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    Cities and States Are Easing Covid Restrictions. Are Theaters and the Arts Next?

    Cultural institutions face tough decisions: Is it safe to drop mask and vaccine requirements, and would doing so be more likely to lure audiences back or keep them away?When music fans walked beneath the familiar piano-shaped awning and into the dark embrace of the Blue Note Jazz Club in Greenwich Village this week, a late-pandemic fixture was missing: No one was checking proof of vaccination and photo IDs.A special guest visited to herald the change. “Good to be back out,” Mayor Eric Adams of New York told the overwhelmingly maskless audience Monday, the day the city stopped requiring proof of vaccination at restaurants and entertainment venues. “I consider myself the nightlife mayor, so I’m going to assess the product every night.”It is a different story uptown, where Carnegie Hall continues to require masks and vaccines and the Metropolitan Opera goes even further, requiring that all eligible people show proof that they have received their booster shots — safety measures that always went beyond what the city required but which reassured many music lovers. “We want the audience to feel comfortable and safe,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager.With cities and states across the country moving to scale back mask and vaccine requirements as coronavirus cases fall, leaders of cultural institutions find themselves confronted once again with difficult decisions: Is it safe to ease virus safety measures, and would doing so be more likely to lure audiences back or keep them away?Their responses have varied widely. Broadway will continue to require masks and proof of vaccination through at least the end of April. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington announced that it would drop its mask requirement for visitors to its museums and the National Zoo on Friday, following moves by major art museums in places like Chicago and Houston. Some comedy clubs in New York that ditched masking mandates months ago are weighing whether to continue to require proof of vaccination.“At the beginning of this, many arts organizations were having to develop their own policies before there were clear government guidelines,” said Matthew Shilvock, the general director of the San Francisco Opera. “As we come out of this, again, you’re finding arts companies having to find their own way.”The Metropolitan Opera continues to require masks and proof of vaccination and booster shots, and to limit food and drink consumption to one part of the opera house.Todd Heisler/The New York TimesIn interviews, leaders of almost a dozen cultural groups across the country emphasized the need for caution and carefulness. But they noted that each of their situations are distinct. In museums, patrons can roam large galleries and opt for social distance as they please. In theaters and concert halls, audience members are seated close together, immobile for the duration of a performance. Opera houses and symphony orchestras tend to draw an older and more vulnerable audience than night clubs and comedy clubs.The feedback arts leaders say they are getting from visitors has differed: Some said that they had felt increasing pressure to ease their rules in recent weeks, while others said the vast majority of their audience members have told them that they were more likely to visit venues that continue to maintain strict health and safety requirements.“For every one person who complains about the mask requirement, we have probably about 10 people who express unsolicited gratitude for the fact we are choosing to still have masks in place,” said Meghan Pressman, the managing director and chief executive of the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles. She said she would be “surprised” if her organization changed its masking rules before Broadway does.On Broadway, which was shut down by the pandemic for more than a year, officials have said that theater operators would continue to require masks and proof of vaccination through at least April. “We do look forward to welcoming our theatergoers without masks one day soon, and in the meantime, want to ensure that we keep our cast, crew and theatergoers safe so that we can continue to bring the magic of Broadway to our audiences without interruption,” Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League, said in a statement.The Metropolitan Opera, which was the first major arts institution to require people entering their opera house to be both vaccinated and boosted, never missed a performance during the height of the recent Omicron surge, and is in no rush to ease its safety measures. “For us, safety comes before Covid fatigue,” said Gelb, the general manager. “So we’re going to err on the side of caution.”But the company has eased some of its backstage protocols: Soloists were not required to wear masks during recent stage rehearsals of Verdi’s “Don Carlos,” which helped some work on their diction as the company sang it in the original French for the first time.Like the Met, the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center are also maintaining their mask and vaccine mandates for the moment. Carnegie Hall continues to require masks and proof of vaccination, but recently dropped its policy of briefly requiring booster shots. Masking and vaccine rules also remain in place at the San Francisco Opera, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera and Center Theater Group.Two of New York’s premier art-house cinemas are taking different approaches — at least for now. Film Forum’s website says that proof of vaccination is no longer required and that masks are encouraged but not required. Film at Lincoln Center will continue to require proof of vaccination and masks through Sunday, but plans to relax its policy next week.The Metropolitan Museum of Art has stopped checking vaccine cards but is still requiring masks indoors.Seth Wenig/Associated PressA recent poll conducted by The Associated Press found that half of Americans approve of mask mandates, down from 55 percent who supported the mandates six months ago and 75 percent who supported them in December 2020.Choosing what to do is not easy.Christopher Koelsch, the president of the Los Angeles Opera, said that the surveys he has reviewed suggest that roughly a third of audience members would only come to performances if a mask mandate was in place — but that roughly a third would refuse to come if masks are required.“No matter what decision you make,” he said, “there are people who are going to be upset with you and believe that you are making the wrong decision.”Some museums are in an in-between moment. The Metropolitan Museum of Art stopped checking vaccine cards as of Monday but still requires masks. And the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is likely to lift its mask mandate this month, said Julián Zugazagoitia, the museum’s director.As mask mandates fall in schools, restaurants and other settings, he said, he felt “almost forced” to follow suit. “What I’d like to see us do is keep this as a suggestion,” he said of wearing masks indoors.Other art venues have already changed their rules. Officials at the Art Institute of Chicago said the museum eliminated its requirements for masks and vaccines on Feb. 28 in line with new governmental policies. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston — one of the first major American museums to reopen after the country went into lockdown in March 2020 — also relaxed its most recent mask mandate last week. As it did previously in the fall, the museum is now recommending — but not requiring — masks for visitors and staff.“We’ve had an increasing number of visitors and staff inquire about why we haven’t — or when are we going to — relax the mandatory mask requirement,” said Gary Tinterow, the museum’s director.At the Broadway Comedy Club in New York, patrons have been allowed inside maskless for some time. But Al Martin, the club’s president, said he has been debating whether to stop requiring that his guests be vaccinated.On one hand, he said, checking people at the door required him to add staff members, which costs money. And he estimated that he has lost roughly 30 percent of his audience because of the mandate. On the other, he said, he liked having a city vaccine mandate to fall back on. “It gave a degree of safety and assurance to people,” he said.He ultimately decided to do away with the vaccine mandate at his club as of Monday despite his personal concern that the city “might have been slightly premature” in rolling back the rules.He reserves the right to change his mind about his club’s policy, he said.“If I see my business drop 40 percent because people are not feeling safe in my venue,” he said, “we’re going back to the vaccine passport.” More

