In a heartbreaking decision, the Cincinnati Opera has just announced it will be canceling its centennial season this summer because of concerns around COVID-19. The 2020 Summer Festival would have been the company's 100th anniversary.
"This is particularly difficult to share with you now, on the eve of our 100th anniversary celebration," reads a joint letter from CO General Director and CEO Christopher Milligan and Artistic Director Evans Mirageas. "At this moment, however, the trajectory of the pandemic is unknown. Public orders currently prevent our artists, production crews, and staff from safely assembling to prepare for our season, a process that begins months in advance of opening night. We have followed guidance from public health experts while maintaining hope that we could move forward, but it is now clear we are unable to do so. With the uncertainty surrounding the resumption of public gatherings, it is our responsibility to act in favor of the continued safety of our audiences, artists, staff, and community."
The 2020 season was slated to include Gioachino Rossini’s comedy Barber of Seville; the world premiere of Fierce, inspired by the stories of the lives of teenage girls who helped write the piece; Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka, the tragic modern fairy tale of a lovestruck mermaid; Castor and Patience, with music by Gregory Spears and an original libretto by U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith; Fierce Grace, about Jeannette Rankin, who became the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress as a representative of Montana; and Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida.
The CO says they will be offering a level of compensation for their nearly 400 onstage and backstage employees and will be keeping their year-round staff employed. If you are able to support this endeavor, they are asking patrons to donate the value of their 2020 tickets back to the CO and the donations will be matched by an Artists Relief Matching Gift Fund from the Harry T. Wilks Family Foundation, Nanci Wilks Lanni and Nick Lanni, and Barbara Wilks.
"If you are not able to donate at this time, we understand — please know how much we value your partnership. We will be in touch via email with all ticket holders to share additional options for your 2020 tickets," reads the letter.
In addition, the CO's Ball of the Century opening night celebration has been rescheduled for June 19, 2021. And they will be debuting new digital programming over the coming weeks in addition to their "Apartment Arias," which are performances from 2020 season artists conducted in their own homes. Visit cincinnatiopera.org/opera-at-home for more ways to experience opera online.
The CO says they are already planning their 2021 Summer Festival, which will include world premieres Fierce and Castor and Patience.
The letter closes, "With the support of the Cincinnati Opera family, our company has thrived throughout our first century, and we look to the future with optimism. The power of opera to connect and inspire will be more vital than ever to our community’s healing. In the interim, we ask for your flexibility and continued support as we all adjust to a new way forward. Opera will endure, and we will sing again."