The Metropolitan Opera, which has been touring the country annually for more than 100 years, will discontinue its national tours at the end of the 1986 season, its president, Bruce Crawford, has announced.
Nonetheless, the company is reportedly discussing a multi-week visit to Los Angeles late in the decade.
Thomas Wachtell, board president of the Music Center Opera Assn. in Los Angeles, said Friday that there have been “some discussions on a very preliminary basis between (Opera Assn. executive director) Peter Hemmings and the Met. But right now, it’s just a glimmer in our eyes. We don’t even know if it would be timed to their possible Far East Tour in 1988.” Hemmings was unavailable for comment.
Of the Metropolitan Opera’s decision to cease touring, Crawford stated Thursday that “this is a step we have taken after much consideration, and with great reluctance, but it has become unavoidable. The tour has been economically unsound for several years, and has resulted in losses to the Metropolitan Opera of well over $1 million a year.”
The number of stops on the Met tours had been dwindling, and only four cities are scheduled for the May, 1986 tour: Boston, Atlanta, Cleveland and Minneapolis.
Each will pay $915,000 for a one-week stand by the opera company, but the figure does not come close to covering the Met’s costs, said spokesman David Reuben.
Six cities were on the 1985 tour, but Detroit withdrew from the 1986 schedule “because of their inability to meet future costs,” according to Crawford, and Washington was scrubbed because of a scheduling conflict.
At its height earlier in the century, the Met’s national tour took in more than a dozen cities annually, some for engagements of only one night. Part of the problem in recent years has been competition.
“When the Met began touring in 1883, the company’s first year, we were the only show in town,” said Crawford. “In recent years, many of our tour cities have seen their local opera companies develop and expand, and the competition for funds in the local communities has made it increasingly difficult for either the Metropolitan or the local company to meet its fund-raising goal.
“We do take some satisfaction in the fact that the tour has helped to engender interest in opera in the tour cities and it is our hope that the local companies will continue to flourish,” he said.
He said the Met would continue to produce a Saturday morning radio broadcast and “investigate opportunities for the Metropolitan to perform outside of New York City.”
Crawford takes over as the Met’s general manager in January, succeeding Anthony Bliss, who is stepping down at the end of July.