A New York Times story says today that the New York City Opera will lay off 11 full-time employees. That’s 13% of their staff. The company, as quoted in the story, says it needs fewer staff members this year because, well, basically the company won’t be giving any normal performances. And there’s of course an economic factor, too. Says a spokesman, quoted by the Times, the company “believes that this reorganization will position the opera to deal with current economic conditions.”

This leads to a cascade of questions.

Did the company need these 11 people when it put on normal seasons up to this past spring?

If so, why doesn’t it need them now? And how can it say, as it’s quoted as saying in the Times, that it has no plan to rehire them?

And most of all — did the company see this coming? Long ago, when we first learned that this year’s season would essentially be cancelled (the company is doing only a few small performances, scattered around New York), it was clear to any classical music professional that this would be expensive, more expensive, in some ways, than doing normal performances. That’s because the company still has many of its normal expenses — including its orchestra, its chorus, and its staff — but loses much of its income. (No ticket sales.) I wasn’t the only one who wondered if they’d prepared for the financial hit they’d be taking.

And now this. Did they expect it? I’m surprised the Times story didn’t probe for that, especially since it very usefully mentioned that City Opera’s fundraising has been hurting. Mthe eaybe “current economic conditions” jumped up and slapped City Opera in the face, but maybe they also hadn’t prepared well enough for the financial impact of not performing, whatever the economy did.

What’s going to happen next?


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