NEW YORK -- The Metropolitan Opera canceled performances and rehearsals through March 31 due to fears of the coronavirus spreading, leaving singers scrambling to get home and costing the financially-challenged company millions of dollars.
The move was announced Thursday, one day after U.S. President Donald Trump announced a suspension of travel to the U.S. from Europe for 30 days starting Friday. Met General Manager Peter Gelb said it was too early to determine whether the company will resume for any part of the remainder of its season, which runs through May 9.
"With health authorities urging social distancing with greater emphasis, it is simply untenable for us to continue to perform, as it puts our artists, staff and audiences at risk," Gelb said in an email to the company.
Among the 21 canceled Met Opera performances were this Saturday's matinee of a new staging of Wagner's "Der Fliegende Hollnder (The Flying Dutchman)" that was to have been televised to movie theaters around the world. Also canceled was a March 29 recital by soprano Diana Damrau with Royal Opera music director Antonio Pappano at the piano.
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"We do not have business interruption insurance. In fact, I don't believe any of the performing arts companies, or at least none of the others I've been talking to, have it," Gelb said in a telephone interview. "There are many ticket buyers who we hope might consider gifting us the tickets they've already purchased rather than asking for refunds."
Gelb said the orchestra, chorus and other full-time union members will be kept on payroll at least through the end of March.
Many of the Met's singers and conductors travel regularly from Europe. Soprano Anna Netrebko posted on Instagram on Wednesday that she would not be traveling to New York for performances of Puccini's "Tosca" that had been scheduled to start March 26. Gelb said if the season resumes, it would be more difficult to pull together productions that have not yet been on stage this season.
"Our casting is totally compromised because many of the artists who were scheduled for these performances can't even get to this country," he said. "And those who were in this country would like to get out."
Carnegie Hall also announced it was closing its doors at midnight Thursday for all public events through the end of March, canceling performances from The Philadelphia Orchestra, Angélique Kidjo, the Castalian String Quartet and Musical Armenia. The New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic also announced plans to close.
"This is one of the hearts of the season where we have really a lot going on," said New York Philharmonic president Deborah Borda, who addressed the orchestra on Tuesday and warned on a possible shutdown. "It is going to be an enormous financial challenge involving millions of dollars for all of these institutions."
The Philadelphia Orchestra and music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin went ahead with Thursday night's world premiere of Iman Habibi's "Jeder Baum spricht (Every tree speaks)" at an empty Verizon Hall and streamed the performance on its website.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
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Coronavirus Update: Met Opera, Carnegie Hall, orchestras cancel performances in NYC