Arts & Culture

The Houston Ballet had to reschedule ‘Madame Butterfly’ because of pandemic supply chain issues

Scenery and costumes were expected in Houston this Fall, but won’t arrive in time.

Madame Butterfly, Houston Ballet
Madame Butterfly, at the Houston Ballet.

The Houston Ballet will push back its 2022 performance of “Madame Butterfly” because of supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ballet’s executive director confirmed Thursday.

Scenery and costumes for the production were set to arrive in Houston this Fall, but will not arrive in time to prepare for the show’s slotted March performance due to various port and shipping delays in Australia, Executive Director James Nelson said.

"We value our subscribers and ticket buyers, and supporters and we certainly apologize for this change,” Nelson said. “We hope that it’s the least disruptive possible change that we can make and we're really looking forward to seeing everyone for the holidays.”

“Madame Butterfly” is now scheduled to run from June 16-26, and will be replaced by the show “Sylvia,” moving to March 10-22. Nelson said the ballet company will send email updates to current ticket holders.

Global supply chain delays have gotten increasingly worse during the pandemic, and Dr. Gordon Smith — professor of supply chain management at the University of Houston — said the congestion is everywhere.

"All global maritime port operators are seeing the same supply chain characteristics,” Smith wrote in an email. “Impacts of COVID-19 to labor, lack of shipping containers, vessels not meeting ‘designated berth windows' at departure locations (which is) probably what started the ball ‘not rolling' on time for the Houston Ballet.”

Smith added that large organizations like Walmart and Amazon have taken a "pivot" from normal operating processes to improve outcomes. The big box stores are now chartering vessels, acquiring containers, and shipping to alternative ports.

"The problem goes in both directions,” Smith said. “Export from U.S. ports as well as imports."

The Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority met last month for its regular monthly meeting. In a report to the Port Commission, Executive Director Roger Guenther said that Houston is not immune to the challenges that ports across the nation are experiencing, as retailers rebuild inventory to meet high demand.

He noted that Houston docks are full, and the average ship waits about 60 hours before calling the port. However, Port Houston has been able to mitigate significant impacts on truck-turn times despite the increase in historic cargo volumes.

"We are working together with labor to turn ships around as quickly as possible," Guenther wrote in the report.

Meanwhile, Nelson, of the Houston Ballet, said the show must go on.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing everyone for the Holidays with Nutcracker and the remainder of our season,” Nelson said.

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