Met Opera announces its first live concerts since closing


The Metropolitan Opera will once again perform to live audiences, 430 days after its theater was closed by the coronavirus.

Members of the company’s orchestra and choir, joined by eminent soloists and led by its musical director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, will perform two concerts at the Knockdown Center in Queens on Sunday, the Met announced on Wednesday. The concerts will continue despite ongoing labor tensions at the Met, which have threatened the planned reopening of its Lincoln Center home in September.

Scheduled for 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Sunday, the program, titled “A Concert for New York,” includes selections from Mozart, Verdi and Terence Blanchard, including “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” set to reopen the Met on September 27 and will be the company’s first opera by a black composer. The soloists for the Queens performances will be Angel Blue, Stephen Costello, Justin Austin and Eric Owens; 12 choristers from the Met and 20 orchestral musicians will be there.

It is not yet known whether the Met will be able to reopen in September. As New York officials announced plans to ease pandemic restrictions around the performing arts — prompting major sectors, like Broadway, to outline plans for a fall return — the Met, which says it has lost $150 million in earned revenue since being forced to close, has asked its employees for pay cuts, like other arts organizations. Many of its unions are resisting, and the company has locked out the International Alliance of Theater Employees Local 1, which represents its stagehands.

The union representing choir members, soloists and some other workers at the Met recently reached agreement on a new contract, although details will not be made public until union members vote to ratify it further. later this month. The orchestral musicians’ union, American Federation of Musicians Local 802, is still negotiating with management over the size and duration of the pay cuts.

In March, after nearly a year of unpaid leave, musicians and choir members agreed to begin receiving up to $1,543 a week in return for returning to the table to negotiate contracts at longer term. For Sunday concerts, each union performer will receive an additional $1,000.

Since last summer, the Met has been live-streaming pay-per-view recitals featuring soloists and musicians from outside its orchestra, drawing criticism from off-duty orchestra members. The orchestra has started hosting its own virtual concerts and collecting donations to distribute to musicians in need. Sunday’s concerts will be the first in-person performances under the Met’s brand since March 11, 2020.

“As the city’s largest performing arts company, we are committed to helping New York reopen,” Met Chief Executive Peter Gelb said in a statement, “even though there are still a lot to settle with our unions and to prepare the opera for next season.

Under current state rules, Sunday’s 45-minute concerts will each have an audience of 150 people, who will need to provide proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the show, or a negative antigen test within six hours after the show. Start time. Tickets will be distributed through a lottery system, with a portion reserved for emergency medical workers at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens.

Since the concerts are in Queens, Local One does not have jurisdiction over stagehand work. That job instead falls to Local Four of the union, although Local One has agreed to make a limited number of its workers available to load large instruments, desks and chairs at the Met.

As the concerts promise a show of unity amid labor tensions, union members are planning a rally outside Lincoln Center on Thursday, where they are expected to voice their opposition to the Local One lockout and proposed pay cuts by the Met, which the company says are necessary to survive the pandemic and beyond.


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