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    Can New Yorkers Be Lured Back to the Arts by a Good Deal?

    With two-for-one cocktails at the Met museum and two-for-one Broadway tickets, New York arts institutions are trying to lure back locals after a long, tough winter.The sounds of a small jazz combo filled the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art last Saturday evening. Warm candles lit the space. Over at the museum’s American Wing Café, Christa Chiao and Anna Lee Hirschi were sipping prosecco.It was the first weekend of “Date Night” at the Met, an initiative to lure local visitors back to the museum on Friday and Saturday evenings with two-for-one cocktails, gallery chats and free live music featuring New Orleans jazz bands, Renaissance ensembles and string quartets.The museum’s efforts to woo back visitors from the region comes as many New York cultural organizations worry not only about the pandemic-era decline in tourism, but also the continuing struggle to bring back local crowds. The Met is currently attracting 62 percent of the local visitors it did before the coronavirus pandemic, a change it attributes in part to the continuing prevalence of remote work.“In this new reality, where many outer borough residents are working virtually and do not have to come to Manhattan, it’s on us, on the cultural institutions, to be creative and proactive in finding ways to encourage local visitorship,” said Ken Weine, a spokesman for the museum.“The challenge that the Met faces,” he said, “is really no different than a midtown small business.”Anna Lee Hirschi, left, and Christa Chiao toasted each other with their two-for-one proseccos.Nina Westervelt for The New York TimesThe Met is far from the only arts institution trying to entice local visitors back with deals as the Omicron surge fades and the coronavirus outlook seems to be improving.Lincoln Center recently announced a new “Choose What You Pay” ticketing program for its American Songbook series at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, with a minimum ticket price of $5.00, and a suggested price of $35, in an effort to make its programing more accessible.The Museum of Modern Art announced this week that it would restart a program offering free admission to New York City residents on the first Friday of every month between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.And this year NYC & Company, the city’s tourism agency, extended NYC Broadway Week — during which theatergoers can get two-for-one tickets to most Broadway shows — for an additional two weeks, through February 27.Chris Heywood, a spokesman for NYC & Company, said that the move to extend Broadway Week deals was proving popular: As of mid-February, he said, the program’s website had already received more traffic than it did in 2020, before the pandemic closed Broadway.Learn More About the Metropolitan Museum of Art$125 Million Donation: The largest capital gift in the Met’s history will help reinvigorate a long-delayed rebuild of the Modern wing.Recent Exhibits: Our critics reviewed exhibits featuring the drawings of the French Revolution’s chief propagandist and new work by the sculptor Charles Ray.Behind the Scenes: A documentary goes inside the Met to chronicle one of the most challenging years of its history.A Guide to the Met: From the must-see galleries to the lesser-known treasures, here’s how to make the most of your visit.Winter is traditionally a down period for museums and the performing arts, arts officials note, and this season was made even tougher by lagging tourism and the disruption caused by the Omicron variant, which forced some arts institutions to retrench at the very moment the city was seeking to triumphantly bounce back.Now, with spring on the horizon, some arts groups say they hope to essentially restart the reopening that began in the fall. Deals, they hope, will help.The Met hopes that deals will lure back locals. It is currently attracting 62 percent of the local visitors it did before the pandemic.Nina Westervelt for The New York TimesThe Met, which already allows New York State residents to pay what they wish for admission, is trying to sweeten the deal. As it began its second “Date Night” last Saturday, the museum was busy and bustling, with a line out the door late into evening.As they sipped their proseccos and shared a box of dips and veggies that had been classified as a date-night special, Chiao, 28, of Harlem, and Hirschi, 29, of Washington, said it was their first time back inside a museum since before the pandemic began. They had not known about the “Date Night” promotion, but they were on a date and were happy to partake.“It feels like it’s time,” Chiao said. “It’s your own risk assessment. I think more about what I’m going to do — is this thing going to be worth it? I do think I’m going to try to go out and do more stuff.”Patrick Driscoll, 34, and Kathryn Savasuk, 33, of the Upper West Side, were also on a date at the Met, and said they were feeling increasingly at ease about going out. They had already taken advantage of the two-for-one Broadway tickets, having snagged tickets to “Company,” the revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical.“We’d be comfortable either way, but it’s definitely an enticement to go out, be active and get into the flow of going to these types of events again,” Driscoll said of the deals. And they plan to keep going to the theater even for those shows that do not offer the two-for-one deals: They already have tickets to see Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga in the upcoming Broadway production of “Macbeth.”Back inside the Great Hall, Allan Shikh, 21, had his arms wrapped warmly around Ami Kulishov, 21, as the jazz band finished its first set. They, too, were unaware that their romantic evening had fallen on an official “Date Night.” They would have been there anyway.“We consider ourselves pretty artsy people,” Shikh said. “I don’t really need much enticing.” More

