Met Opera Taps Its Endowment Again to Weather Downturn

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But the Met faces acute challenges. Mounting live opera is expensive, requiring lavish sets, star singers and a much larger orchestra and chorus than the biggest Broadway shows can boast. Inflation has added to the opera company’s burden, with the costs of shipping and materials increasing sharply. And ticket revenues last season from in-person performances and movie-theater broadcasts were down by about $25 million from before the pandemic.

In addition to tapping its endowment, the Met said it would institute measures to cut costs and increase revenues that were suggested by Boston Consulting Group, which conducted a study of the company’s operations on a pro bono basis.

The Met has already begun giving fewer performances: 194 this season, down from 215 last season. It plans to change its scheduling over the next few years so that each opera has a more condensed run; they currently can have two or three short runs that may be spread out in the fall, winter and spring. Doing so will allow the company, which sometimes presents as many as four different operas in the course of a week, to have fewer operas in rotation at any given moment.

And the plans call for scheduling more of the Met’s most popular titles, like Puccini’s “La Bohème,” on weekends, when they tend to bring in substantially more revenue than less familiar works. These changes, along with other cost-cutting measures and more targeted marketing efforts, are expected to net the company about $25 million to $40 million each year.

Even before the pandemic, the Met, the largest performing arts organization in the United States, with an annual budget of about $312 million, faced existential questions, as the old model in which subscribers would buy tickets to many productions each year faded.

The pandemic, which forced the company to shut down for more than a year and a half, exacerbated those troubles. Many of the Met’s patrons, who are older, stopped attending live performances and cinema broadcasts as frequently, leaving the company looking for new audiences.

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