Just like many other artistic institutions both in New York City and across the United States, the Metropolitan Opera has been struggling hugely during the coronavirus pandemic. The Met cancelled the entirety of its 2020-21 season last September, and tensions also flared when the company’s management attempted to convince unions representing their employees to agree to implement a 30% pay cut.
Now, however, things are taking a turn for the better: according to a new report from the New York Times, Marcia Sells, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney and former dean of students at Harvard Law School, has been hired as the Metropolitan Opera’s first chief diversity officer.
Reportedly, this role will involve Sells directing the human resources department at the Met Opera, and she’ll also implement a diversity, equity and inclusion plan that will be used in the company’s hiring processes. Sells, a former dancer with considerable experience in the arts, will also also analyze existing structural discrepancies at the Met, and use the results of this analysis to widen the company’s donor base and audience. This is a long overdue development; for decades if not centuries, opera has been perceived as entertainment that’s only accessible and interesting to the very wealthy (and white).
“At a time when social justice rightly demands that we address the inequities of our art form, I’m
pleased that we have chosen the ideal candidate in Marcia for implementing long overdue and
necessary change,” Peter Gelb, the Met Opera’s general manager, said in a statement. “We need to create artistic and administrative pathways for people of color to achieve equity among our artists and artisans and for all of our employees and members of our board.” Sells will join the company and commence her duties at the end of February.