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    Review: Beethoven Returns for the Age of Black Lives Matter

    Heartbeat Opera’s powerful take on “Fidelio,” as an indictment of mass incarceration, has been revived and revised for a post-2020 world.Beethoven’s only opera, “Fidelio,” is hardly a fixed text. He wrote several possible overtures for it and reworked the score substantially over the course of a decade. But its meaning never changed: the heroism to be found in devotion, love and freedom in the face of injustice.In 2018, the daring and imaginative Heartbeat Opera — an enterprise that, while small and still young, has already contributed more to opera’s vitality than most major American companies — took the malleable history of “Fidelio” one step further, adapting the work as a moving indictment of mass incarceration.That production has now been revised for a revival that opened at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last weekend, ahead of a tour that continues through the end of the month. Already inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this “Fidelio” is now permeated with it, and the adaptation is even more powerful.Bannister, left, as Stan, an imprisoned Black Lives Matter activist, and Griffin as Leah, his wife, who plots to free him.Julieta Cervantes for The New York TimesIn Beethoven’s original singspiel — a music theater form in which sung numbers are set up by spoken scenes — a woman named Leonore disguises herself as a man, Fidelio, to infiltrate the prison where her husband, Florestan, is being held for political reasons. She aims to free him from execution while exposing the crimes of his captor, Pizarro.Ethan Heard, a founder of Heartbeat, adapted “Fidelio” for the company and collaborated with the playwright Marcus Scott on the new book. Their revision tells the story of a Black Lives Matter activist named Stan — sung by Curtis Bannister, a tenor of impressive stamina — who has been imprisoned for nearly a year, and whose wife, Leah, given an affectingly agonized lower range by the soprano Kelly Griffin, is at a breaking point as she struggles to free him.She gets a job as a guard at the prison; her strategy to reach Stan in solitary confinement (much as in Beethoven’s original) is to ingratiate herself with a senior guard (here Roc, sung with both charm and dramatic complexity by the bass-baritone Derrell Acon) and court his daughter (here Marcy, smooth-voiced yet strong in the soprano Victoria Lawal’s portrayal). In this telling, there is no need for the cross-dressing: Marcy and Leah are both queer. And, crucially, all of these characters are Black, a fact that looms before guiding the awakenings of Marcy and her father as they face their complicity in a racist system that, Leah says, is designed to punish “people whose only mistake was being poor and Black.”Corey McKern, who plays a Trump-like Pizarro, with Acon, a senior prison guard.Julieta Cervantes for The New York TimesThe spoken text is in English throughout, while the arias remain in their original German — a testament to the timelessness of Beethoven, though the production’s surtitles take some liberties with the translation. (As an excuse for briefly letting the prisoners out into the sun, Roc sings that it’s the king’s name day, but the titles say that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.)Radically transformed, too, is the score, arranged by Daniel Schlosberg for two pianos, two horns, two cellos and percussion, with the multitasking (and nearly scene-stealing) Schlosberg onstage, conducting from the keyboard. Expressive cellos reveal the characters’ thoughts, and the horns add an aura of muscularity and honor. The most substantial interventions are in the percussion, with drum hits deployed to dramatic effect and a whiplike slap adding terror to Pizarro’s murder-plotting “Ha, welch’ ein Augenblick.”The soprano Victoria Lawal as Marcy, who awakens to her complicity in a racist system of mass incarceration.Julieta Cervantes for The New York TimesNot all the changes from 2018 were necessary, or wise. Starting with the venue: This production originated in a black box space at Baruch Performing Arts Center, which fit the chamber scale of the music and emphasized the cinder-block claustrophobia of Reid Thompson’s set. At the Met, the show floats on an expansive stage and struggles with poor acoustics.And the text has lost some of its grace, with pandering references to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and President Donald J. Trump’s infamous call for the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” A casualty of these lapses is the baritone Corey McKern’s Pizarro, who is something of a Trump stand-in, a caricature among nuanced, human characters.You could almost forgive that at “O welche Lust,” the famous prisoners’ chorus, still the emotional high point of the production and now a coup de théâtre. For the stirring number, Leah unlocks a chest — a metaphor for the prison gates — to release a white screen, on which a video is projected, featuring 100 incarcerated singers and 70 volunteers from six prison ensembles. The camera often lingers on individual faces, to an effect not unlike that of Barry Jenkins’s filmmaking, the way his sustained close-ups invite intimacy and, above all, sympathy.A hundred incarcerated singers and 70 volunteers from six prison ensembles, recorded and projected onstage, sing the famous prisoners’ chorus “O welche Lust.”Julieta Cervantes for The New York TimesFor curious audience members, Heartbeat has shared letters from some of the participants. They range from endearing — Michael “Black” Powell II’s “German was hard!!” — to profound, such as this from Douglass Elliott: “Most of us are victims of our circumstances who when faced with adversities chose the wrong direction with our actions. This choir makes us feel that ‘normal’ feeling for a short time every week. We are accepted as humans, not looked at as numbers.”Beethoven’s triumphant finale could have been an insult to the contemporary reality Heartbeat’s production aims to conjure. So after Stan is freed and Pizarro defeated, Leah awakes at the same desk where, in the opening, she has had a frustrating phone call with a lawyer. This twist, that it was all a dream, is of course a tired trope, but what follows isn’t.After a moment of despair — her happiness felt so real — she stands, steps to a spotlight at center stage and holds up her phone, assuming the pose of her husband’s activism, with which the production began. An ambivalent closing scene, it is an honest reflection of our time: of the mixed successes of Black Lives Matter, yes, and of the only possible way forward.FidelioPerformed at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, Manhattan, and touring through Feb. 27; heartbeatopera.org. More

