Hit hard by a cash shortfall and lackluster ticket sales, the Metropolitan Opera said Monday that it would withdraw up to $30 million from its endowment, give fewer performances next season and accelerate its embrace of contemporary works.
As many other performing arts institutions face the same pressures as the Met, the dramatic financial and artistic moves show the extent to which the Pandemic continues to affect them.
Peter Gelb is the Met's general manager. Reinvention is the only way to go forward.
Since the endowments are meant to grow over time, nonprofits only dip into them as a last resort. The Met's endowment is small for an institution of its size. The endowment will be used to cover operating expenses this season, to help offset weak ticket sales and a cash shortfall that emerged as some donors were reluctant to accelerate pledged gifts during the stock market downturn. The company wants to replenish the endowment as more cash gifts come in.
Next season the company is planning to reduce the number of performances by 10 percent.
The decision by the Met to stage more contemporary operas is a remarkable turnabout for the company, which largely avoided newer works for many decades due to its conservative audience base.
The Met has staged more new work in recent years, which has led to a change in the dynamic of attendance. Verdi's "Don Carlo" ended its run this month with 40% attendance.
The Met will open each season with a new work.
Jake Heggie's "Dead Man Walking" and Anthony Davis' "X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X" will be the first performances of their works. "Fire Shut Up in My Bones" and "The Hours" will be coming back next season, with three divas reprising their roles.
The Met's music director says opera should reflect the times. We have a responsibility to create new works so that people can see themselves on stage.
Major stars are becoming more interested in performing music by living composers, which is why the company changed its strategy. Opera singers are embracing new work and understanding that this is the future according to him.
Many of the most illustrious singers of the day have performed at the Met, and it has given the world premiere of several operas. After the long Pandemic shut down, it lost $150 million in expected revenues. Still lagging, audiences were back. There was an increase in donations. The Met never missed a curtain despite Omicron shutting down many theaters last season.
The company, which has an annual budget of $312 million and is the largest performing arts organization in the US, began to feel the strains of the Pandemic more acutely.
The Met's Live in HD cinema presentations and ticket revenues were down by more than 40 million dollars last season due to the swine flu. The opera house's paid attendance has fallen. More than $150 million in emergency funds have been pledged by donors during the Pandemic. Some people were hesitant to deliver gifts during the downturn.
Major donors are affected by the economy's downturn.
The company didn't dip into its endowment in the early days of the flu because it had taken the painful step of not paying its employees. It can take another seven million from its endowment.
The Met website and box office were not able to sell new tickets for nine days because of a cyberattack.
The company expects to take in an additional $36 million in cash in the beginning of the new year and hopes to replenish its endowment by the end of the fiscal year. I don't know if that will be possible.
Some of the work that was done to build it back up was undone by the Met turning to its endowment. A few years ago the company announced a fund-raising drive to double the endowment and took steps to lower the amount of money it draws from it each year.
The Met isn't the only one who found it hard to emerge from the Pandemic.
The Portland Opera in Oregon has reduced its staff and reduced the number of operas it stages due to a decline in ticket sales. The situation currently facing Portland Opera is not unique, but it is still a crisis, according to the company's general director.
The Philadelphia Orchestra's paid attendance is down from a year ago, but a recent increase in sales has provided some hope. Matas Tarnopolsky said that many people are not back in the habit. It is easy and inexpensive and we need to remind them of that.
The holiday shows of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company were canceled because of low demand. The Philly Pops, an orchestra that has been around for 43 years, is going to be dissolved next year due to mounting debt and a decline in subscriptions.
The prospect of a recession next year is making arts groups worry that weak attendance could extend into next season and beyond. Many companies survived the Pandemic shutdown thanks to federal assistance.
Simon Woods is the president and chief executive of the League of American Orchestras. New audiences are more important than ever.
The decline of the subscription model for selling tickets has accelerated as a result of the swine flu.
The Met's box office revenues are expected to fall to 19 percent this season from 45 percent in the past. The average age of the Met's audience has gone from 57 in 2020 to 52 in 2019.
James Levine led the company for four decades and was succeeded by Mr. Nézet-Séguin. He said that the company could appeal to different audiences with different works.
He wants everyone to feel welcomed at the Met. Will they fall in love with the operas we do? It is absolutely true that not. I don't want anyone to say that the Met isn't for them.