For 138 years, the Metropolitan Opera has held a special place in New York’s cultural firmament, widely recognized as not only one of the city’s leading arts institutions, but also a global destination for music lovers.
Now the nonprofit company, which has been closed since March 2020 because of Covid-19, is looking at a difficult path forward.
The Met, whose pre-pandemic annual budget was slightly above $300 million, is moving ahead with plans for a 2021-22 season, but it must first contend with some harsh financial realities. A key factor is the loss of $150 million in revenue because of the pandemic, according to the company. That has left the Met seeking pay cuts from its 2,500 union employees. Labor costs account for $200 million of its budget, according to the Met.
The Met is also facing the question of whether audiences will feel safe returning to indoor venues. The problem is compounded by its theater’s 3,800- seat capacity, which is about double that of Broadway’s largest space.
Adding to the Met’s concerns are questions in the cultural community about whether opera, a centuries-old art form with white, European roots, is one that can effectively speak to contemporary America, particularly in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in police custody and the Black Lives Matter movement.