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    7 Ways to Remember Martin Luther King in New York

    From in-person and virtual performances to exhibitions and tours, the city offers plenty of options for honoring the civil rights leader this year.Since 1983, just 15 years after his death, the third Monday in January has been designated as a federal holiday in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. This year, on Jan. 17, cultural institutions all over New York have planned concerts, exhibitions, service opportunities and tours, both in person and online. (Bring your vaccination card, and check mask-wearing and ticketing policies online beforehand.)Here are seven ways to commemorate the legacy of the civil rights leader and learn more about Black history in New York.An Annual Bash in Brooklynbam.org.The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 36th annual tribute to King, held in person and streaming live at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, will feature a dance piece by Kyle Marshall, set to the oratory of King’s final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” and performances by the singer Nona Hendryx with Craig Harris & Tailgaters Tales and the Sing Harlem choir. A keynote address will also be delivered by Imani Perry, a professor of African American studies at Princeton University. Following the event, visitors can view a display of digital billboards inspired by the writings of bell hooks or attend a free screening at 1 p.m. of the documentary “Attica,” about the violent 1971 prison uprising.The choreographer Kyle Marshall, who created a dance piece set to the oratory of King’s final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”Steven SpeliotisActivism and the Artsapollotheater.org.The Apollo Theater and WNYC’s 16th annual celebration will hold two virtual broadcasts on Monday, at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., engaging WNYC radio hosts, scholars and community leaders in a discussion about how the struggle for social justice has affected artists like Nina Simone and John Legend. Guests include the Rev. Al Sharpton, the sports journalist William C. Rhoden and Trazana Beverley, who won a Tony Award for her role in “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” The free event can be streamed through the Apollo’s Digital Stage.Learn More About the Metropolitan Museum of Art$125 Million Donation: The largest capital gift in the Met’s history will help reinvigorate a long-delayed rebuild of the Modern wing.Recent Exhibits: Our critics review a masterpiece “African Origin” show, an Afrofuturist period room and a round-the-world tour of Surrealism.Behind the Scenes: A documentary goes inside the Met to chronicle one of the most challenging years of its history.A Guide to the Met: From the must-see galleries to the lesser-known treasures, here’s how to make the most of your visit.Discover Seneca Villagecentralparknyc.org; metmuseum.org.Take a tour of Central Park that conjures Seneca Village, the largest community of free African American property owners in early-19th-century New York. Beginning at Mariners’ Gate near the West 85th Street entrance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, your guide will share how the area, once home to around 1,600 residents, provided a respite from the racial discrimination and crowded conditions of downtown Manhattan — until residents were forcibly displaced in 1857 to make way for Central Park. That history is also the subject of a new, vibrant installation across the park, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where “Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room” imagines the home of a Village resident as it might still exist if the family had been left to live undisturbed.Make a Craftwavehill.org.Just before leading the marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965, King passed through the hamlet of Gee’s Bend and encouraged its 900 residents to vote. They would go on to establish the Freedom Quilting Bee, a group that allowed women of the town to earn an income by making quilts that were sold at Saks and Sears; some textiles have entered the permanent collection of the Met. You can put your own sewing skills to the test on Saturday or Sunday at Wave Hill House in the Bronx, where plentiful squares of fabric will be on hand.Quiltmaking at Wave Hill House in the Bronx. Joshua BrightChoose a Causeamericorps.govSince King’s birthday was first observed, it’s been a tradition for volunteers across the country to devote the day to service. Whether you commit to a few hours or a whole month, the website of the federal public-service organization AmeriCorps has a directory where you can search for volunteer opportunities (including ones specific to the holiday). There are virtual options, too, like tutoring or transcription for the Smithsonian Institution and National Archives.A Streaming Sermontheaterofwar.com“The Drum Major Instinct,” a sermon King delivered in 1968 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, will be presented on Zoom on Monday at 7 p.m. by Theater of War Productions and the office of Jumaane Williams, the New York City public advocate. Along with the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, and the city police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, Williams will take part in a dramatic reading of the text, which challenges people to channel justice, righteousness and peace into acts of service and love. Accompanying them will be performances of music composed in honor of Michael Brown Jr., the 18-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.‘Activist New York’mcny.orgAn ongoing exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York chronicles 350 years of social activism in the city, including civil rights, immigration, transgender activism and women’s rights. It begins with the struggle for religious tolerance during the Dutch colonial period, encompasses debates over nudity, prostitution and contraception in New York, from 1870 to 1930, and ends more recently, with the Movement for Black Lives. New material is added regularly, so it’s one to revisit. More

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    ‘Be Nice to Tourists’: New York’s Arts Scene Needs International Visitors

