Metropolitan Opera Says it Has Disbanded its Ballet Corps

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 10:06 AM

Aida at the Met Opera Aida at the Met Opera (Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

The Metropolitan Opera's resident ballet company is no more. The company has decided to disband the troupe, which has been dwindling in numbers, from 16 in 2011 to eight presently. The remaining dancers have accepted buyout packages and left the company, said their union, the American Guild of Musical Artists.

The company will now be hiring dancers on a per-project basis.

General manager Peter Gelb presents the decision as a cost-saving measure as well as a practicality since the company now features a wider array of dance styles.

“There will always be a significant performance of dance on our stage,” Gelb told the New York Times. “But it’s hard to imagine that we will have a single, resident company because we are using an eclectic group of choreographers who have very specific styles and needs and who want to choose their own dancers. It’s impossible to have a company that suits all these styles.”

The Times reports that the Met actually used more dancers this past season – 128 – than it did when it had a resident ballet troupe of 92 during the 2005-06 season.

Still, the decision may not be welcomed by all, particularly given that the troupe’s origins date to 1883. Writing on Operavore in 2011, Fred Plotkin noted the diminishing presence of ballet at the Met.

"The world’s great opera companies have ballet companies whose artistic profiles and followings are as high or even higher than the opera troupes. When you look at the season calendars of companies like London, Paris, Copenhagen, Vienna, St. Petersburg and Moscow, ballet evenings are regular features that attract huge audiences.

Plotkin added: "Has anyone in recent memory even mentioned the Metropolitan Opera Ballet? Is there such a thing, or are they just the corps de ballet who show up in Aïda, La Traviata, La Gioconda, Eugene Onegin and other standard repertory works that have dance sequences?"

Throughout its early decades, the Met would feature divertissements – one-act ballet programs that followed shorter operas but were not related to them. More recently, the company has attempted to bolster its ballet troupe’s profile with separate performances, but as the Times indicates, those efforts have waned in recent years.

What do you think of the decision? Please leave your comments below.

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Comments [2]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

LA SCALA ALSO IS DISBANDING ITS BALLET AND OTHER MAJOR OPERA COMPANIES HAVE SIMILARLY MADE SUCH ANNOUNCEMENTS. News today by the general manager of LA SCALA, Stephane Lissner that the world-famous opera house that was VERDI's outreach to the musical world is suffering government subsidy cutbacks and diminished attendance records will cut back on its scheduling, its season length and the number of productions. Worldwide the excuse by governments for cutting back on support of their cultural institutions, the opera, the symphony, the music conservatories, the museums, the universities and television and radio public broadcasting is 'we can't afford it." What we can't afford is the ignorance of our respective cultures that provide the incentive for achieving, that entertain and inform In the USA we are not even paying attention to our intrastructure with thousands of bridges and roadways and hospitals and schools in dangerous conditions, falling bridges with vehicles plunging into the waterways below. Terrorists terror but simple-minded, ethically challenged politicians potentially are even more destructive of an enlightened civilized society. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, opera composer and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute. www.WagnerOpera.com

May. 27 2013 03:08 PM
vtrosper from memphis tn

unfortunately the discipline and very style of the classical ballet dancer has gone the way of so many traditions of the past. while diversity can be an interesting and greatly rewarding experience, the sad fact remains- this age has lost the reverence held for centuries for the art of ballet.

May. 21 2013 02:02 PM

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Operavore is WQXR's digital 24/7 audio stream, blog and weekly radio show devoted to Opera. The Operavore blog features breaking news, expert commentary and reviews by writers Fred Plotkin, David Patrick Stearns and Amanda Angel. The stream features a continuous, carefully programmed mix of classic and contemporary opera recordings. The Operavore radio show on WQXR, features opera news bulletins from the around the globe, previews of new recordings, and interviews with the players and personalities on the scene.

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