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Met latest: Artists celebrate, Gelb in disarray

August 19, 2014 by norman lebrecht

63 comments.


The stage unions go back into talks with the Met this morning, having offered a five-year wage freeze which Met manager Peter Gelb peremptorily rejected.

Expect him to climb down once more.

He demanded 16-17% cuts from the orchestra and chorus and settled for 3.5 percent now, 3.5 percent later. No huge pain for the musicians, but huge gain.

They have won the right to be party to major spending decisions, limiting Gelb’s powers as manager and probably shortening his time in office.

“The contract includes an unprecedented mechanism for greater financial oversight of the Met’s spending going forward,” said Jessica Phillips Rieske, chair of the orchestra committee. “We hope it will lead to better collaboration in pursuit of real efficiencies.”

jessica phillips rieske

Jessica is a heroine of this dispute: reasoned, and firm in her resolve.

The Gelb autocracy is over. He survives with fewer teeth and much less public credit, having yielded almost every point he tried to secure.

His PR will try to present Peter Gelb as a reasonable man, a conciliator.

In fact, it was the desperate measure of calling in a federal conciliator to solve the dispute that saved him from the consequences of his previous actions. Gelb the noisy cannon has become Gelb the liability.

 

 

 


Comments (63)

  1. Nick says:

    I am not sure Gelb is in disarray. From the reports we have read, though, he has certainly been emasculated. He no longer has freedom to operate as he, Gelb, wishes. His standing with the media and much of the public is also shot to bits. His canard about opera being at the abyss has been seen to be the lie it always was. His standing with his many employees may never recover. The Board may have no alternative but to stick with him or pay out on his massive contract. Without that, I reckon he’d be out before the end of the year.

    1. Save the MET says:

      Gelb is now a gelding. The Board needs to throw out the trash for cause. My hunch based upon Metropolitan Opera contracts I have read over the years is they have a loophole for everything. They have always operated on that basis. Best guess, is he will leave with alot less than everyone thinks if he is cast aside. Chapin left with very little when he was sacked.

      1. Lewes says:

        Oh, you have a “hunch.” How cute.

        You know as well as I do that if you had even a shred of fact, you’d be shouting it from the housetops. You don’t, so you’re making stuff up.

        1. Save the MET says:

          Whatever

  2. Michael Volpe says:

    A mechanism for overseeing future expenditure? By whom will it be overseen?
    That is what a board is for surely? Or do the technicians and chorus and musicians who have gone to the wire to protect their pretty substantial wages going to determine what artistic expenditure other artists can make? Or what is spent on a production? Quite extraordinary situation if so and as such Gelb is right about the future of opera and the Met.

    1. Nick says:

      Of course it is a Board’s responsibility! But the Met’s present Board has made it perfectly clear it is unable to control its own appointed GM. In permitting Gelb to increase expenditure by 56.4% during the worst recession in a lifetime at the same time it has watched income drop alarmingly, the Board has washed its hands of its own obligations. Worse, it has handed a 10-year contract to the man responsible for that increase. Since the Board is inept, it’s just as well someone is going to check expenditure in future. I do see this means staff determine artistic expenditure. What I can see is that there is a financial controller who makes sure the administration keeps within the limits it sets out in its annual budgets. Precisely what any competent financial controller should be doing.

      1. Nick says:

        Apologies. The third last sentence should read. “I do NOT see . . . “

        1. EmilyEllen says:

          The person who will be overseeing the finances is Eugene Keilin, the same person who conducted the independent analysis of the Met’s finances during the mediation process. The “gives” on the part of Gelb get even better. One of them is that Gelb must match the value of the labor cuts on the administrative side as well in order that the union workers not bear more than their share. In addition, Gelb is to cut $11.25 million worth of other expenses each year for the next 4 years. And there’s more. Pages A-1 & A-17 of 8/19 NY Times has a good article on the contract.