    The United States now allows vaccinated international travelers into the country. It’s welcome news for arts institutions that lost revenue and cut jobs during the pandemic.When many readers in Toronto, London, Paris and Hong Kong open their newspapers on Monday, they will be greeted with a full-page advertisement from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.“We reopened in August 2020, but have been missing one critical thing — you, our international visitors,” the ad will say. “The Met is only The Met when it is being enjoyed daily by visitors from around the world.”The unusual display — museum officials say they do not believe they have ever run a global marketing campaign of this scope aimed at visitors so far from their Fifth Avenue home — is a signal of the thirst among New York arts institutions for foreign visitors to return. American borders reopened to international tourists this week for the first time since the early months of 2020. Their return represents another milestone in New York’s reopening, and few sectors of the city’s economy are more of a draw to foreign travelers — or lean more heavily on them for revenue — than the arts.“It’s crucial that we recover this segment,” said Chris Heywood, a vice president for global communications at the city’s tourism agency, NYC & Company. “Arts and culture are going to lead our recovery. That is the backbone.”Indeed, billions of dollars and many thousands of jobs are at stake. Employment in New York City’s arts, entertainment and recreation sector plummeted by 66 percent from December 2019 to December 2020, according to a state report. Even as things reopen, and workers are hired back, challenges remain: The tourism agency forecasts that visitor spending in 2021 will be about $24 billion, roughly half of what was spent in 2019.Few sectors of the city’s economy are more of a draw to foreign travelers — or lean more heavily on them for revenue — than the arts.Angela Weiss/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesInternational visitors typically make up about a fifth of the city’s visitors, but they tend to stay longer and spend more than domestic visitors: what they spend accounts for roughly half of all tourism dollars.On Broadway, tourists from outside the United States comprise about 15 percent of the audience during a traditional season, said Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League. (There is a reason that the website of “The Lion King” is lined with flags indicating where to click for translations of its sales pitch in French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Chinese and Spanish.)The Metropolitan Opera said that international ticket sales have accounted for about 20 percent of total box office revenues during the last five seasons. And more than half of New York’s international visitors go visit an art gallery or museum during their trip, according to data from NYC & Company. One in four go to some kind of live performance when they are in the city — be it a concert, play, musical, a dance performance or opera.So New York has been missing them.“This is a big step forward,” said Victoria Bailey, the executive director of Theater Development Fund, the nonprofit organization that operates the TKTS booth, where about 70 percent of the tickets are bought by tourists and roughly half of those sales are to foreign travelers.Groups catering to tourists from overseas are gearing up. Broadway Inbound, a subsidiary of the Shubert Organization that is responsible for the wholesale distribution of show tickets, recently restarted a marketing program that helps highlight more than 20 partnering shows to group buyers, tour operators and the travel industry.The Metropolitan Museum of Art has moved some of its marketing dollars overseas in part because the it has hit something of a “ceiling” on attendance, Ken Weine, a spokesman for museum, said. Before the pandemic, international travelers accounted for about a third of the museum’s visitors; these days, the number of people who come to the museum daily is about half of what it was before March of 2020.The newspaper ad from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that will run in Toronto, London, Paris and Hong Kong. Museum officials say they do not believe they have ever run a marketing campaign of this scope aimed at visitors so far from their Fifth Avenue home.Metropolitan Museum of ArtMusicals like “The Phantom of the Opera,” which have leveraged the interest of tourists who want to see a long-running show that they are familiar with, have purposefully invested advertising dollars during this holiday season and placed their displays in high-traffic, touristy areas. That is why there is an imposing three-dimensional statue of the Phantom’s mask strategically plopped next to the TKTS booth and outdoor advertising for “Chicago” all over Times Square.Foreign travelers have not yet begun buying tickets to “Phantom” in material numbers, said Aaron Lustbader, the general manager of the show. But officials hope that will change soon.“Typically, January and February are two of the very weakest months of the year and this has certainly been true for ‘Phantom,’” he said. “Our hope is that due to pent-up demand of nearly two years and assuming it would take most people at least a few weeks to put together plans, that the city sees a far higher number of international tourists in these otherwise lean months.”Barry Weissler, a producer of “Chicago,” said the show typically partners with online travel sites to serve ads and try to spark the interest of inbound, foreign tourists ahead of their flights to New York.And for their part, tour operators and ticket vendors overseas say they have started to see their New York business bounce back — somewhat.Eric Lang, who runs an Amsterdam-based travel and information website that helps vacationers plan trips to New York, said his ticket sales in October were up to about 5 percent of normal. This month, sales are closer to 15 to 20 percent of what he had come to expect for this period, before the pandemic. “Growth from zero,” he said.Lee Burns, a product manager for AttractionTickets.com, which sells event tickets to people and travel agents in the United Kingdom, said he thought the timing of the American reopening might have come “a bit too late” to capitalize on the 2021 holiday season. So far, he said, his company’s New York sales are at only about 10 percent of what is normal for the holiday season.“People are booking now for next Thanksgiving and next Christmas,” he said. Nonetheless, he said he and his team are trying to figure out if there is any sort of deal they can offer for this Black Friday.Those who come to New York from overseas will need to navigate and adhere to the rules and vaccine requirements set by the state, the city and individual venues.They will find that many venues and presenters, including Broadway theaters, the Met Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, will admit travelers who show proof of having received one of the vaccines approved by W.H.O. — a list that includes AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Sinovac, vaccines that have not been authorized for use in the United States.To help theatergoers prepare for their visit to “Come From Away,” the show recently released a health and safety video outlining what patrons should expect when they show up at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater. An official with Broadway Inbound said it had touched base with the creators of the video to help ensure it would be educational to both domestic and foreign visitors.Heywood, meantime, had a plea for New Yorkers already here. “Be nice to tourists,” he said. “This is important.” More

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    National Endowment for the Humanities Awards Covid Relief Grants

