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  • Writer's pictureZach Finkelstein

In Graceful Letter to Artists, Seattle Opera Cancels Rest of Season, Citing Force Majeure

On March 25th, the General Director of Seattle Opera, Christina Scheppelman, informed its artists that "all Seattle Opera public events through May 31, 2020 are cancelled", including the final production of the season, Puccini's La Boheme. Due to Washington state's mandate of physical distancing, Seattle Opera will be unable to finish the season or pay artists contracts for La Boheme, citing Force Majeure.

In a compassionate letter to its artists, the General Director states her "deep regret and sadness", the "frustration", and the "devastating loss" for artists in the community.

While artists will not be paid for their contracts, Ms. Scheppelman states that some administrative staff will be furloughed and the remainder will have "considerable salary reductions, effective April 1, 2020".

The General Director says she is "infinitely sorry" for the loss, and ends with a message of hope:

Dear Artists,

We hope you are keeping yourselves safe and healthy during these unprecedented times.

Due to the recent Washington state order requiring non-essential businesses to close, coupled with the requirements of physical distancing and the unknown time frame for the ban on gatherings of any size, it is with deep regret and sadness that we have but no choice to cancel all rehearsals and performances of our final production of the season at McCaw Hall- Puccini’s La boheme.

No words can really describe the frustration of having to cancel a production and even greater is the frustration that none of us have any control over the circumstances that forced us to make this decision. This is a devastating loss for all of us, our artists, musicians, crew, staff, company, and our community.

Unfortunately, we have to invoke Force Majeure and will not be providing any payments to contracts for La boheme.

You are likely aware that Seattle Opera is a fiscally lean organization and you can imagine the impact that this cancellation will have on Seattle Opera’s health. This cancellation means 100s of our visiting and Seattle based artists and crew will lose employment this spring. We also have to furlough some administrative staff and those staff remaining will experience considerable salary reductions effective April 1, 2020.

Again, I am infinitely sorry for having to communicate this news to you all.

I hope that we will all be able to get back to bringing music to this community and may it be in a not too distant future.

Thank you,

Christina Scheppelmann

General Director – Seattle Opera

In a follow-up email to the "Seattle Opera community", sent after artists were informed, Scheppelmann told the public the production was cancelled. The public message focused on the safety of the artists and production team involved in La Boheme: "there is no safe way for the more than 100 people involved in this production to come together to prepare in the coming weeks for a May 2 opening."

One chorister, despite losing his entire fee for the upcoming production, felt heartened by the letter to artists and committed to Seattle Opera's mission moving forward:

"I can't imagine how hard it was to have to make a decision like this, especially with a very recently appointed General Director. I am confident that if they had any ability to keep the organization running and still pay us as artists after losing the largest show of their season, they would. The administration's choice to voluntarily cut their salaries speaks to that fact. They are committed to hitting the ground running in the future, and we as the artists will be ready to continue our collaboration."


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