Met Opera Cancels Its Season in Troubling Sign for Return of Live Music

Citing safety concerns from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the New York Metropolitan Opera announced on Wednesday that it is cancelling its 2020-2021 season. The decision carries ominous implications for the return of the live music industry, which has been battered since the pandemic almost completely stalled what was supposed to be a record year for the business. 

In a press release, the company said that with hundreds of performers in close quarters along with the Met’s audiences, resuming shows wouldn’t be safe “until a vaccine is widely in use, herd immunity is established, and the wearing of masks and social distancing is no longer a medical requirement.” The company also cancelled three shows set for June 2021 at Carnegie Hall. 

The Met will start its 2021-2022 season at the end of September 2021, months after many in the live music industry have said they expect to be able to kick off full-scale concerts again. On an investor call for Live Nation’s quarterly earnings report in August, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said the company was expecting concerts to return at scale in summer 2021. 

“Our future relies on making strong artistic strides, while collectively reducing our costs until the audience has fully returned,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in a statement. “But we have faith that the members of our company and the public will understand why and how our return to normalcy must be managed. Meanwhile, we will continue with all of our digital media initiatives, which have kept the Met connected with our audiences here and abroad throughout the closure.”

As the coronavirus continues to ravage the U.S., more venues, promoters and artists could take the Met Opera’s path delay shows and tours until late 2021 and beyond. Elton John announced rescheduled dates for his farewell tour on Wednesday, with U.S. tour dates kicking off in January 2022 in New Orleans. 

Without government aid, continued stalls may be dire for independent concert venues. Live music’s shutdown has left thousands of industry workers without jobs or steady income, and the National Independent Venue Association reported in May that 90% of its member venues say they could permanently shut down within six months if they don’t get additional financial assistance. 

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