NEW YORK - New York’s opera fans got some sad if not unexpected news this week: The Metropolitan Opera will remain closed for the entire current season.

The MET’s General Manager, Peter Gelb, told NY1’s Bobby Cuza on “Inside City Hall” that, it was a tough decision, forced on them by COVID-19.

“We’re not proud about being a trendsetter in this particular instance,” he said. “But The Met is such a large and complex organization that we had no choice but to make the decision now.  Quite frankly, without a cure and without a vaccine being effective and being widely used, which will take five or six months, there’s no way that a company like the Met with performers working in such close quarters can possibly return to action.”

Gelb said he has been in close consultation with the mayor’s office and the governor’s office, and he believes they understand why closing for the season is The Met’s only option.

“We know we can’t perform with social distancing,” he said. “The governor and the mayor have made it very clear that they don’t want large public assemblies and there’s no reason to think they’re going to change that.  That’s why the city and the state have been able to get the pandemic under control. Opera singers are super-spreaders.  There’s no getting around that.”

The Met has announced some of the operas that will take the stage in the 2021-2022 season, starting with the opening performance, the first written by a Black composer, Terence Blanchard’s, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” based on the autobiographical memoir of New York Times columnist Charles Blow. Gelb said it will send a signal that The Met is trying to deal with the social issues of today.

“We believe that when The Met comes back we have to come back artistically more vital, more strong than ever before,” he said. “The arts are always a good reflection and a mirror of society and the opera can’t be left behind in order to be a relevant art form.”

The Met will continue to bring opera to the masses digitally, but Gelb recognizes that, even a year from now, the crowds won’t return immediately. And with an average of four operas a week with hundreds of performers rehearsing in close quarters, safety will drive their decisions. 

“We have 3,800 seats at the Metropolitan Opera House,” he said.  “I don’t think anyone today would be wanting to set foot in The Met or any theater. When it is officially safe, and that’s gonna take a long time, and the pandemic is over, that will be the moment when we can perform and rehearse again.  We have to anticipate that it will be several years recovery before the arts return to normal.  And I think it’s only realistic to assume that.”