    The American Rescue Plan Act, with its $87.8 million in funding, will support projects at nearly 300 cultural and educational institutions in the country.The New York Public Library, the USS Constitution Museum in Boston and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in Charlottesville, Va., are among more than 300 beneficiaries of new Covid relief grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities that are being announced on Monday.The grants, which total $87.8 million and are supported by $135 million in funding allocated to the endowment under the American Rescue Plan Act that was signed into law in March, will provide emergency relief to help offset pandemic-related financial losses at museums, libraries, universities and historical sites in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and Northern Marianas. The endowment distributed the first $52.6 million in June.Adam Wolfson, the endowment’s acting chairman, said in a statement that the grants, which can be as much as $500,000 for organizations and $5 million for grant-making programs that distribute funds to organizations, “will save thousands of jobs in the humanities placed at risk by the pandemic and help bring economic recovery to cultural and educational institutions and those they serve.”The cultural and educational institutions will receive a total of $59 million from the endowment, and 13 grant-making organizations will receive $28.8 million to distribute to humanities projects undertaken by organizations or individuals.The funding, designed to allow organizations to retain and rehire staff, as well as rebuild programs and projects disrupted by the pandemic, will enable the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to develop an African-American oral history project at Monticello, the plantation where the former president lived until his death in 1826; allow the New York Public Library to expand its digitized collection of African American, African and African diasporic materials; and support the creation of hands-on experiences and virtual programming about the Navy ship anchored in Boston at the USS Constitution Museum.In New York, 33 of the state’s cultural organizations and three grant-making programs will receive a total of $16.2 million. Funding will support expanded access to materials by historically underrepresented artists in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s library collections; the hiring of a videographer at the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation to document the theater’s legacy, with a focus on African and African American culture; and planning for the Museum of the City of New York’s centennial year in 2023. Firelight Media, a nonprofit that supports filmmakers of color, will also receive $2 million for a grant program for 36 Black, Indigenous and people of color filmmakers whose work on documentary projects was disrupted by the pandemic.Elsewhere, the grants will allow both Old North Church in Boston and Christ Church in Philadelphia to investigate their ties to the colonial slave trade, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to design an immersive living history experience to introduce visitors to their history and culture, and the Willa Cather Foundation in Red Cloud, Neb., to develop tours about the writer whose novels explore the lives of early pioneers there.Around 90 colleges and universities received funding to support their humanities programs and departments: Adjunct faculty at Seattle Central College will work with local tribal representatives to revise history and literature courses to incorporate Indigenous perspectives, the University of Oklahoma Press will develop a new Native American imprint in collaboration with the university’s Native Nations Center and East Tennessee State University will retain and rehire staff to support free online access to materials documenting the history of Southern Appalachia. More

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    Lines Never Felt So Good: Crowds Herald New York’s Reopening

