At the same time, in almost operatic terms, they acknowledged longer-lasting travails.
“At the end of the day, we’re facing existential challenges,” said Lyric CEO Anthony Freud in an interview. “I believe the Lyric will be back.”
Still, he added, “the new normal will be profoundly different than the old normal.”
In a statement, the Joffrey said: “Recovering will not be easy. More difficult decisions will be made. Please know that our goal is to do everything possible to preserve the Joffrey in its fullest form. No stone is going unturned."
The Joffrey said it lost more than $1 million from the premature end of the 2019-20 season.
After 25 years in Chicago, the Joffrey expected to mount its forthcoming season at the Lyric Opera House for the first time. Still scheduled in 2021 are "Of Mice and Men," Balanchine's "Serenade," and "The Little Mermaid."
The Lyric is projecting lost revenue of as much as $24 million from cancelling four productions, including Pucini’s “Tosca,” this fall—a third of the season schedule by title.
Freud said the $27 million-plus it expected to forgo by suspending the current season in March has been whittled down to $13.6 million through furloughs, salary and hour reductions, increased donations and union concessions.
“It was a complicated series of compromises that included, yes, concessions,” Freud said. “It’s still an eye-watering, devastating amount of money.”
If the Lyric resumes in January, its first performance will be timely: the Chicago premiere of "Blue," a new work exploring the relationship between an African American teenager and his police officer father. It had been postponed from this season.
The other seven performances still planned for next year include Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Singin' in the Rain.”
Patrons will get refunds and may cash, donate or apply them to future performances.
Freud said the Lyric will decide in October whether to finish the opera season that runs through March. In February, it will consider whether to stage “Singin' in the Rain” in June.
The opera company faced financial strains even before the pandemic. It once staged 85 to 90 performances per season, compared with 56 two years ago.
During the fiscal year ended in June 2019, revenue that included ticket sales rose to $46 million from $42 million, according to the Lyric’s latest posted financial statement. However, “total support”—encompassing donations—fell to $76.5 million from $81.5 million. It listed expenses in each year that offset total support.
In 2018, after a five-day strike, musicians agreed to a contract that reduced the size of the orchestra and guaranteed workweeks but increased, they said, pay by 5.6 percent over three years.
Freud, 62 and in his ninth season at the Lyric, said his contract has been extended until 2021 and discussions are underway about another extension.
Union talks continue, he said. The Lyric's chorus, stage management and solo singers are represented by the American Guild of Musical Artists and its orchestra by the Chicago Federation of Musicians. Stagehands and backstage crews are covered separately.
“Our goal is, and always has been, to find a balance between protecting the individuals and protecting our company,” Freud said in a statement, adding in the interview, “We’re in a vacuum of uncertainty.”
Besides "Tosca," the Lyric's cancellations involve Verdi's "Attila," the double-bill "Cavalleria rusticana" and "Pagliacci," and "Lessons in Love and Violence."