Metropolitan Opera furloughs all union employees and cancels the rest of its season

The Metropolitan Opera is canceling the remainder of its 2020-21 season.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The Metropolitan Opera announced Thursday that it is canceling the rest of its 2019-20 season amid the coronavirus outbreak and suspending the employment of union workers after March.

The Met is the largest performing arts organization in the country, with an annual operating budget of $308 million. Last week, the New York company canceled all shows through the end of the month — a move also made by Broadway theaters and other major cultural institutions across the country as large gatherings of people threatened to expand the reach of COVID-19.

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March 20, 2020


A Met representative clarified that an early report Thursday of layoffs was incorrect. The company is paying union employees through the end of the month, then suspending pay. The company said it will continue providing healthcare benefits “throughout the crisis.”

The company said that higher-paid members of the administrative staff will be taking reductions in pay and that the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, is forgoing his salary entirely.

The drastic move in New York raised the question of which major performing arts companies across the country might follow suit. Los Angeles Opera has made no decisions regarding its season or staffing, President and Chief Executive Christopher Koelsch said Thursday in an emailed statement to The Times.

“Cancellations of any kind, and for a period of any length, are disorienting and perilous for the entire L.A. Opera family,” Koelsch wrote. “We are acutely aware of and sensitive to the financial impact both to the institution at large and our hundreds of artists, artisans and staff members stemming from closure. We remain steadfastly committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the L.A. Opera and our ability to provide opportunities for artists and audiences alike long into the future. No decisions have been made regarding the remainder of our mainstage season. We will be following the directives of the County of Los Angeles and the Department of Public Health.”