The Met, whose budget of roughly $300 million in a normal season makes it the biggest performing arts organization in the nation, is taking a series of steps to try to ensure its survival and adapt to a changed world. It is publicizing its entire 2021-22 season, months ahead of schedule, partly in the hopes that people who bought tickets to canceled performances — roughly $20 million in tickets has already been sold — can be persuaded to exchange them for the newly announced operas.
“Fire Shut Up in My Bones” will be one of three contemporary works at the Met next season — the most since 1928. (The others are Matthew Aucoin’s “Eurydice” and Brett Dean’s “Hamlet.”) The Met will stage the original five-act, French-language version of Verdi’s “Don Carlos” for the first time, in a new production by David McVicar that will be conducted by the company’s music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
There will also be new productions of Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” directed by Bartlett Sher, and Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” directed by Simon Stone, whose staging of “Yerma” at the Park Avenue Armory caused a sensation in 2018. A veteran soprano, Nina Stemme, will star in Strauss’s “Elektra” alongside a rising one, Lise Davidsen, who also appears in that composer’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” and Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” “Die Meistersinger” will be conducted by Antonio Pappano, the music director of the Royal Opera in London, returning to the Met for the first time in decades. And Susanna Malkki will lead Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress”; she is one of five female conductors scheduled to appear, the most in a season in Met history.
Mr. Gelb said that even when the Met can reopen, audiences will likely be slow to return — with attendance perhaps half of what it was in pre-pandemic times. So the company will add more early 7 p.m. curtain times, which people have called for in surveys. It will shorten some operas, presenting Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” in a two-and-a-half-hour version with no intermission; trimming Handel’s “Rodelinda”; and removing the second intermission from Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” It will expand its offerings for families, presenting a new 90-minute, English-language “Cinderella” — an adaptation of Massenet’s “Cendrillon” — as well as its popular abridged “Magic Flute.”
And the Met will work to increase the diversity of its offerings. While “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” was originally planned for a later season, Mr. Gelb decided that with calls for racial justice resonating through the nation and the music world, it should be given pride of place next year: opening night of the Met’s comeback season. The company is also adding three Black composers — Valerie Coleman, Jessie Montgomery and Joel Thompson — to the commissioning program it runs with Lincoln Center Theater.
“We’re trying to send a signal that the Met wants to meet the times in which we live head on,” Mr. Gelb said. “Given all the calls for greater social justice and diversity, we think it’s appropriate, after being off for a year, to come back in a way that demonstrates the Met’s social responsibility.”