Music director Robert Spano’s penultimate season with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has been shortened because of canceled performances due to the coronavirus. Spano will serve through the 2020-2021 season. Contributed by Jeff Roffman
Photo: Jeff Roffman
Photo: Jeff Roffman

ASO, in the wake of COVID, cancels rest of season

The COVID-19 crisis has hit the Atlanta arts community hard, and the latest victim is the remainder of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s 2019-2020 season.

The ASO announced Wednesday that performances scheduled through June 14, including the first full performance of the Wagner opera “Tristan und Isolde” in Atlanta, would be canceled.

This news comes near the end of a 75th season already foreshortened by the coronavirus outbreak. Back on March 26 the symphony canceled performances through May 11.

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” said  ASO Executive Director Jennifer Barlament in a statement. “We made the difficult decision to cancel the remaining performances in our 75th anniversary season after consulting with public health experts and considering the continuing restrictions on public gatherings both in Atlanta and statewide.”

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has had to cancel the remainder of the 2019-2020 season.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The ASO canceled planned performances of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony (May 14 and 16), the ASO conducting debut of violinist-conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider (May 28 and 30), and the first full performance of Wagner’s opera “Tristan und Isolde” in Atlanta, to have been staged in festival format over three nights on June 11, 13 and 14.

The canceled performances will result in the loss of more than $3 million in revenue between March 13 and June 27. Ticket sales account for about half the orchestra’s annual operating budget.

It is the second-to-last season for ASO Music Director Robert Spano, whose 20-year tenure at the podium will end with the 2020-2021 season.

To help mitigate the losses the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association has agreed to a temporary reduction in pay, through June 27, and to allow the symphony to have access to archival material to stream past recordings. 

The symphony also announced pay cuts among the  administrative staff, and the furlough of 11 full-time and 13 part-time staff members, mostly those whose work involved staging performances.

These employees are eligible for Cares Act funding and will retain their health benefits during the furlough period, according to a statement from the ASO.

The orchestra is asking patrons to support the institution and its musicians by donating back their tickets to cancelled concerts.

It also would like to see patrons renew their subscriptions for the 2020/21 season, which was announced on March 31. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra itself, part of the Woodruff Arts Center, does not currently qualify for the Cares Act stimulus because it exceeds the 500-employee limit.

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