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During the pandemic it’s become a cliché that it may take up to four years for national and global tourism to return to New York City. No cultural institution has leaned into this idea more than the Metropolitan Opera, especially in its contract renegotiations with its labor unions.

The Met has typically started negotiating with its singers, orchestra musicians and stagehands by demanding 20%-30% pay cuts, with half the cuts restored only when ticket sales and donations grow all the way back to pre-pandemic levels. Ultimately the Met has tended to negotiate fixed pay-and-benefits reductions with substantial or full restoration…

In a running gag on Seinfeld, some semi-arty-sounding movie title would go viral and the characters would have to evade their chronic First World mini-micro-problems so they could finally see the film together. Anything from finding a newspaper listing to hogging a cherished parking space to getting in line too late at the multiplex could foil their plans to see Prognosis Negative or Chunnel or Rochelle, Rochelle.

Fast-forward two-plus decades to right before the pandemic, and British comedian Ricky Gervais was savaging Hollywood at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards for having no such gotta-go-and-see movies with original stories at all…

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Already in crisis, the Metropolitan Opera now faces a new problem: the contrast with Broadway. The reopening of the New York theater mecca on September 14 presents a very bad look for the opera company if it can’t open the doors of its 3,800-seat house on September 27 as scheduled.

And one of the Met’s three major unions — the one for the currently locked-out stagehands — has brazenly announced that the house has no chance of opening any time this year.

The chorus, musicians and stagehands have all been asked to take 30% pay cuts for the foreseeable future…

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Quick, how many concert halls are named after Bill Gates?

The global health ecosystem that includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is about to come to the rescue of the performing arts industry. Worldwide vaccinations against the coronavirus and billions in new pandemic research are critical to getting audiences back into concert halls and making sure the next shutdown of live music and theater is another 100 years off.

But orchestra and opera company budgets and endowments were already under strain before the pandemic. …

It’s a good thing that global pandemics come only once a century. Once every 50 years and Broadway might look entirely different today. It was booming when the curtain came down last March. But it was widely viewed as dying in 1970 and might never have recovered if a Spanish flu or coronavirus hit back then.

Now classical music may be the live performing arts genre at the highest risk of permanent damage from the pandemic. …

David Rohde

Performer, teacher and writer. I’ve conducted 30 musicals in the DC/MD/VA area and play keyboards in orchestra pits. And I write about music from Bach to Rock.

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