There will be no performances in 2020, The Dallas Opera has decided. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of nine performances — or 38 percent of the season — one replacement title, and one cut to the previously announced 2020-21 roster of operas.
Ian Derrer, the Kern Wildenthal general director and CEO of The Dallas Opera, has said that the entire season will be consolidated into the spring of 2021, with four opera productions presented instead of the original five. Verdi's Don Carlo will replace Wagner's Lohengrin, and Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice will be eliminated.
"This virus is a serious threat to all the hallmarks of grand opera, which include amassing huge forces on stage and in the pit, bringing large crowds together in our theaters, assembling casts from all over the world, and listening to singers, sometimes in passionate embrace, filling the hall with powerful voices and glorious sound without the use of microphones," Derrer says in a release.
"Our mission at The Dallas Opera has always been to give our audiences thrilling, world-class opera, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to re-position our operations, at least for the near future. Safety concerns for our audiences, artists, and staff; travel restrictions for artists; new social distancing needs both onstage and in the theater — the myriad uncertainties and restrictions caused by this pandemic have led us to the difficult decision that we cannot open in October 2020 as originally scheduled," he continues.
The 2020/2021 season, which was to have opened on October 9, 2020, will now begin on March 5, 2021, with the world premiere of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Composed by Joby Talbot with libretto by Gene Scheer, the opera will perform two additional performances: March 13 and a matinee on March 7.
Verdi's Don Carlo is next, with performances March 27 (matinee), March 31, and April 3 (matinee).
The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, which was originally planned to be the season opener, continues on April 9, April 11 (matinee), April 14, and April 17.
As planned, Tosca's Puccini will close the season with performances on April 16, April 18 (matinee), April 21, April 24, and May 2 (matinee).
The traditional fall concert and gala dinner, this season titled Viva Diva! and featuring Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, has been moved from November 6, 2020, to May 10, 2021.
Full series subscribers will have the opportunity to replace their fifth opera with seats to Viva Diva!, donate the prorated value of their fifth-opera tickets to TDO's fundraising efforts (an emergency relief fund has a goal of raising $4 million by September 30, 2020), apply the credit to their 2021/2022 season tickets, or receive a refund.
The productions of the family performance series are also affected. Instead of two performances each, one in the fall and one in the spring, Doctor Miracle and Jack and the Beanstalk will each perform once in March. Bizet's Doctor Miracle is scheduled for March 6, 2021, and John Davies and Sir Arthur Sullivan's Jack on March 14, 2021.
Regarding repertoire changes, Derrer said that both he and music director Emmanuel Villaume were committed to bringing Wagner's rarely performed Lohengrin to Dallas audiences.
"But given the large number of forces required to produce this monumental masterpiece and unpredictable travel restrictions for our international artists, we are postponing its presentation until we can assure our audiences of the highest artistic experience," Derrer explains. "Also, with so much of Verdi's magnificent Don Carlo already rehearsed, a cost saving for TDO — and with many original cast members — it seemed appropriate to give Don Carlo a second chance, knowing that Orfeo ed Euridice can easily be programmed in a future season."
The company has also been forced to introduce layoffs and make further staff cutbacks. Five administrative staff members will be laid off, six full-time positions will become part-time or seasonal, and two positions will be furloughed. TDO’s full-time administrative and artistic staff has been reduced from 40 to 26, with previously announced salary reductions remaining in place.
TDO has already suffered the loss of $1.6 million in projected revenue from canceled performances in the 2019/2020 season, and ticket revenue for the 2021 season will be reduced because of the constriction of the season.
The company is in contract negotiations with two of its major unions: the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), which represents the orchestra; and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), which represents principal artists, chorus, dancers, and production staff.
A new fundraising initiative will follow in October 2020. An extension of the current DOER campaign, it will be "a three-year effort to solidify TDO's financial foundation for stable and continued growth, and will position the company to weather future unexpected events."