In 1966, the Met bid farewell to its old theater with an all-hands-on-deck gala, and cast-of-dozens spectacles have been mounted over the years for retirements, anniversaries and the company’s centennial, in 1983 — a concert that lasted 11 hours, with dinner break.
All those events, while sometimes shot through with melancholy, were celebratory in spirit. The “At Home Gala” the company is planning for Saturday, April 25, is far different, coming as the Met has been forced to cancel the final two months of its season and begin an urgent effort to raise the tens of million dollars it is losing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Met announced on Monday afternoon that the concert will feature more than 40 artists, including stars like Anna Netrebko, Jonas Kaufmann and Renée Fleming, performing from their homes and streamed on the company’s website, metopera.org. (In true operatic style, it is an international bunch, with singers hailing from as far afield as Poland, Wales and New Jersey.)
“It will have a homespun quality,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, who will host the concert from New York, alongside Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the company’s music director, who is in Montreal.
The event — estimated to run around three hours, a blink of an eye by opera gala standards — will begin at 1 p.m., and the program will be available on the company’s website until Sunday evening. It is not explicitly a benefit: “It’s not a fundraising telethon,” Gelb said. But it is part of the Met’s attempt to keep up its profile while its stage is dark.
The company has been attracting robust audiences for nightly streams of performances from its Live in HD archives. But its situation — like that of other institutions that rely on large gatherings — is grim. The Met expects to lose up to $60 million because of its closure, and its orchestra, chorus and stagehands stopped being paid at the end of March, though they have retained their health benefits.
Cultural performances seem unlikely to go forward even well into the summer, if not beyond. “We’re still hoping the Met will open in September,” Gelb said. “But clearly that is becoming increasingly questionable as things progress.”
“I don’t think potential audience members are going to want to return to any large performing arts venue until they know it’s safe,” he added. “And that’s going to require a situation where it really is safe.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times .