Thursday, June 4, 2020

With Show Cancellations and Layoffs, a Painful Day for Seattle Opera

A quiet, largely unoccupied Opera Center lit up blue in April 2020 in support of healthcare workers and first responders in the COVID-19 era.  

Seattle Opera cancels Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci, resulting in loss of income for more than 220 artists and crew. Additionally, the company has furloughed 55 percent of administrative staff.

Amid a global pandemic and protests for racial justice happening across the country, Seattle Opera—like all other arts groups at one point or another this year—has reached a moment of reckoning. This week the company officially cancels its first opera of the 2020/21 season: Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci. The cancellation represents a loss of work for more than 220 singers, crew, and musicians. In addition, with the end of funding from the Paycheck Protection Act looming in the next two weeks, Seattle Opera has furloughed 55 percent of its administrative staff.

“It is a deeply painful moment for us as a company, region, and world,” said General Director Christina Scheppelmann. “Considering King County and Washington State are not yet open for large gatherings, COVID-19 has forced us to remain closed for safety as a means of protecting all artists, musicians, and our audiences. In addition, we have had to make difficult decisions to ensure Seattle Opera’s future. While inevitable, these decisions have been devastating to the livelihoods of our artists and administrative staff.”

The double-bill of Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci would have opened on Saturday, August 8 at McCaw Hall. Ticketholders to Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci will have their tickets transferred to August 2021, when the company is planning to present La bohème.

In addition to canceling Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci, Seattle Opera’s $2.3 million loan from the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program, which ensured payroll for many staff and production members, will end after eight weeks on June 16. Therefore, the company will reduce its administrative staff: 46 employees have been furloughed; seven have been put on part-time hours, and the remaining 31 are operating on salaries reduced by 15-50 percent. (Remaining full-time workers who make $50,000 or less will be unaffected).

As many people dream of a day when arts and culture can resume as usual, Seattle Opera remains committed to exploring and finding creative new ways to serve audiences during the global pandemic.

“Our mission is to draw our community together through opera, a unique blend of music and drama that speaks to the mind and spirit—especially in difficult times like these,” Scheppelmann said.

Seattle Opera is now providing free audio and video content through its website, Facebook, and YouTube channels. Additional offerings include Seattle Opera Mornings on KING FM, featuring broadcasts of previous Seattle Opera performances; Songs of Summer, a recital series featuring many beloved opera stars; and The Drunken Tenor: Quarantini Edition starring the hilarious GRAMMY-winning singer Robert McPherson. Information on each of these programs can be found at

Ticketholders to Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci will receive an email within the next few days with instructions on what to do with their tickets to the production. Customers can also call the company’s Audience Services department Monday through Friday 10 AM – 6 PM at 206.389.7676 or 800.426-1619.