On Saturday night, if all goes according to plan, the Metropolitan Opera will celebrate a major milestone: achieving its long-planned mid-winter break without canceling a single performance. , even as the pandemic wreaked havoc behind the scenes.
As the Omicron variant spread across the city in December and January, the virus affected Met operations, with at least 400 singers, orchestra players, stage actors, costume designers, dancers, actors and other staff members tested positive, according to a snapshot of cases provided by the Met on Friday.
But there are good signs that in the opera as well as in the city, the spike has recently peaked and cases have dropped dramatically.
During the first week of January, as cases were reaching new heights in New York, more than 100 employees at the Met tested positive, including six solo singers and five members of the missing choir. pediatric. Last week, the total number of positive cases in the Met’s large staff list fell to 22 cases, the same number as at the beginning of December, and there have been eight positive tests so far this week.
Peter Gelb, the company’s general manager, said that during Omicron’s worst days, he was worried the company could run out of staff and become inoperable. But the Met’s strict safety protocols, including vaccine and mask mandates and routine testing, provided some assurance, he said, that no one would become seriously ill.
“I know that if we can continue to provide supplies and get people back to work as soon as they finish their quarantine, we will be able to resume operations,” Gelb said. . “Our struggle to keep the Met up and running in the face of Covid has become a unifying force for the entire company as we battle a common enemy.”
The Met never missed a performance or a performance, even as the Omicron variant wreaked havoc on the performing arts – resulting in the cancellation of the score. Broadway show, concerts and dance performance.
The virus has taken a toll on attendance this winter, across the performing arts fields.
On Broadway, only 62 percent of the seats were occupied the week ending January 9; In the equivalent week in January before the pandemic, 94 percent of seats were filled. Last week, after many of the weakest shows closed and other shows dropped in price, 75 percent of all seats were filled but overall box office receipts fell.
At the Met, where 77% of seats were filled the week of December 18, attendance plummeted due to a sharp increase in the virus, bottoming out at 44% in mid-January, before starting to increase again.
Now the Met, the largest performing arts organization in the US, will have some time to prepare for the next phase of the pandemic: It is about to suspend scheduled performances for much of February. , before returning in February. 28 with Verdi’s star-studded new work “Don Carlos”.
The company decided to step back in 2018 to take a mid-season break, long before the coronavirus hit. The idea is to stop performing in the middle of winter, when sales are generally weakest, and add more performances in late spring, moving the end of the opera season to early June from May. The first is supposed to come into effect in the 2020-21 season – the season caused by the coronavirus.
Now – as the recent spike in cases has left performing arts organizations facing alarmingly low attendance – the Met will be out for almost a month.
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“What a coincidence,” Gelb said of the break, adding that although there will only be one performance in February, off-stage rehearsals will continue.
Donations have increased during the crisis. Met patrons have provided $110 million in emergency gifts since last summer – more than half in the past two months alone.
Coronavirus cases began to soar at the Met in mid-December. The company responded by beefing up its safety protocols, requiring employees to take PCR tests three times a week and ordering shifts Doctors must wear masks even when rehearsing costumes.
The spike in cases forced a flurry of last-minute substitutions, including the replacement of star singers in the works “Rigoletto” and “Cinderella”. Met staff say the vast network of performers is an asset, but rushing to get them ready before showtime can be stressful.
“It’s like an Olympics,” said Gillian Smith, director of actors and dancers at the Met. “Knowing that we don’t want to cancel and knowing that people are coming and want to see a show builds morale that we need to keep going.. ”
Gelb says he’s hopeful about the rest of the season, and that cases will continue to drop and audiences will feel comfortable coming back. As cases dwindle in the region, he expects older audiences to return in larger numbers, alongside younger fans who show up in the fall and winter.
“I feel very optimistic about the second half of the season,” he said, “not only keeping a pristine record of our performance going forward, but having a house full of people.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/arts/music/met-opera-audiences.html The Met Opera never misses a curtain. It hopes the audience will return.