Seattle Opera has cut six administrative positions from its workforce, and has dozens of employees still on furlough, citing losses of revenue from the pandemic.
“The global pandemic has been a painful and challenging time for arts and cultural workers,” said Kristina Murti, the opera’s director of marketing and communications. “Seattle Opera is no exception.”
In late April, the company received a $2.3 million federal loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but it had to furlough 46 administrative staffers after that money ran out in June. Seattle Opera canceled its performance of “La bohème,” scheduled for May, so was unable to hire a planned 250 musicians, crew, singers, costumers, and hair and makeup artists; it has since canceled the first operas for this fall, instead putting together a fall season of online programming.
Before the pandemic, Murti said, Seattle Opera had 72 full-time administrative positions and 16 part-time administrative staffers.
“The company has decided it is not possible for us to return to our full workforce,” Murti said. “It was a difficult decision, but we have identified six administrative staff positions from various departments that are not part of our future staffing needs and therefore, the positions have been eliminated.”
A late-spring survey conducted by 4Culture (King County’s arts and culture department) and 13 partner organizations found that 75% of nearly 500 organizations said they expected to deplete their operating budgets before the end of the year, with 45% predicting they’d exhaust those budgets by the end of this month.
Murti said Seattle Opera is not in such dire condition, but that at this point in the crisis, it’s projecting around $8 million in lost ticket revenue, leaving the company at about half the size it had been in recent years.
“If we are able to have live audiences in the first half of 2021, that number will improve,” she said.