Green shoots? During the early months of 2021 very few major opera houses were able to perform full productions in front of sizeable audiences— the most notably successful exception, in Western Europe at least, was Madrid’s Teatro Real. But no one would have foreseen how long the theatres in the German-speaking countries, which had kept going better than most earlier in the pandemic, would remain shut: Munich and Zurich are among the biggest houses to have extended their closures until at least Easter, in early April, and Berlin’s Komische Oper went further, cancelling until the end of April. A scalingdown of the Salzburg Easter Festival’s programme resulted in the cancellation of the Turandot that had already been converted from a new production into a concert performance. There is better news from Poland, where Warsaw’s Polish National Opera reopened on February 25, promising several productions this spring including even a new staging of Hindemith’s Cardillac.
In the United States, the reopening of several leading companies in Florida—most eye-catchingly Palm Beach Opera, which offered three arena productions for audiences of 1,000 in late February—is being followed in California; both San Francisco Opera and San Diego Opera are offering drive-in productions of The Barber of Seville this month.
Having lost its centenary edition last year, the Göttingen Handel Festival is taking no chances in 2021: instead of opening as usual in May, it has moved this year’s festival to September. For now, though, the British country house festivals remain sanguine about the prospects of a season earlier this summer. Glyndebourne has confirmed that it plans to open as scheduled on May 20 and run until the end of August, with four of its
six previously announced productions (new stagings of Katya Kabanova, Il turco in Italia and Luisa Miller, and a revival of Così fan tutte) going ahead in full; the revival of Tristan und Isolde will be given in semistaged concert format, and Die Zauberflöte is being dropped in favour of concert programmes. Nevill Holt Opera will delay its season until August and move to an outdoor stage. As previously announced, both Longborough and Opera Holland Park are also redesigning their performance spaces to allow in plenty of fresh air. Met’s reopening in jeopardy Pandemic permitting, the Metropolitan Opera has said it will return to the stage by opening its 2021-2 season at the end of September. But the chances of that happening are receding as tensions rise between the management and unions representing employees across the organization. The company’s stagehands remain locked out, and its orchestral musicians have now clashed with the General Manager Peter Gelb, following a letter he sent to them on February 1 offering ‘bridge pay’ to the musicians in exchange for ‘good faith negotiations’ on a substantial pay cut. A response from their union rejected the offer out of hand: ‘We refuse to take the bait and be treated like pawns or to fight each other in a race to the bottom. No matter what desperate attempt you make, the orchestra will not be divided. We are one union.’ Layoffs in Seattle Slow recovery from the pandemic has hit Seattle Opera, which, despite having eliminated several positions in September, was forced in February to lay off more staff. In a letter published on the company’s website, the General Director Christina
Opera, April 2021