Met Opera's Revenue Drops, Breaks Even With Gifts, Borrowing

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The Metropolitan Opera’s operating revenue dropped by $25 million to $120 million in the fiscal year ending July 31, a season shortened due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the company avoided an operating loss through fundraising and borrowing.

The Met said Thursday that it had a $130 million loss from operations — down from a $154 million loss during the fiscal year that ended July 31, 2019.

Contributions and bequests, including assets released from restrictions less fundraising expenses, totaled $130 million to enable the break-even. The fundraising figure after expenses was down from $153 million in the previous season, when the Met finished with a $1.1 million operating loss.

“Our cash position was about $10 million worse than it had been when we started the fiscal year. We went from a $46 million line of credit to a $57 million line of credit, so that’s a concern to us,” Met general manager Peter Gelb said Thursday. "The good news is that we’ve managed to maintain the best relationship with our donors and our audiences through our nightly streams to our pay-per-view concerts for a period of almost a year now without performances.”

Gelb said there have been 33,000 new donors since the start of the pandemic.

The pandemic caused the Met to halt its 2019-20 season on March 12, forcing cancellation of the final 58 of 217 originally scheduled performances, and its entire 2020-21 season, wiping out 218 performances of 23 operas that raised total cancellations to 276. The orchestra's international tour for June 2021 also was called off.

The Met cut some administrative employees and stopped paying its union employees during the pandemic, though it continued health benefits for the orchestra and chorus.

It has used nonunion musicians for its streamed concerts from Europe, angering the union of its orchestra, local 802 of American Federation of Musicians. The Met last month locked out its stagehands in Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees because it has been unable to negotiate wage cuts during the pandemic. Gelb said the Met is exploring the use of outside workers to start construction of sets for next season’s new productions.

Gelb also wants to reopen contracts with Local 802 and with the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents its singers and chorus, deals that expire in the summer of 2022.

“That is manifestation of the understandable frustration, fear and anger that our musicians have over not having been paid for so many months but I don’t think it’s justified,” Gelb said. “You would think in reading these kind of criticisms from people that we get the wrong impression, that we have hired some perhaps replacement or scab orchestra, which is certainly not the case. We’ve hired a couple of musicians for these pay-per-view events in Europe to enhance the experience for the audience of what are basically vocal recitals, they’re not orchestral concerts. And from a practical point of view and the other union aspects, there’s no way we could have used Met musicians.”

The Met hopes to get federal aid. Gelb said the money would be used to help fund bridge payments to union employees until performances resume. He does not intend cuts to future repertoire, saying the breath of offerings is needed to spark attendance and income.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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