Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera or the New York Philharmonic in the dark until June 2021, the American entertainment world is resigned to the idea of an entire season without spectators, racking their brains to show their talents to the public and stay afloat financially.
“I still have hope, but I think it’s very unlikely that we will do anything in front of an audience for a while,” because of the pandemic, recognizes Matias Tarnopolsky, CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Officially, most of the major US orchestras and operas have left the door open for a return of spectators in January, with the exception of the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, which canceled the entire 2020-21 season.
But in fact, many, like the Seattle Opera, have already budgeted for an entire season without an audience, in a country which, for months, remains around more than 40,000 new cases of coronavirus per day.
Suddenly, 6 million dollars in revenue soared for Seattle, 20 million for the “Phil” of New York and more than 25 for the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Technical unemployment, layoffs, orchestras are cutting corners and many, like the New York Philharmonic, are renegotiating with their musicians a collective agreement more suited to the financial constraints of the moment.
Some orchestras located in states with less strict health protocols, in the south in particular, as well as smaller ensembles, welcome spectators, but in very limited numbers, which also significantly reduces their revenues.
In ordinary times, ticket sales are already not, far from it, the primary source of income for the great American classical orchestras and opera houses, which often receive no public subsidy and have received no support from Congress. , rely above all on donations and patronage.
“If the fundraising goes well, we should be able to hold on until the summer,” explains Kristina Murti, marketing and communications director of the Seattle Opera. “But our fundraising target is very ambitious”, all the more so in a deteriorating economic context.
“While waiting for a miracle”
Deprived of spectators, in the sanitary impossibility of meeting in full, the orchestras have not given up on offering content to their subscribers, on the contrary, and compete in creativity to set up a reinvented calendar, entirely virtual the more often, embellished with malicious finds.
Los Angeles opera singers who sing lullabies from home to put their own children to sleep, or Philadelphia Orchestra trumpeter who splits into a rap to explain how to follow the orchestra in streaming … This abundance is the one of the rays of the sun of this dark period.
Matias Tarnopolsky sees “changes that will last well beyond the pandemic and be part of the orchestra’s offer”, in addition to indoor shows, when they become possible again.
In a few days, the Atlanta Opera is even preparing for a performance under a marquee set up on a baseball field, in front of just over 200 people.
In addition to content reserved for subscribers or paid for, many orchestras offer certain services free of charge.
“We think it’s time to bring people to the opera,” Kristina Murti analyzes.
The fact remains that with fewer services, when there are any, and reduced training, many musicians no longer have access to the stage and, often, to the associated income.
“I am very worried to see musicians leaving the profession because their situation has become too difficult,” concedes Simon Woods, CEO of the League of American Orchestras, an organization which represents around 700 orchestras.
“People cannot afford to pay New York rents while they wait to be sure they can practice their profession again,” worries Maxim Moston, a regular Broadway violinist, who recently played in the musical. red Mill.
Although he owns his apartment, he keeps track of his spending, but doesn’t consider giving up. “I’ve invested too much for that. So I hang on while waiting for a miracle. “