The Metropolitan Opera Cancels 2020–21 Season Due to the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Also Announces Lineup for 2021–22
September 24, 2020
The Metropolitan Opera announced today that the ongoing health crisis has resulted in the cancellation of the entire 2020–21 season, but the company also announced ambitious artistic plans for its 2021–22 season, which will open with the Met premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Blanchard’s opera is the first by an African American composer to be performed at the Met. Click here to view the video from the Met Opera, Met General Manager Peter Gelb as he discusses the cancellation of the 2020–21 season and the company’s plans for the 2021–22 season.
The Met made its painful decision to cancel the balance of the 2020–21 season based on the advice of health officials who advise the Met and Lincoln Center. Because of the many hundreds of performers who are required to rehearse and perform in close quarters and because of the company’s large audience, it was determined that it would not be safe for the Met to resume until a vaccine is widely in use, herd immunity is established, and the wearing of masks and social distancing is no longer a medical requirement. Health officials have said this will likely take at least five to six months after a vaccine is initially made available.
“The inability to perform is taking a tremendous toll on our company,” said the Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb. “Our future relies on making strong artistic strides, while collectively reducing our costs until the audience has fully returned,” he continued, citing audience surveys that indicate it will take time before the Met’s box office returns to pre-pandemic levels. “But we have faith that the members of our company and the public will understand why and how our return to normalcy must be managed. Meanwhile, we will continue with all of our digital media initiatives, which have kept the Met connected with our audiences here and abroad throughout the closure.”
As part of the Met’s efforts to make opera more equitable, the company has named three Black composers—Valerie Coleman, Jessie Montgomery, and Joel Thompson—to the Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater New Works commissioning program, while also announcing the commission of the noted African American visual artist Rashid Johnson to create large-scale artworks that will be on display inside the opera house during the 2021–22 season.
Gelb also explained several other plans meant to be responsive to an audience that will at least initially be more cautious, including a large number of earlier 7:00 p.m. curtain times, as well as several operas with reduced running times. As examples, Gelb said, “We will be presenting Boris Godunov in its original two-and-a-quarter-hour version without intermission, making cuts in the Baroque opera Rodelinda, and removing the intermission between Acts II and III in Madama Butterfly. We’ll also be presenting a 90-minute English-language version of Cinderella, an adaptation of Massenet’s Cendrillon, as a holiday entertainment for families.”
“It is devastating to have to cancel the 2020–21 season, which we were all so looking forward to,” said Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director. “But I am extremely excited about the plans for 2021–22 and cannot wait for the chance to reunite with the great Met Orchestra and Chorus, which will be showing new sides of their extraordinary artistry. To be on the podium for the Opening Night premiere of Fire Shut Up in My Bones is sure to be an absolute thrill, and I’m very pleased that our programming will be more responsive to the important social changes that are taking place. I’m happy too that five distinguished conductors—Jane Glover, Karen Kamensek, Susanna Mälkki, and, in their company debuts, Eun Sun Kim and Nathalie Stutzmann—will all perform at the Met in 2021–22, the most women on the podium in a single season in Met history.”
The 2021–22 season will open with the Met premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, with a libretto by Kasi Lemmons, based on the memoir by Charles M. Blow. The opera will be conducted by Maestro Nézet-Séguin and will star Angel Blue, Latonia Moore, and Will Liverman. The opera is one of three contemporary works to have premieres in 2021–22, the greatest number of new operas to premiere in a single Met season since 1928–29. The other new works are Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice, set to a libretto by Sarah Ruhl, also conducted by Maestro Nézet-Séguin and starring Erin Morley in the title role, and Brett Dean’s Hamlet, with a libretto by Matthew Jocelyn and with Allan Clayton as the tortured Dane. The season also features new productions of Verdi’s Rigoletto, starring Rosa Feola, Piotr Beczała, and Quinn Kelsey, and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, with Nadine Sierra in the title role, opposite Javier Camarena. The Met premiere of the original five-act, French-language version of Verdi’s Don Carlos will also have Nézet-Séguin on the podium leading an all-star cast: Sonya Yoncheva, Elīna Garanča, Matthew Polenzani, Etienne Dupuis, Günther Groissböck, and John Relyea.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones will be co-directed by James Robinson and Camille A. Brown, building on their collaboration with The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess in the 2019–20 season. Brown becomes the first Black director in Met history to create a mainstage production; she is also the production’s choreographer.
Three new productions come from returning directors: Mary Zimmerman will direct the Met premiere of Eurydice, Bartlett Sher will direct the new Rigoletto, and Sir David McVicar is back for Don Carlos. Lucia di Lammermoor will see the highly anticipated Met debut of director Simon Stone. Neil Armfield also debuts, bringing to the Met his acclaimed Glyndebourne Festival production of Dean’s Hamlet.
In addition to these new productions, the Met will offer an abridged, English-language holiday presentation of Cinderella, an adaptation of Laurent Pelly’s witty 2018 production of Massenet’s Cendrillon, with a new translation by Kelley Rourke.