The Metropolitan Opera will not visit Washington next year and will discontinue its national tour entirely at the end of the 1986 season, its president announced yesterday in New York.
The announcement confirmed speculation, circulating since its centennial season last year, that the oldest and largest opera company in the United States was planning to end its postseason touring.
"This is a step we have taken after much consideration, and with great reluctance, but it has become unavoidable," Bruce Crawford, president of the company, told reporters in New York. "The tour has been economically unsound for several years, and has resulted in losses to the Metropolitan Opera of well over $1 million a year."
The decision to leave Washington out of next year's Met tour had already been reached but not announced, according to Roger Stevens, a board member of the Metropolitan Opera and board chairman of the Kennedy Center.
Detroit, previously a regular stop on the Met tour, had dropped out for the 1986 tour because local sponsors could not raise the subsidy of nearly $1 million necessary to bring the Met to town for a week. "That meant that they would have to come to Washington a week earlier than planned," Stevens said, "and we already have the Stuttgart ballet booked into the Opera House for that week.
"We had planned to have them back the following season, but now they won't be going anywhere the following season."
In May 1986, the Met's final tour will play only in Boston, Atlanta, Cleveland and Minneapolis. In its heyday, the national tour took in more than a dozen cities, according to David Reuben, the company's director of comunications.
The 1985 tour, which played for a week in Washington, had already marked a significant falling-off in quality and quantity from the previous year, the centennial season, when the Met played here with its finest productions and a galaxy of internationally famous stars. That was a two-week run, and it involved serious deficits in spite of standing-room audiences.
"We talked about it and thought about it for quite a while," said Stevens. "It's a terrible matter of economics. That's why we cut it back to one week this time; we lost too much to make it practical. It's a problem facing us with ballet and other performing arts as well; the cost has gone so high that that it's very hard to bring them in without a disastrous loss. They don't feel that they should subsidize us, and we don't feel that we should subsidize them."
Stevens said the Kennedy Center is now considering a variety of options, including performances at the Kennedy Center by foreign opera companies. "We want the best opera we can get for local patrons," he said. "But, while we are exploring many possibilities, we have no firm plans yet."