    Museums broke attendance records, movie theaters sold out and jazz fans packed clubs on a Memorial Day weekend that felt far removed from the prior year’s pandemic traumas.The line outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art trailed out the door, down the rain-swept stairs, around the trees and past the fountain and the hot-dog stands on Fifth Avenue as visitors waited under dripping umbrellas. They were among more than 10,000 people who had the same idea for how to fill a rainy Sunday in New York City, turning the holiday weekend into the museum’s busiest since the start of the pandemic.In Greenwich Village, jazz fans lined up to get into Smalls, a dimly lit basement club with a low-ceiling where they could bop their heads and tap their feet to live music. All five limited capacity screenings of Fellini’s “8 ½” sold out on Monday at the Film Forum on Houston Street, and when the Comedy Cellar sold out five shows, it added a sixth.If the rainy, chilly Memorial Day weekend meant that barbecues and beach trips were called off, it revived another kind of New York rainy-day tradition: lining up to see art, hear music and catch films, in a way that felt liberating after more than a year of the pandemic. The rising number of vaccinated New Yorkers, coupled with the recent easing of many coronavirus restrictions, made for a dramatic and happy change from Memorial Day last year, when museums sat eerily empty, nightclubs were silenced, and faded, outdated posters slowly yellowed outside shuttered movie theaters.Most museums are still requiring patrons to be masked.Lila Barth for The New York TimesFor Piper Barron, 18, the return to the movies felt surprisingly normal.“It kind of just felt like the pandemic hadn’t happened,” she said.Standing under the marquee of Cobble Hill Cinemas in Brooklyn, Barron and three friends who had recently graduated high school waited to see “Cruella,” the new Emma Stone movie about the “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” villain. Before the pandemic, the group was in the habit of seeing movies together on Fridays after school, but that tradition was put on hold during the pandemic.“We haven’t done that in a long time — but here we are,” said Patrick Martin, 18. “It’s a milestone.”In recent weeks, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has relaxed many of the coronavirus restrictions that limit culture and entertainment, and Memorial Day weekend was one of the first opportunities for venues to try out the new rules, with a growing numbers of tourists and vaccinated New Yorkers looking forward to a summer of activity.The Met is drawing twice as many visitors as it did two months ago.Lila Barth for The New York TimesAt the Met, Saturday and Sunday each drew more than 10,000 visitors, a record for the museum during the pandemic, and roughly double what it was logging two months ago, before the state loosened capacity restrictions, said Kenneth Weine, a spokesman for the museum.Despite the near-constant rain, museum visitors and moviegoers agreed: this was much better than whatever they did over Memorial Day weekend last year. (“Nothing, just stayed home,” recalled Sharon Lebowitz, who visited the Met on Sunday with her brother.)And when the sun emerged on Monday, people did too, with the High Line in Chelsea drawing crowds that rivaled the old days.Of course, the pandemic is not yet over: an average of 383 cases per day are being reported in New York City, but that is a 47 percent decrease from the average two weeks ago. And there were physical reminders of the pandemic everywhere. At Cobble Hill Cinemas, there were temperature checks and a guarantee that each occupied seat would have four empty ones surrounding it. At the Met, a security staffer asked visitors waiting in line for the popular Alice Neel exhibition to stand further apart from each other.At the Met, visitors waiting in line to see its popular Alice Neel exhibition were asked by a security guard to stand further apart from each other.Lila Barth for The New York TimesAnd, everywhere, there were masks, even though Mr. Cuomo lifted the indoor mask mandate for vaccinated individuals in most circumstances earlier this month. Most museums in the city are maintaining mask rules for now, recognizing that not all visitors would be comfortable being surrounded by a sea of naked faces.“It’s certainly not all back to normal,” said Steven Ostrow, 70, who was examining Cypriot antiquities at the Met.“If it was, we wouldn’t be looking like Bazooka Joe,” he added, referring to a bubble gum-wrapper comic strip, which has a character whose turtleneck is pulled high up over his mouth, mask-like.And at the Museum of Modern Art, the gift shop was offering masks on sale for up to 35 percent off, perhaps a sign that the precaution could be on the way out.Smalls Jazz Club, in Greenwich Village, drew a crowd to hear Peter Bernstein on the guitar, Kyle Koehler on the organ, and Fukushi Tainaka on the drums, with the saxophonist Nick Hempton.Lila Barth for The New York TimesAlthough the state lifted explicit capacity limits for museums and other cultural venues, it still requires six feet of separation indoors, which means that many museums have set their own limits on how many tickets can be sold each hour. And some have retained the capacity limits of previous months, including the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which has capped visitors at 50 percent, and El Museo del Barrio, which remains at 33 percent.Venues that only allow vaccinated guests can dispense with social distancing requirements, which is proving a tempting option for venue owners eager to pack their small spaces. And there seems to be no shortage of vaccinated audience members: On Monday, the Comedy Cellar, which is selling tickets to vaccinated people and those with a negative coronavirus test taken within 24 hours, had to add an extra show because there was such high demand.No one was more pleased to see lines of visitors than the venue owners, who spent the past year eating through their savings, laying off staff and waiting anxiously for federal pandemic relief.Lila Barth for The New York TimesLila Barth for The New York TimesHaving Smalls back open was a relief to its owner, Spike Wilner. “It feels like some kind of Tolstoy novel: there’s the crash and the redemption and then the renewal,” he said.   Lila Barth for The New York TimesDuring the lockdown, Andrew Elgart, whose family owns Cobble Hill Cinemas, said he would sometimes watch movies alone in the theater with only his terrier for company (no popcorn, though — it was too much work to reboot the machine). Reopening to the public was nothing short of therapeutic, he said, especially because most people seemed grateful to simply be there.“These are the most polite and patient customers we’ve had in a long time,” he said.Reopening has been slower for music venues, which tend to book talent months in advance, and who say the economics of reopening with social distancing restrictions is impractical.Those capacity limits and social distancing requirements have kept most jazz clubs in the city closed for now, but Smalls, in the Village, is an exception. In fact, the club was so eager to reopen at any capacity level that it tried to briefly in February, positioning itself primarily as a bar and restaurant with incidental music, said the club’s owner, Spike Wilner. That decision resulted in a steep fine and ongoing red tape, he said.Still, for Wilner, there was no comparison between this year and last, when he was “in hiding” in a rented home in Pennsylvania with his wife and young daughter.“It feels like some kind of Tolstoy novel: there’s the crash and the redemption and then the renewal,” he said as he shepherded audience members into the jazz club. “Honestly, I feel positive for the first time. I’m just relieved to be working and making some money.” More

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    10 Classical Concerts to Stream in March

