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Boston Symphony Orchestra officially calls off fall 2020 season

The BSO has officially canceled its fall season at Symphony Hall.David L Ryan/Globe staff/file

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has canceled its fall programming at Symphony Hall amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellation covers 37 concerts of 14 programs (scheduled for Sept. 16-Nov. 28), including a two-week Beethoven marathon led by music director Andris Nelsons, the Boston premiere of Kevin Puts’s “The Brightness of Light” featuring Renée Fleming, the Symphony Hall debut of BSO assistant conductor Anna Rakitina, and the world premiere of Julia Wolfe’s BSO-commissioned “Her Story,” written for the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

“It is heartbreaking for all of us associated with the Boston Symphony Orchestra to continue to put the live concert experience on hold while the COVID-19 pandemic runs its course,” CEO and president Mark Volpe said in a statement. “Through this period of unprecedented challenge, the orchestra, staff, and board leadership are focused first and foremost on supporting and sustaining the Boston Symphony and its community, with the highest priority being the health and safety of everyone associated with the orchestra.”


Never in its 139-year history has the BSO canceled so many concerts. The fall of 1918 saw the season delayed by two weeks due to the influenza pandemic, and Tanglewood seasons were shortened for three summers and canceled for one during World War II. In light of uncertainties around the return of live performances, all patron subscriptions for 2020-21 have been suspended; subscribers will be contacted in September about their options.

In place of in-person programming, the orchestra plans to create a new series of online content for the fall, in the vein of the BSO At Home and Tanglewood Online offerings that have (to date) prompted over 13 million interactions on the orchestra’s website and social media pages. Details of the fall online season will be announced in September.


A decision about the 2020 Holiday Pops season will be announced in October. The orchestra will decide by the end of this calendar year whether live performances with audiences will resume during the winter/spring portion of the season, which runs Jan. 7 to May 1, 2021.

The orchestra has not yet released estimated revenue loss due to the fall 2020 cancellations. Spokespeople have said the organization expects to lose some $30 million in revenue from cancellations of its spring and summer BSO and Pops programming, including the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular.

Zoë Madonna can be reached at zoe.madonna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten. Madonna’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

A.Z. Madonna can be reached at az.madonna@globe.com. Follow her @knitandlisten.