Pandemic Woes Lead Met Opera to Tap Endowment and Embrace New Work
疫情重創 大都會歌劇院動用老本 轉攻當代歌劇
Hit hard by a cash shortfall and lackluster ticket sales as it tries to lure audiences back amid the pandemic, the Metropolitan Opera said that it would withdraw up to $30 million from its endowment, give fewer performances next season and accelerate its embrace of contemporary works, which, in a shift, have been outselling the classics.
The dramatic financial and artistic moves show the extent to which the pandemic and its aftermath continue to roil the Met, the premier opera company in the United States.
“The challenges are greater than ever,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager. “The only path forward is reinvention.”
Nonprofit organizations try to dip into their endowments only as a last resort, since the funds are meant to grow over time while producing a steady source of investment income. The Met’s endowment, which was valued at $306 million, was considered small for an institution of its size. This season it is turning to the endowment to cover operating expenses, and to help offset weak ticket sales and a cash shortfall that emerged as some donors were reluctant to accelerate pledged gifts amid the stock market downturn. As more cash gifts materialize, the company hopes to replenish the endowment.
To further cut costs, the company, which is giving 215 performances this season, is planning to reduce the number of performances next season by close to 10%.
The Met’s decision to stage significantly more contemporary operas is a remarkable turnabout for the company, which largely avoided newer works for many decades because its conservative audience base seemed to prefer war horses like Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème,” Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida” and Georges Bizet’s “Carmen.”
But as the Met staged more new work in recent years, that dynamic has begun to shift, a change that has grown more pronounced since the pandemic: While attendance has been generally anemic, contemporary works including Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” last season and Kevin Puts’ “The Hours” this season drew sellout crowds.
From now on, Gelb said, the Met will open each season with a new production of a contemporary work.
Gelb said that the company’s change in strategy was possible in part because major stars are increasingly interested in performing music by living composers.
文／Javier C. Hernández 譯／陳曉慈