Broadway to Open Fully in September, Will Metropolitan Opera Follow?

By Francisco Salazar
(Photo By: Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera)

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that Broadway theaters can reopen on Sept. 14, 2021 at full capacity.

The announcement comes days after the New York governor announced that most New York and New Jersey restrictions would be lifted on May 19. That means that there will be no limits on retail and food service establishments, gyms, amusement and family entertainment businesses, hair salons, barbershops, offices, and more at one time.

The governor also noted that baseball fans who are vaccinated would be able to sit in their normal seats without social distancing while unvaccinated audience members would be required to sit in a separate section that would be restricted to 33 percent capacity, with the social distancing of six feet.

With all these new announcements, the question that most opera fans are left with is, what about the Metropolitan Opera? The Met closed on March 12, 2020, the same day Broadway closed. With no restrictions on restaurants or Broadway and allowing no social distancing at stadiums that hold a capacity of up to 41,000 people, it seems that a theater that only holds 3,800 should be able to reopen. However, neither the governor nor the company have confirmed its reopening.

The situation is unpredictable and many opera houses are being cautious by announcing outdoor fall seasons. The Michigan Opera Theatre and the Dallas Opera are among the companies working on innovative seasons in order to present a full 2021-22 season.

Furthermore, the Broadway League is being cautious with the fall reopening and many productions have yet to set specific September opening dates.

Given this latest announcement, COVID-19 will not be at fault  in the event that Met Opera does not reopen on time. There is still an ongoing battle between the unions and the Met’s management and their inability to actually work together to get their workers back to the theater.

As a matter of fact, IATSE, the union that represents stagehands, technicians, and skilled craftspeople, has repeatedly sent out press releases noting that the current lockout of its workers is likely to continue for the next months and that the company will not open in September. The Met Opera’s management has been silent when asked about the speculative headlines.

The Metropolitan Opera was also dealing with ongoing disputes with its orchestra members after failed negotiations but announced earlier this year that the musicians of the Met Orchestra voted to accept a deal that would provide them with paychecks for the first time in nearly a year in exchange for returning to the bargaining table. The musicians agreed to $1,543 a week on a temporary basis, a deal the chorus made more than a month ago.

According to the New York Times and Peter Gelb, the pandemic has cost $150 million in lost revenue. Gelb insists on long-term pay cuts to offset those losses. According to the Times, those cuts have already been made by a number of other leading orchestras.

This is not the first time the Metropolitan Opera’s season has been in jeopardy. In 2014, the Metropolitan Opera’s 2014-15 season-opening was threatened by a labor lockout, with management and all but a few of its 16 unions at odds. However, at the 11th hour, a federal mediator was called in to keep talks going between the Met and two major unions. That led to the extension of the contract deadlines and agreements were eventually made.

So when the time comes to reopen, will Met Management and the unions find a way to come to a compromise or will they allow the company to continue losing money? Will they be able to reopen in a timely fashion or will audiences have to wait until 2022 to be able to enjoy grand opera?

For now, the Metropolitan Opera’s 2021-22 season is tentatively set to reopen on Sept. 27, 2021 with a historic production of “Fire Shut up in my Bones” set to take the stage.