  3. Lee says:

    This seems odd. Gelb agreed to cut some costs out of the budget. Wasn’t he always willing to do that? If anyone is emasculated it’s Allan” Peril” Gordon. Turned out all his threats and wind were just that, threats and wind.

    1. Nick says:

      What Gelb sought – and what he ALWAYS said he was seeking – was NOT a cut in basic salaries! He wanted cuts in other conditions of employment, items like overtime, benefits etc. He informed the world he wanted savings of around 17% specifically in those items or he would implement a lock out. As far as we can tell, he got some cuts in salaries (which admittedly will have a tiny on-going effect on overtime payments), but nothing in respect of working conditions as they affect overtime, benefits etc.!

      Yes, he also said he was prepared to make cuts in other areas of the budget under his direct control. Clearly, though, he has compromised big time. If he is going to cut real costs, then he will have to be far less profligate about how he authorises overtime in future – or he’ll end up in more or less the same mess in a few years time.

    2. Save the MET says:

      Huh? Gelb is now a feckless has been, he gave up more than half of what he demanded and he’s got baby sitters, the board, the musicians and the chorus on every decision he wants to make. He has little control and an operation the size of the Metropolitan Opera cannot have a weakling at the helm. The Board should replace him immediately

  4. Pamela Brown says:

    As one whose love for the Met began when my grade school class in Fairfield, CT was bussed in to watch rehearsals, I can only say that I am relieved and a little verchlempft that everyone, including Mr. Gelb, seems to acknowledge that a win-win situation can requires a sense of teamwork…

    1. Save the MET says:

      This was not a win-win, it was a win-lose.

      1. Pamela Brown says:

        You may be right, and when I read the details I may come to agree with you.

        Just the same, the Met players were at least spared the level of distress the MO players endured, and the season will go on as scheduled…

        1. Save the MET says:

          That’s true, Minnesota was a disaster.

    2. Amy says:

      Pamela, I just noticed that your comment below (with a different thumbnail pic) links to your Twitter account, but this comment has a different picture of you, with no link.
      How do you keep your multitudinous log-ins and identities straight?

        1. Amy says:

          “Otee” again?
          No, this is the thing: Part of civilized discourse is the trust that you’re talking with one human being at a time, not fictional sock puppets created to pump up threads or drive invisible personal agendas. Sometimes I look at the verbal stylings of commenters here and they have the same flavor, the imprint of characters in a novel. (A kind of corny one.)

          It is not off-topic to point out that you log in as Pamela Brown one way, and Pamela Brown another way. Rather, it serves as a reminder to the actual human beings posting here that if Pamela Brown can post with this Pic #1 and this Pic #2 …she can quite easily post under limitless identities. And does.

          1. sdReader says:

            Yes, Pamela, just be yourself. You don’t seem to be so bad. Why add the layers?

          2. Pamela Brown says:

            Amy, you know very well that posting using one’s name and a photo is not the same as running around using multiple aliases. Why is it necessary for you to reiterate a false statement?

            You introduced my name into a thread and tried to do the same thing on the SOTL blog a few weeks ago when I don’t even usually post there, didn’t you. Why?

            I would appreciate an end to this libel and an apology.

          3. Pamela Brown says:

            SDReader…there is a specific definition for libel which involves false statements deliberately being used to destroy one’s credibility in order to block opportunity. I don’t have any time to waste. If I have no other option I will use a legal remedy.

  5. Pamela Brown says:

    That was “can require”…:-0

  6. Gelb won. The musicians lost, they’ve accepted the cuts. His was a very smart strategy of demanding outlandish cuts which he knew were never going to go through then have the unions think they weren’t manipulated into accepting the cuts Gelb and the Board *really* wanted. Great job, Mr. Gelb. And you did it without work interruption. Now on to a fabulous opera season!

