Pandemic hit, Carnegie Hall plans comeback


For 15 months, the doors of Carnegie Hall have been closed to the public by the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of performances in the hall have been canceled – one of the world’s most famous concert venues – and millions of dollars in ticket sales have been lost. Facing a financial crisis, Carnegie nearly halved its workforce and submerged its endowment to survive.

Now, as New York’s art scene is temporarily hammered for life, the city’s major concert hall is planning a comeback. On Tuesday, Carnegie announced its 2021-22 season, a mix of familiar works and experimental music that its leaders hope will persuade virus wary fans to return.

“People are desperate to experience live culture again,” Carnegie’s executive and artistic director Clive Gillinson said in an interview. “It’s going to be something very powerful.”

The new season, starting in October, includes a cast as diverse as jazz musician John Batiste, who, like violinist Leonidas Cavakos, will curate a series of perspective concerts; The opera stars Renee Fleming and Jonas Kaufman; and conductor Valery Gergiev, who will appear with both the Vienna Philharmonic and the Mariinsky Orchestra.

The New York Philharmonic, which is home to Lincoln Center being renovated In the next season, will appear four more times. Conductor Yannick Nezt-Seguin would also play Carnegie four times—twice with the Philadelphia Orchestra and twice with the Met Orchestra—and lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a concert of Andris Nelson Berg’s opera “Wozek”.

In addition to a host of New York and world premieres, Carnegie will focus on historically underrepresented artists on its stages – dedicating a festival, for example, to Afrofuturism, a style that combines elements of black history and culture. Blends science fiction and fantasy together. .

With vaccines now widely available in the United States and Europe, and infections falling rapidly, many cities have announced plans to reopen cultural venues. New York has been one of the most ambitious, a . with Mega-Concert in Central Park More Broadway Shows Planned for This Summer set to resume in September.

It remains to be seen whether viewers will come to Carnegie and other venues as they did before the pandemic. Mr Gillinson said Carnegie prepared for uncertainty, citing a total estimated budget deficit of up to $14 million for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

“The risk is huge financially because no one knows how the spectators will come back here,” he said. “The fact is, you don’t know the balance between the concerns and the desire to participate and reconnect with music and culture.”

The upcoming season will be more modest than usual: around 90 concerts compared to the typical slate of 150, though more may be added depending on the pandemic situation. With the virus still circulating in many parts of the world and its variants circulating, Carnegie said concertgoers are needed to show evidence of vaccination. It has not yet decided whether to make masks mandatory inside its three locations.

Hall’s troubles began in March 2020, when the coronavirus forced the closure of major New York cultural institutions. Carnegie also canceled the remainder of his season and the entire following season; This has been the longest closure in the hall’s 130-year history.

With live performances suspended, Carnegie’s, a nonprofit, offered streaming performances and online classes to stay connected with its audience. But neither provided a steady source of revenue.

Mr Gillinson began cutting budgets, slashing wages by up to 10 percent and furloughing many employees. In total, 160 positions were cut, leaving 190 people on staff. (Hall plans to hire some staff to work at concerts this fall, though the total will be less than before the pandemic.)

Carnegie weathered other storms during the past year, including its board chairman, billionaire philanthropist Robert F. accept to participate In a 15-year plan to hide over $200 million in income and avoid taxes. Hall and its board stood with Mr. Smith, who remains its chairman.

To help ease his financial woes, Carnegie’s board approved a plan to increase the amount Hall takes each year from his endowment, which totaled $313.1 million last year, increasing from 5 percent to 6 percent. Gone. But it still faces years of economic pressures. The operating budget for the coming season is about $90 million, which is about 13 percent below its pre-pandemic level. Hall still waiting to hear if he’ll receive the $10 million Closed Venue Operators Grant, part of a support program Created by Congress last year to help struggling live-event businesses.

Despite the adversity, Mr. Gillinson said he was confident Carnegie and other beloved cultural institutions in New York would bounce back.

“Big organizations have suffered a terrible blow, but on the other hand, they are not going to cease to exist,” he said. “I have no doubt that New York will remain one of the greatest magnets for talent in the world.”



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