Met Opera, Carnegie Hall, other elite venues will NOT follow Broadway lead in axing mask mandates

Although almost 80 percent of New York state has been vaccinated, some upper-echelon venues in the Big Apple are keeping mask mandates in place even as many Broadway theater and music performances have dropped mask mandates and largely returned to normal capacity and schedules.

World-famous venues like the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the New York City Ballet have all decided to maintain their masking policies but will no longer require proof of vaccination, the New York Times reported.

“We did quite a bit of audience research, and we have found that our audiences, in fact, are more comfortable with masks,” New York Philharmonic’s CEO and President Deborah Borda told the outlet.

“People say, ‘Well, sports venues are dropping the use of masks’ — those are very young audiences. Our audiences might not be as young.”

Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, claimed that a recent survey indicated a majority of respondents are in support of mandatory masking for performances.

“I’m sure there are some outliers who won’t come to the Met because they don’t want to wear a mask,” Gelb told The New York Times. “[But our] older audiences feel safer wearing masks. And our younger audiences are respectful of that.”

However, a few venues have decided on a compromise: They have designated some performances as mask mandatory while most will stay mask optional.

The Hayes Theater in Manhattan, which is currently running the new and popular play “The Kite Runner,” has adopted such a policy. The Shakespeare & Company theater in Massachusetts is also running the play, and Artistic Director Allyn Burrows told the Times, “You find that people are either very emotional about having to wear masks or very emotional about people not being masked around them.”

Tracey McFarland is one of the producers of the play and came up with the idea after a visit to her son’s pediatrician, Dr. Marc Wagner, who considers himself a theater buff. He expressed an interest in seeing the play but was unwilling to attend as long as masks were optional.

‘Why couldn’t they put on some performances at which masks are required, and others where masks are optional?’ she asked herself, and brought up the idea to her colleagues.

“Everybody on the phone was like, ‘You know, I’ve had friends who have been asking for that,’” McFarland said, recalling the conversations that inspired the decision to start requiring masks for select showtimes. “We just realized that there really is an audience out there that is not being served.”

Some venues outside of California have decided to keep both mask mandates and proof of vaccination status as requirements for entry.

San Francisco Opera director Matthew Shilvock conceded that “life around us is becoming increasingly mask-free,” nevertheless, the company has kept all protocols in place.

“If a singer goes out with COVID, they are out for 10 days and that can mean they lose three performances,” he said. “Our recent audience survey also indicated a very strong desire for continued safety protocols in the auditorium,” he told the Times.

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