Bruised by the Pandemic, Carnegie Hall Plans a Comeback

For 15 months, Carnegie Hall’s doorways have been closed to the public by the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of performances have been canceled at the corridor — certainly one of the world’s most famed live performance areas — and tens of millions of dollars in ticket gross sales misplaced. Facing a monetary disaster, Carnegie diminished its workers by almost half and dipped into its endowment to outlive.

Now, as New York’s arts scene stirs tentatively to life, the metropolis’s premier live performance corridor is planning a comeback. On Tuesday, Carnegie introduced its 2021-22 season, a mixture of acquainted works and experimental music that its leaders hope will persuade virus-wary followers to return.

“People are desperate to get back to experiencing live culture again,” Clive Gillinson, Carnegie’s government and creative director, mentioned in an interview. “That is going to be something very powerful.”

The new season, which begins in October, options artists as assorted as the jazz musician Jon Batiste, who, like the violinist Leonidas Kavakos, will curate a collection of Perspectives concert events; the opera stars Renée Fleming and Jonas Kaufmann; and the conductor Valery Gergiev, who will seem with each the Vienna Philharmonic and the Mariinsky Orchestra.

The New York Philharmonic, whose Lincoln Center house is being renovated subsequent season, will seem 4 instances. The conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin can even play Carnegie 4 instances — twice with the Philadelphia Orchestra and twice with the Met Orchestra — and Andris Nelsons will lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a live performance efficiency of Berg’s opera “Wozzeck.”

In addition to a host of New York and world premieres, Carnegie will flip the focus to performers traditionally underrepresented on its levels — devoting a competition, for instance, to Afrofuturism, the style that blends science fiction and fantasy with components of Black historical past and tradition.

With vaccines now broadly accessible in the United States and Europe, and infections quickly falling, many cities have introduced plans to reopen cultural venues. New York has been amongst the most bold, with a mega-concert in Central Park deliberate for this summer time and Broadway reveals set to renew in September.

It stays to be seen whether or not audiences will flock to Carnegie and different venues as they did earlier than the pandemic. Mr. Gillinson, citing a whole anticipated finances deficit of as much as $14 million for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, mentioned Carnegie is bracing for uncertainty.

“The risk financially is so huge because nobody knows how audiences will come back here,” he mentioned. “The fact is, you don’t know the balance between the desire to attend concerts and culture and re-engage, and the worries.”

The upcoming season can be extra modest than common: about 90 concert events, in contrast with a typical slate of 150, although extra could also be added relying on the state of the pandemic. With the virus nonetheless raging in lots of components of the world and variants circulating, Carnegie mentioned it deliberate to require concertgoers to point out proof of vaccination. It has not but determined whether or not to mandate masks inside its three areas.

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The corridor’s troubles started in March 2020, when the coronavirus compelled the closure of New York’s main cultural establishments. Carnegie canceled the the rest of its season and the total following one as nicely; it has been the longest closure in the corridor’s 130-year historical past.

With dwell performances suspended, Carnegie, a nonprofit, provided streaming performances and on-line lessons to remain related to its audiences. But neither offered a regular income.

Mr. Gillinson started slashing the finances, imposing pay cuts of as much as 10 p.c for a lot of workers and furloughing many staff. In whole, 160 positions have been minimize, leaving 190 individuals on workers. (The corridor plans to rehire some workers to work at concert events this fall, although the whole can be lower than earlier than the pandemic.)

Carnegie weathered different storms throughout the previous 12 months, together with its board chairman, the billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith, admitting to collaborating in a 15-year scheme to cover greater than $200 million in earnings and evade taxes. The corridor and its board stood by Mr. Smith, who stays its chairman.

To assist ease its monetary woes, Carnegie’s board accredited a plan to extend the quantity the corridor takes every year from its endowment, which totaled $313.1 million final 12 months, to six p.c, up from 5 p.c. But it nonetheless probably faces years of financial pressures. The working finances for the coming season hovers round $90 million, about 13 p.c under its prepandemic stage. The corridor continues to be ready to listen to whether or not it’s going to obtain a $10 million Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, a part of an help program created by Congress final 12 months to assist struggling live-event companies.

Despite the headwinds, Mr. Gillinson mentioned he was assured Carnegie and different beloved cultural establishments in New York would bounce again.

“The big organizations have had a terrible hit, but on the other hand, they’re not going to cease to exist,” he mentioned. “I don’t have any doubts whatsoever that New York will remain one of the greatest magnets for talent in the world.”