Navigating the novel coronavirus at Portland Opera

Last updated: July 20, 2020

Summary: As a leading convener for arts and culture in the Portland metro area and Oregon, Portland Opera is continuing to develop protocols, practices, and plans to keep our audiences, artists, employees, staff, and collaborators safe.  Our goal remains to assist in containing the spread of the virus, while advocating for the long-term health of our organization, and the well-being of the many wonderful people who constitute Portland Opera.

We are building our action plans by following guidelines established by Oregon Governor Kate Brown. You can learn more about the framework for these plans here.

Community Measures & Audience Policies

  • Best practices for safety. We will welcome audiences, artists, musicians, and staff members to convene at the theatre, or in the rehearsal room, when we have the green light to do so from government leadership; and have clearly established guidelines and practices in place to keep everyone safe at the opera. Our team is working closely with peer organizations locally, regionally, and through national forums to standardize guidelines for safely reopening when the time is right; while continuing to monitor guidance and recommendations from leaders and scholars.
  • Updated ticketing policies. We’ve updated our ticketing policies to allow patrons the option of receiving a refund or donating the value of their tickets to the company as a charitable contribution. Previously, we’ve not offered refunds, and we know that this change has been an important one for many of our patrons whose families and lives have been impacted by changed circumstances. We’ve been moved by the generosity of donated tickets and continue to provide personalized customer service for our patrons. You can contact our team Monday – Wednesday, 10 AM – 5 PM, by calling 503-241-1802.
  • Community connections. One of our core values is to be a connector and convener in the community. To that end, we’ve been busy! Our Costume Shop sewed fabric masks for added protection of community members, and we’ve provided weekly arts learning activities for students learning from home. We’ve also connected with wellness calls in the form of delivering opera and classical music jokes via phone and email. We’ve launched a series of pop-up concerts to serenade passersby and essential workers at OHSU from the balcony of the Hampton Opera Center. We also share moments from these concerts through our social media channels, to add some joy and music into the digital space. For July, we are celebrating the 19/20 Portland Opera Resident Artists with a series of virtual recitals and collaborations to mark the conclusion of our season. You can learn more and explore this content by visiting our Facebook page, or viewing our YouTube channel.

Employees, Artists, & Musicians | Protections & Policies

  • The staff of Portland Opera has been working remotely since early March, and we continue to work from home during this time. The administration is finalizing a road map for what measures must be in place in order for the team to return to the office, and we will implement that plan when the time is right.  For now, the best way to contact us may be via email – you can view our staff directory here.
  • Cancelled performances are the result of formal guidance from our government and leadership. We align ourselves with those decisions in order to ensure patron and community safety, as well as the safety of our company. Our artists, musicians, singers, and staff members also need to be protected by adhering to social distancing guidance, and safe environments.  Opera is an intimate art form, and we continue to work with artists, managers, and union representatives to monitor guidance, scholarly recommendations, and best practices to protect all collaborators.
  • We’ve made adjustments to our HR policies to continue to follow national guidance about time away from the office due to illness, childcare needs, and more. Our Administration continues to employ new policies and changing guidance to help staff members navigate options and support, including mental health support and wellness programs.

Workforce Management & Employee/Artist Relations

  • As one of the leading arts employers in the state of Oregon, we know that cancellations and decreased work opportunities impact many households and individuals. We’ve consistently followed the state and local mandates for closures and are trying to mitigate the impact for our employees.

Artist Updates: Throughout this process, and from day one of mandated cancellations, we’ve worked diligently with unions and artists to honor compensation for cancelled contracts to the best of our ability, and we continue to remain in communication with all parties about how to balance the desire for work and the safety of our musicians and artists.

Staff Updates: In November, 2019 we began implementation of core focus areas of our strategic plan, and aligned our staffing structure in support of our goals—in some cases eliminating or redefining roles. As a result of our 19/20 season cancellations, we proceeded with additional staffing reductions in March.

We applied for the federal Payroll Protection Program, and received funding in April, 2020. This funding has enabled us to partially honor our commitments to artists, unions, and administrative staff without dipping into our endowment.

June 29, we enacted another workforce management adjustment.  In order to keep the company financially solvent through this crisis, our staff members are activating leaves of absences and/or following reduced schedules in partnership with Oregon’s WorkShare program.

On July 14, members of Oregon’s Legislative Emergency Board approved more than $200 million from federal coronavirus relief for numerous programs and organizations throughout the state. $50 million was allocated for arts, cultural, and heritage organizations affected by the shutdowns from COVID-19. Portland Opera is among the recipients named in this legislation, with relief funding in the amount of $875,000.

If you have questions about this, please contact Richard Seals, Chief Financial Officer, at

Strategic Planning & Long-term Fiscal Health

  • As we adjust course with public programming schedules, our team remains committed to ensuring a bright future for Portland Opera.
    • We are focused on fiscal responsibility as we navigate this crisis. We are working with industry leaders to adjust forecasts for next season, and beyond, while we monitor trends.  We have joined regional and national cohorts to delve into research about the needs of our community members and patrons, and we have taken action to manage expenses during this interval.
    • We are focused on strategic planning milestones and benchmarks, including a renewal of our commitment to our mission and values. We’re implementing projects to transform our ticketing and e-commerce platforms, offer additional community engagement options for the future, and more. You can learn about our strategic plan progress here.

Let’s plan for joy.

When we can gather together again it will be a true celebration.  Until then: be well and take care.