It’s been an incredibly rough year for many different storied cultural institutions all over the world, but the Metropolitan Opera has undeniably suffered much more acutely than anyone could have anticipated. In addition to cancelling performances due to the coronavirus, the institution has a significant amount of bonded debt, and is relying upon a letter of credit backed by the enormous Chagall murals kept in the lobby of Lincoln Center in order to affirm the Met Opera’s reliability. On Wednesday, however, even more bad news was revealed: the Metropolitan Opera announced that it would be cancelling the entirety of its 2020-21 season, deepening the crisis that has already been snowing it under. Up until today, the Met was planning on resuming performanced on December 31, 2020.
Some of the formerly-scheduled 2020-2021 productions that audiences will now never get to experience include Billy Budd, La Bohème, Carmen, Don Giovanni and Nabucco. However, the Met also announced that its 2021–22 season will include Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice, Brett Dean’s Hamlet and Philip Glass’s Akhnaten.
“The future of the Met relies upon it being artistically as powerful as ever, if not more so,” Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, told the New York Times in an interview on Wednesday. “The artistic experiences have to be better than ever before to attract audiences back. Where we need to cut back is costs.” This branch of decision-making certainly hasn’t sat well with the artists and who’ve performed at the Met, many of who were already furloughed amidst the process of cost-cutting this summer.
To add insult to multifaceted injury, earlier this week, the Times also reported that former Met Opera conductor James Levine was paid a $3.5 million settlement after being ousted from his position in the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct. It’s striking whom institutions are legally bound to protect, even in moments of widespread financial peril.