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A New York City cultural institution’s misfortune has a silver lining for its fans: the Metropolitan Opera is selling tickets for $50 because of a cyberattack. The FBI are investigating the attack, which took down the opera’s website and box office systems, amid concerns it might have been carried out by Russian hackers because of the venue’s high-profile support for Ukraine.

The Metropolitan Opera at the Lincoln Center
The Metropolitan Opera faces hackers who have hobbled their ticket sales. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The tickets are for general admission for performances of the upcoming Rigoletto and Aida. They will be the only new tickets on sale until the hack is resolved, the venue said. The Met added that because of the hack, they do not know what seats are empty until before the performance and buyers will be directed to empty seats by ushers just before it begins.

“The Met has experienced a cyberattack that has temporarily impacted our network systems, which include our website, box office, and call center,” it said in a statement on an emergency website “All performances will take place as scheduled; however, at this time we are unable to process new ticket orders or facilitate exchanges and refunds.

“We are grateful to our friends at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts who have allowed us to continue to offer tickets to select upcoming performances through their website,” they added. Even payroll operations have been affected, meaning its staff are working without knowing how and when they will get paid.

The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center
The opera venue has been compromised at one of its busiest times of the year. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The cyberattack, which began Tuesday took down the Met’s ticketing system, which handles as much as $200,000 in sales a day during its busiest season. “Other than the stage and our singers, nothing is working,” The Met’s general manager Peter Gelb told the New York Times, adding that while the identity of the hackers was not yet clear, the FBI was actively investigating the incident. 

According to the Times, there is speculation that the hack is linked to Russia, potentially in retribution to the venue’s support for Ukraine throughout Russia’s invasion, both in producing a concert to benefit Ukrainian relief efforts and in cutting ties with Russian soprano Anna Netrebko for failing to renounce President Vladimir Putin’s actions. 

The hack came as a surprise not only to the venue, but to opera fans. Some said that the venue should focus its efforts on rectifying the company’s payroll operations, which were also affected by the breach. “Haven’t been told if or when they are getting paid, yet the shows go on — they work all day to set up and build! A little respect for all the workers in the Met!” said one commenter on the Met’s Instagram announcement, while another added: “I hope that as much effort is going into securing payment for your workers as is going into selling tickets.” 

Others on social media discussed the possibility of the goal and origin of the hack. “What are the hackers demanding as ransom? The Rheingold?” said one commenter on Reddit as another said: “I mean. It’s Russia right? That seems like the obvious explanation.” Added another: “The Met, for its many faults, came out with strong support for Ukraine early on and has connections with a lot of international elites, so it doesn’t seem too conspiratorial to suspect Russia to me.”

The attack joins several other high-profile hacks of New York systems, including a 2017 breach of the New York Times, a 2021 attack on the New York City Law Department, an extensive hack of an entire Long Island County’s systems this fall and even the MTA, whose computer systems were breached by hackers with suspected ties to the Chinese government in April 2021.

At the Met, Gelb told the Times that the timing of the attack couldn’t be worse. “At a time when you’re trying to get more people interested in opera and attending your performances, it’s incredibly frustrating,” he said. “We all want the same thing, which is to make it easier for people to attend performances, not more difficult.” As for the timeline to get systems warmed back up, Gelb told the publication that assessment was ongoing.“It takes time, because when you have been hacked, you have to be sure that whatever functions are going back online are not going to be compromised,” he added.

The Met’s $50 tickets are available from the Lincoln Center website for Verdi’s Rigoletto on December 11 at 3pm and December 14 at 8pm; and for Verdi’s Aida on December 13 at 7.30pm.

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  1. I have empathy for the Met during this unexpected situation however, the Met still hasn’t paid its wardrobe staff and some of the performers. Peter Gelb expects everyone to come together to keep the opera running and to help him out while he collects sympathy and publicity. Apparently he can’t figure out how to cut emergency paper checks to pay his staff? And after the negotiations during the COVID shutdown where the Met expected its
    workers to take a 50 percent pay cut, I worry more for the workers than I do the fate of the Met.

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