Classical music and grand opera, labor-intensive and expensive to produce, are particularly vulnerable to downturns, and institutions of every size are now contemplating not just the loss of their spring seasons, but also summer activities, particularly if rehearsals cannot begin as scheduled in May or June.
“Once you’re over the disappointment of artistic cancellations,” Marc Scorca, the chief executive of Opera America, a trade organization, said in an interview, “you’re looking at the viability of institutions.”
Referring to the recession that began over a decade ago, he added, “There are companies, just as in 2008 to ’09 — there are some that have some fundamental health and weather through it. Some were held together by Scotch tape, and the Scotch tape came loose. And no doubt that is going to be played out again.”
Michael M. Kaiser, the chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, said that midsize organizations faced the greatest risk. “The largest organizations, as horrible as it’s going to be, they will not go bankrupt,” he said in an interview. “They will figure out a way through this. As scary as it must be, that’s the Met Opera.”
But extended closures in the past have had long-term effects on the Met. A three-month labor battle in 1969 caused nearly 20 percent of its subscribers to cancel, and it took the company years to recoup the losses, a situation repeated after a lockout in 1980.
There was also labor unrest, though no lockout, in 2014, when the company won concessions from its unions that it said were necessary for its survival. Since then, the Met has weathered sexual abuse allegations that led it to fire its longtime music director, James Levine, and successfully introduced his successor, the conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin. This year the company introduced Sunday matinees; and two new productions, the Gershwins’s “Porgy and Bess” and Philip Glass’s “Akhnaten,” were box-office hits.