season, returning with Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, its first opera by a Black composer.
The Met’s announcement is also an indication that the pandemic may stall other aspects of New York’s performing-arts world for months longer than other organizations had hoped. Broadway theaters, for instance, are currently closed until January 2021, with many producers betting on opening new shows in the spring, a timeline that seems increasingly less feasible. Dr. Anthony Fauci said in early September that it may be more than a year before people feel comfortable going to a theater without masks, even if a vaccine were available by the end of this year or early the next. Some forms of theatergoing could carry on before then, with the use of masks, social distancing, and reduced capacities, but it is hard to imagine that could bring in audiences on the scale that’s been needed to fund larger productions like opera and Broadway.
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