    1. NYMike says:

      A great “win” for Gelb if you mean that he can no longer import outlandish mechanical Wagner sets prone to breaking down from Canada at double the expense as well as poppy fields that have to be trucked in and out in the middle of the night at double overtime for the stagehands and truckers. He also “won” no changes in work-rules he so desired.

      1. You’re naive to think Gelb’s draconian work rules demands were serious. It was part of the strategy to ask for the impossible and get what he really wanted. Truth is, musicians will make less money. Gelb won. And if you think stagehands not making double overtime anymore is a “loss” for Gelb, it is not, it’s another win.

        1. NYMike says:

          Who are you really? A post with your exact wording from “Jack Ewing” is up on the NY Times website. How much is Gelb paying you?

    2. Save the MET says:

      If you call having your employees empowered to veto your plans a win, you are truly deranged. If you call settling for a fraction under 50% of what you asked for a win in a union negotiation a win, you don’t understand what negotiations are. Simply stated Gelb lost not only the cut negotiation, he was crippled as well.

    3. Nick says:

      Gelb won???? Oh dear! Now it really is time to get your head out of whichever cloud cuckoo land you seem to inhabit. Both sides compromised, but Gelb has the rare distinction of succeeding in emasculating himself and his job. His position as GM of the Met and his credibility as the public face of the Met have been shot to bits. Now he’s even agreed to be saddled with a Financial Auditor scrutinising his every move and reporting back to the Unions. Would I agree to run a company so shackled? No way!

      1. Lewes says:

        As Dame Nellie once famously said, “Don’t worry, dear, you’ll never be asked.”

        1. EmilyEllen says:

          We will never know what Gelb really wanted, but surely it was more than he got. And surely he didn’t want his financial decisions to be overseen. The hurtful thing for Gelb, though, is that the world read what he was demanding, & the world now sees what he got & gave away. And they saw him cede his so-called immovable lockout deadlines again & again. As my mother used to say,”He has egg on his face.”

        2. Nick says:

          Don’t be so sure!!

  7. NYMike says:

    Who are you really? A post with your exact wording from “Jack Ewing” is up on the NY Times website. How much is Gelb paying you?

  8. Amy says:

    NYMike, there’s a commenter who shows up here frequently under numerous identities, often to argue with herself. “Joan Marshall” has shown up on Song of the Lark, using similar phrasings as “George Kaplan”.

  9. Alex says:

    I think that Mr. Lebrecht should try to run the Met himself. Maybe after failing miserably, he wouldn’t bash Peter Gelb so much. I’m no fan of Peter; however, he is the boss; and love him or hate him, you have to work with him if you are employed at the Met!

    1. Nick says:

      With all respect, that is one of the more ridiculous comments on this blog. Peter Gelb was interviewed by a Search Committee headed by Beverly Sills as a favour to her old friend Ronald Wilford, the Chairman of Columbia Artists Inc., and then by the main Board. Despite his very obvious lack of qualifications in any form of opera management – indeed in running any major people-oriented organisation anywhere, the then-Board appointed him. To suggest even in jest that NL should try his hand at running the Met is utterly absurd.

      If you had suggested Tony Hall, the former Director General of the Royal Opera House, I’d have agreed. He would be doing a far better job and PG would be looking for a job after running Sony Classical into the ground.

  10. Andrew Patner says:

    Ah, are you all just now learning about Ms (?) Pamela McElwain-Brown of Minneapolis USA (and always “born in Fairfield CT”? For seven years (until January 2014) she ran Blogspot weblogs called AndrewAndJoshua and JoshuaAndAndrew in which she impersonated a young gay male couple in Minneapolis and Boston as well as all of their friends, relatives, *and* site commenters. Behind these sock puppets she went after the then longtime critic of the Cleveland newspaper mercilessly and falsely. Again hiding her (?) identity she viciously went after individual orchestra players in Minnesota by name during their lockout. She is also very active — in this case using the Pamela McElwain-Brown name — as a JFK assassination conspiracy theorist. Apparently PMcEB at last lost interest in her web children and left them all hanging seven months ago. Here is her flute website: http://www.themagicflute.org She reminds me overall of a character in a late Hitchcock film. (And of course “George Kaplan” is the man who does not exist in Hitch’s “North by Northwest.”) Caveat lector! I know from experience, I admit. Oy!

