The Metropolitan Opera will not resume performances until next fall, the organization announced Wednesday. The decision to cancel the 2020–21 season, which was anticipated to open Dec. 31, comes as safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 health crisis persist.
The next season is now set to open Sept. 27, 2021, with Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.” The production, which made its debut at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 2019, marks the first by a Black composer to be performed at the Met.
With the aim of making “opera more equitable,” the company also named three Black composers — Valerie Coleman, Jessie Montgomery and Joel Thompson — to its commissioning program and revealed that artist Rashid Johnson will create a large-scale work, set to be displayed during the 2021–22 season.
The Met’s stages went dark in mid-March, sending shockwaves throughout the opera company. Since April, approximately 1,000 full-time unionized performers and employees have been furloughed without pay. The New York Times reported the opera company, which faces a $150 million loss in revenue, will begin paying furloughed employees if unions agree to “longer-term reductions that will allow the Met to recover in the future.”
“The inability to perform is taking a tremendous toll on our company,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in a statement. “Our future relies on making strong artistic strides, while collectively reducing our costs until the audience has fully returned.”
On Wednesday, the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) — which represents the chorus and dancers, among others — issued a statement condemning the opera house’s attempts to reduce labor costs, calling on the Met “to recognize the contributions of its Artists and to not seek to solve its financial problems on their backs.”
In a separate statement, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra Committee wrote, “stating that labor costs must be cut is not a solution or plan for the future.”
The opera company noted that once productions return to the stage, “it will take time before the Met’s box office returns to pre-pandemic levels.” Anticipating a “more cautious” audience, curtain times will be earlier (7 p.m.) and there will be reduced running times for several operas, including “Rodelinda,” “Madama Butterfly” and “Cinderella.”
“We have faith that the members of our company and the public will understand why and how our return to normalcy must be managed,” Gelb said. “Meanwhile, we will continue with all of our digital media initiatives, which have kept the Met connected with our audiences here and abroad throughout the closure.”
Tickets for the upcoming season will go on sale to Met Patrons Oct. 12. A full line-up for the 2021–22 season can be found here.
Top Image: The Metropolitan Opera. Photo: Niall Kennedy.