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }At HomeWatch: ‘WandaVision’Travel: More SustainablyFreeze: Homemade TreatsCheck Out: Podcasters’ Favorite PodcastsAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main story10 Classical Concerts to Stream in MarchMitsuko Uchida, the Louisiana Philharmonic and a performance organized by Teju Cole are among the highlights.The pianist Mitsuko Uchida will stream a Schubert program this month through Cal Performances.Credit…Hiroyuki Ito for The New York TimesFeb. 25, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ETAs the live performing arts continue to struggle through the coronavirus pandemic, here are 10 highlights from the flood of online music content coming in March. (Times listed are Eastern.)‘Die Tote Stadt’Feb. 28 at 1 p.m.; operavision.eu; available through March 28.Korngold’s breakthrough opera has not been well served on DVD. Some productions emphasize the plot’s salaciousness at the expense of its musical beauty. For others, the problem is the reverse. If anyone can achieve the delicate balance of the two elements, it’s the experienced director Robert Carsen, whose production of the rapturous, late Romantic score — a precursor to Korngold’s influential Hollywood work — appeared at the Komische Oper in Berlin in 2018, and is streaming now. The soprano Sara Jakubiak stars, and has made something of a specialty of Korngold in recent years, including appearing in another recent Berlin staging, at the Deutsche Oper, of “Das Wunder der Heliane.” SETH COLTER WALLSTeju Cole and Orchestra of St. Luke’sMarch 3 at 6:30 p.m.; oslmusic.org; available until March 10.This ensemble, which has responded robustly and creatively to the constraints of streamed performance, begins a new words-and-music series, “Sounds and Stories,” with a program organized by the writer Teju Cole and hosted by the actor David Hyde Pierce. Cole will read selections from his work alongside visual elements and pieces by an eclectic array of composers: Caroline Shaw, Yvette Janine Jackson, Henryk Gorecki, Unsuk Chin, Kaija Saariaho and Hildegard von Bingen. Oh, and Beethoven. ZACHARY WOOLFEAnthony McGill will collaborate with the Catalyst Quartet on a performance presented by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.Credit…Hiroyuki Ito for The New York TimesAnthony McGillMarch 9 at 7 p.m.; Facebook and YouTube; available indefinitely.“Cadence: The Sounds of Justice, the Sounds of a Movement,” presented by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has been organized by Anthony McGill, the New York Philharmonic’s principal clarinet and the latest winner of the Avery Fisher Prize. Inspired by the Great Migration and works in the museum’s collection, McGill is joined by the Catalyst Quartet, with whom he collaborated on the group’s album “Uncovered, Vol. 1: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.” They will play Coleridge-Taylor’s Clarinet Quintet in F sharp minor alongside Kerry James Marshall’s 2014 painting “Untitled (Studio),” and a premiere by Richard Danielpour, in front of Philip Guston’s “Stationary Figure” (1973). Closing the concert will be Adolphus Hailstork’s solo “Three Smiles for Tracey,” juxtaposed with Joel Shapiro’s sculpture “Untitled” (2000-01). JOSHUA BARONESteven BanksMarch 10 at 7:30 p.m.; Facebook and YouTube; available indefinitely.This adventurous saxophonist and composer presents his debut recital for the organization Young Concert Artists, which named him the winner of its prestigious international auditions competition in 2019. The program, with the pianist Xak Bjerken, includes premieres by Carlos Simon and Saad Haddad and Banks’s own new work “Come As You Are.” He will also perform Mozart’s Oboe Quartet in F (with members of the Zorá Quartet) and Schumann’s “Fantasiestücke” for Clarinet and Piano — both arranged for saxophone. And why not? The sax, after all, is a latter-day cousin of both those instruments. ANTHONY TOMMASINILouisiana Philharmonic OrchestraMarch 12 at 8 p.m.; lpomusic.com; available through September.There are two Copland works on this program: “Appalachian Spring” and the Clarinet Concerto. But the bigger news is the performance of Courtney Bryan’s violin concerto “Syzygy,” featuring Jennifer Koh as soloist. The Louisiana players have a longstanding connection with Bryan’s music; having performed her orchestral work “Rejoice,” they’ve also named this composer-pianist a “creative partner.” So they may well have a feel for her take on Americana, which often includes elements of spirituals and the blues. (Bryan’s “Blessed,” a commission for Opera Philadelphia’s online channel, is also streaming from Feb. 26.) SETH COLTER WALLSThe mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey performs Kurt Weill at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.Credit…Victor Llorente for The New York TimesKate LindseyMarch 14 at 2 p.m.; teatroallascala.org, as well as YouTube and Facebook; available through March 21.One of my favorite albums in recent years has been “Thousands of Miles,” a program mostly of Kurt Weill songs performed by the mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey and the pianist Baptiste Trotignon with cabaret-like cool; Lindsey brings to these works both the radiant lyricism of Teresa Stratas and the raw Sprechstimme of Lotte Lenya, two iconic Weill interpreters. That album is the basis for this recital with Trotignon at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where Lindsey will also appear in March for a double bill of Weill’s “The Seven Deadly Sins” and “Mahagonny-Songspiel,” conducted by Riccardo Chailly and streaming on RaiPlay on March 18. JOSHUA BARONEMitsuko UchidaMarch 18 at 10 p.m.; calperformances.org; available through June 16.For Mitsuko Uchida, Schubert’s piano works have been a lifelong work in progress, which is why, years after she recorded the bulk of them, they are still well worth hearing anew — lately, in online recitals. From Wigmore Hall in London she recently streamed the Sonata in C (D. 840) for the Cleveland Orchestra. Next is this program for Cal Performances, featuring the forlorn yet tender Impromptu in A flat (D. 935); the famous Impromptu in C minor (D. 899), with its spare, enigmatic opening march embellished through chords and variations; and the Sonata in G (D. 894), a font of serenity that’s as good a spiritual balm as anything right now. JOSHUA BARONESarah CahillMarch 20 at 10:30 p.m.; YouTube; available indefinitely.A champion of American music and living composers, this pianist is also known as host of the popular program Revolutions Per Minutes on KALW in San Francisco. This recital, presented by the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, Calif., is a celebration of the 19th Amendment, and includes works by female composers from the 18th century to the present day, among them Clara Schumann, Amy Beach, Margaret Bonds and Vitezslava Kapralova. ANTHONY TOMMASINICaramoor will stream a recital by the bass-baritone Dashon Burton, left.Credit…Hiroyuki Ito for The New York TimesDashon BurtonMarch 21 at 3 p.m.; caramoor.org; available until March 23.Known as a member of the contemporary vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth as much as for trumpeting performances in Handel’s “Messiah,” this burnished-tone bass-baritone appears in recital with the pianist David Fung under the auspices of Caramoor. The program includes Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” as well as spirituals and works by Dowland, Margaret Bonds, Florence Price and William Bolcom. ZACHARY WOOLFELouisville OrchestraMarch 27 at 7:30 p.m.; louisvilleorchestra.vhx.tv; available until May 23.The exuberance of this ensemble and its young music director, Teddy Abrams, is captured in its name for its streaming series: Louisville Orchestra Virtual Edition, or LOVE. Installments explore Classical and folk styles, and, on March 27, the legacy of Black traditions. Abrams conducts from the keyboard in Ravel’s jazz-influenced Piano Concerto in G, and the local rapper, activist, teacher and Louisville Metro Council member Jecorey Arthur performs. ZACHARY WOOLFEAdvertisementContinue reading the main story More