    1. Amy says:

      Good to hear from you regarding Pamela, Andrew! Those creepy blogs savaged some good friends, some musicians I admire and some strangers I have always had compassion for, having been hurt for no reason other than pure malice. (Just what the world doesn’t need any more of.)
      Oy! back at you…!

      1. Pamela Brown says:

        Amy, it is my impression that you are well aware that someone created a false blog about me and is using my image without a release.

    2. sdReader says:

      Thanks, Andrew. I always thought she was a bit odd. Then I realized she was a musician, and she seemed genuinely interested in the Minneapolis war, so I have given her comments a little more weight recently.

      1. Pamela Brown says:

        What purpose can you possibly have into taking this thread OT?

    3. Pamela Brown says:

      Why would anyone take this thread OT with a mismash of fact and libel? :-0

    4. Elise says:

      Thanks for the info, Andrew. In case anybody wants to keep track, “Pamela” also uses the following aliases: Joan Marshall, Claudia Menlo, Andrew van Zeveren, Joshua Adams, Sarah Westfield, Ron Brown, Hiram Foster, David von Pein, Anna Smith O’Hara, George Kaplan, Edgar Brenninkmeyer, and others.

      1. sdReader says:

        Edgar B is Pamela too? Oh, this really does need to be policed. It’s just wasting people’s time!

      2. Pamela Brown says:

        That is false. I post using my own name and a photo. And, again, of course, OT.

      3. Pamela Brown says:

        OT and false. Unlike you, I post using my first and last name and a photograph.

        1. sdReader says:

          Good. I’m glad to read this — because I can tolerate a wacky someone coming here with 2 or 3 identities and engaging in what Amy Adams aptly called dolls talking to each other, but Elise’s list of 12 or 13 false names, including one I spent time conversing with, just turns me off completely.

          You are claiming, then, that Andrew Patner’s research about you no longer applies?

          1. Pamela Brown says:

            I only post on this blog using my real name and a photo. Why don’t you do the same?

            Andrew’s posts are a mixture of fact and libel. However, as this thread has been hijacked from its original topic, which is the Met, I do not plan to reply to it line-by-line on this blog.

  11. Andrew Patner says:

    One can hope that exposure lessens the audacity of these sorts of folks, Amy. At least people now know who this one “is” and can screen her (?) out. Sigh. And thanks!

    1. Pamela Brown says:

      Guess I’ll have to work harder to win you over. :-0

      1. sdReader says:

        Or Slipped Disc will have to work harder to get rid of you. Annoying sick woman!

        1. Pamela Brown says:

          OT.
          Plus, I post using my own name and a photo. You don’t and are making a libelous claim. Just which is ‘sick’?

          1. sdReader says:

            “I post using my own name and a photo” tells us nothing.

            “I post using ONLY my own name and a photo” would begin to address the concerns you have raised this week with at least three bona fide readers.

            Wondering what Norman thinks of this … .

          2. Pamela Brown says:

            I do apologize for not making myself sufficiently clear to you. I only post on this blog under my own name and with a photo. Any other claim is false.

            And Norman manages to deal not only with those who are not hiding behind an alias as well as those who are with considerable aplomb, imo.

  12. Andrew Patner says:

    Thank you, Elise. Six years ago (!) when I rather belatedly cracked the scam of “her” bizarre “Andrew and Joshua” weblogs and then shared the story on my website, I wrote, “So I guess the great unraveling is done now. ‘La commedia è finita.'” Perhaps now, with your larger catalogue of this person’s mischief-making — sometimes trivial, sometimes seriously harmful — aliases, this nonsense will at least subside. Probably not, though: A person living in his/her own universe with time on his/her hands . . . At least people now know the web that has been woven.

