In the last two to three months, several countries watched from the sidelines as the novel Corona Virus attained pandemic status. Within the last few weeks, businesses have had to close as countries are on lockdown in a bid to contain the virus.
The Metropolitan Opera, which is the nation’s largest performing arts organization, wasn’t left out. In solidarity with other theatres, the Met opera made a difficult decision last week – one that would cause them to experience a heavy financial loss of $60 million or more.
On Thursday, 19th March, Mr. Gelb from the Met opera announced the Opera’s decision to cancel the rest of its season following the increasing confirmed cases of the Corona Virus.
Everyone associated with the company would suffer some backlash during this period. The company itself is looking at an estimated loss of $60million, which would put them in a tight spot. To mitigate this loss, everyone would have to chip in, although the company could enforce the force majeure clauses in the contracts of their artists.
For this reason, the company is willing to pay its artists in March, after which they would only offer health benefits.
Smaller companies like the Sarasota ballet will be paying their artists for the entire season even though they are closed. The Met Opera cannot afford to do so because they don’t have the financial cushioning to do so in the face of high financial losses.
As it stands, Mr. Gelp has announced that he would forgo a salary until the Opera opens up again. As a sacrifice by the workers, the Opera makes a 25 to 50% salary cut on senior management and a 10% salary cut on administrative staff in a bid to limit their losses.
Rather than capitalize on the force majeure clause, Gelb says, “We are not laying people off. We will give them health benefits. Our operations have been suspended, and we cannot afford to pay them. We would go out of business in a matter of weeks, and that’s why these contracts have force majeure clauses in there.”
The Met Opera is rallying rather nicely considering the sudden impact of the Corona Virus. Other art organizations are struggling with the same issues. Many have decided not to invoke the force majeure clause just like the Met has done. However, they all struggle with compensating their artists in these trying times.
The company isn’t the only entity suffering from this enforced closure. The artists have suffered a great hit, and while they understand that it’s just a case of bad luck, they can’t help but feel bad. For many of them, sustaining themselves, this period would be very difficult.
The Met Opera is trying hard to limit the extent of financial loss, and after making all necessary cuts, they are soliciting for help. It is a very bleak period for the Met, but this isn’t their first rodeo after all. They have experienced such setbacks in the past.
The three-month labor unrest in 1969 and 2014 saw the Met in dire straits, and they bounced back. It is the Met after all, and there is a lot of optimism that they would bounce back from this one too.