    1. Pamela Brown says:

      OT, Andrew.

      I am surprised that someone using their own name would post information they have already been told is false. I have nothing to do with “Andrew and Joshua” blogs. Someone other than me created it and is falsely using my image. I am working to have it removed but WordPress is not helping me and def lawyers, as you may realize, are expensive.

  13. Andrew Patner says:

    I certainly have no plan to respond to whomever it is who regularly clutters up these and other pages with some 15 different aliases (though almost always the same personality and phrasing). But as Norman Bates (certainly not Norman Lebrecht! 😉 )/Mother Bates has several times tossed the word “libel” out the window of his/her Motel, one notes that truth cannot libel nor is it clear how imaginary characters and sock puppets could be libeled, harmed, or defamed even if there were any intention or malice, which, of course there is not. I and others here are only calling attention to the single identity of an individual who has sucked in enough people and wasted enough of their time one place or another for at least the past seven years. If people wish to engage with this individual about any subject, or let him/her post comments on their websites, that’s not my affair. As I said initially: Caveat lector!

    1. sdReader says:

      It is Norman’s duty to police this blog.

      For the time being, we must accept Pamela Brown’s assertion that on Slipped Disc she uses only her own name and image.

      But I’m somewhat turned off. 24 hours ago I didn’t understand what Amy was getting at.

      And I’d still like to know whether my dialog with “Edgar Brenninkmeyer” was honest or not, in light of Elise’s post!

    2. Pamela Brown says:

      Andrew, I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I only post on this blog using my own name and a photo. I have only posted on this blog since the MO lockout began.

      I sincerely hope that you will apologize.

  14. Pamela Brown says:

    SDreader said, “For the time being, we must accept Pamela Brown’s assertion that on Slipped Disc she uses only her own name and image.”

    This is your viewpoint while hiding behind an alias? With all due respect, just what color is the sky in your world today? :-0

    BTW, I will be responding in detail to Andrew Patner’s ‘research’ on a post on my own blog and will provide a link here when that happens. In the meantime, let me just state for the record that he has my name right, he used my actual website http://www.themagicflute.org, and I am a JFK researcher. Everything else from almost the first word is false. I was not ‘born’ in Fairfield, CT. I was born in Chicago.

    1. Pamela Brown says:

      Come to think of it, SDreader, you don’t have to ‘take my word’ for anything. All you need to do is Google my name, “Pamela Brown”. I quit using my birth family name some years ago to give them a layer of protection.

      It has been my privilege to be a “public figure”, so to speak, in the narrow yet international niche of JFK research for some time, have been published, have presented at conferences and participated in a number of TV programs.

      On the other hand, if you would prefer to keep your head in the sand, don’t let me stop you. :-0

  15. Andrew Patner says:

    My sincere apologies to all! Wherever this person was born, the claim PB makes is that she “is originally from Connecticut,” “grew up in Fairfield, CT,” and that it is her “Hometown.” I am sorry to have so grievously misread those statements and to learn that, under whatever name, she now says that she was born in Chicago. She also writes: “Unquestionably, the most unusual musician of her generation, Pamela Brown has been called ‘the most exciting musician since Mozart’ and her playing ‘the real magic flute’ by ‘professionals’ we will just refer to as “Monostatos”, who then shunned have attempted to lock her out.” PB also tells us that these people were known to “target my children.”

    As stated twice before, this is not someone people want to spend time with/on without open eyes, if then. Have a nice day, all!

    1. Pamela Brown says:

      Andrew, while I appreciate your apology, it is a bit difficult for me to understand if you are directing it to me or someone else. I sincerely hope we can find a way to move forward in a positive manner.

      BTW, I was born at Cook County in Chicago. My family moved to CT. I grew up in Fairfield.

      I’ll discuss your other references on my own blog soon and provide a link here when I do.


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